LAS VEGAS – Too look at Jule Hazen, one recognizes quickly he is the epitome of a steer wrestler. He stands 6-feet-3 and weighs in at just shy of 250 pounds.
He needed every bit of it Monday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where the burly bulldogger from Ashland, Kan., maneuvered his steer to the ground in 4.2 seconds, sharing second place in the fifth go-round with Luke Branquinho and adding nearly $13,000 to his season earnings.
“It’s such a mental game, and this is what we do,” said Hazen, now riding in Las Vegas for the third time in his career. “On that steer, if you get in too big of a hurry, he’ll get you set down on your rear and keep your head up. You’ve just got to slow down and keep pulling.”
It was the second run for the stronger set of steers, and Hazen knew he was going to be in a battle from the start. What he didn’t expect is that the steer left the chute a little slower, so the cowboy had to use all the horsemanship skills his late grandfather, Richard Degnan, had shown him to make the run possible.
You see, Hazen started his great horse, Bam Bam, then had to slow the horse down so he didn’t break the barrier and suffer a 10-second penalty for not allowing the steer an appropriate head start.
“When you pull on the reins on a horse that runs like that in a little building, and your horse still lets you be 4.2, that’s telling you’re your horse is pretty special,” Hazen said. “The first time these steers were out, I gave it all I had, and it still wasn’t enough. This time maybe I drew a little better and reached down and found a little more.”
Through five nights of ProRodeo’s championship, Hazen has the best cumulative time of 22.2 seconds to lead the average by more than a second over the runner-up, Nevadan Dakota Eldridge; he also has pocketed $27,344. That helps make his Las Vegas experience a little more fun, but more importantly, it helps with the financial costs that come with the game.
“With the help of Boot Hill Casino, it helps me with my fuel and other expenses,” he said. “Until I had a sponsor like that, there were times I was winning $5,000-$6,000 a week, and it wasn’t paying my bills. Whatever you win here, that’s what you make in a year.
“Boot Hill Casino has taken the pressure off. I think it’s helping my bulldogging here. I know I’m going to be making a little money with them behind me, so I just have to come in here and do my job. I have to win so I can put Pull-Ups on Joslyn.”
Joslyn Hazen is 2 years old, and she has needs that Hazen wants to meet. It’s proof of where his priorities are.