LAS VEGAS – When steer wrestler Bray Armes walked into the Thomas & Mack Center late Tuesday afternoon, it was a different stride, a more confident walk.
“This evening when I got here, I just decided to back off and have fun,” Armes said, explaining that he felt as though he’d been pressing some through the first few rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “I backed in the (timed-event) box and was relaxed and got a great start.”
Yes, he did; then Armes put his faith in his trusty steed and his own ability.
“Ote slid me right up the steer’s back,” he said of the palomino horse. “I did all I could do and got the steer on his side, then I was just lucky enough to place.”
The Ponder, Texas, cowboy stopped the clock in 3.9 seconds to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place in the sixth round. He added $5,208 to his NFR earnings, which are nearly $23,000. It was a nice rebound from a tough run the night before.
“I just don’t know what I did last night,” said Armes, who sits third in the all-important average race with a six-run cumulative time of 27.6 seconds. “I guess I was just trying too hard.”
So he changed his attitude and his game plan.
“When you slow down, you do things right,” Amres said. “When you try to go fast, you usually screw up. I’m just going to back in the box and try to blow the barrier out every night and try to make a smooth run. I think smooth will win.”
In timed events, contestants must give the livestock on which they compete a head start. A barrier line is pulled tightly in front of a steer wrestler and is released once the steer has received the adequate distance. Blowing the barrier out means Armes will try to time his run to hit the barrier just as it is release – not behind it, because then he’s late; not before it, because he’ll suffer a 10-second penalty.
And when you’re as good as Armes, it’s a little frustrating when something happens like the fifth-round run, which stopped the clock in 6.1 seconds and was well off the pace to earn money. But the cowboy who grew up near Gruver, Texas, has a supportive, yet rodeo-educated, family: wife Neelley, daughter Breely and son Drake, who had a few words for Dad after his struggles Monday.
“When I picked him up, he said, ‘Daddy, you bulldogged like a girl,’ ” Armes said. “I said, ‘Yeah, bubba, I did.’ ”
Bray Armes is a big, burly man with a long stride and a winning demeanor. That’s what he hopes to bring to the NFR party each round for the final four nights.