Archive for September, 2015

postheadericon Hodges is in the business of funny

DUNCAN, Okla. – Robbie Hodges takes his job seriously, even though it’s a bit of an oxymoron for a rodeo clown.

“I love to look up and see the contestants watching my acts,” said Hodges, who will be funnyman/barrelman during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

Robbie Hodges

Robbie Hodges

“I love for them guys to like what I’m doing. That’s my meter of what I judge my performance by, the guys that go to 120 rodeos a year. I try to bring something different. Every performance to me is different. My (attention deficit disorder) is so bad that I couldn’t handle it if I did it any other way or if I tried to go by a certain script every time.”

When rodeo regulars like Hodges’ work, then there’s a good indication the crowd will, too. That’s the main reason the Georgia man has long been considered one of the very best entertainers in ProRodeo. He’s been nominated as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s clown of the year, entertainer of the year and the Coors Man in the Can, which recognizes the best barrelmen in the business.

“I love to work the barrel,” said Hodges, who was selected as the barrelman for the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “That’s the most important aspect of being a barrelman, not necessarily the comedy but being there to help protect the bull riders and the bullfighters. If you’re going to be a barrelman, go get those guys. That’s been my reputation.”

It’s one that was forged in rodeos in the Southeastern United States, where Hodges got his start in the late 1990s. His strong Georgia accent is an avenue of pride, but so is the work he does inside the arena.

“I worked a lot of (Florida) rodeos in Okeechobee and Kissimmee, and that was a very mean place to learn,” he said. “When you leave there, you’d better be ready. Them bulls will just keep coming at you.”

But being inside the specialized barrel isn’t the only thing Hodges has done in rodeo. In fact, he rode bareback horses for 16 years before he started wearing greasepaint and making crowds laugh at his antics.

“I was always the guy who played tricks on everybody around me, doing things to make everybody else laugh,” Hodges said. “Everybody told me I needed to do it.

“I called a local stock contractor in Georgia about working some rodeos. The next thing I know I was doing five rodeos, then the next year, 20. I’m very lucky.”

He also is very talented, and a key ingredient in his work is how he interacts with the crowd.

“I tried to back off a lot of the traditional stuff,” he said. “A lot of my stuff is audience participation.”

That aspect of his performance allows Hodges to showcase a natural talent of being funny in a moment’s notice. Through observances and being keenly aware of what’s going on during each performance, he not only celebrates rodeo, he helps engage fans into the game with his humor.

It’s a trait he’s held tightly since a youngster. In addition to sharing his life with the crowd while in the arena, he also realizes he can provide a special gift with individualized attention.

“What would it have been like if you were a kid and one of the great sports heroes came up and talked to you at the game?” he asked. “I try to do that. I want at least one person to come up and say, ‘Hey, that guy came up and talked to me.’

“When I’m in the arena, I am larger than life. I’m the attention. I love to take that and give that back to someone. When I was a kid in about the fourth or fifth grade, I was bullied pretty bad. I try to pick out a kid and sit with them. I always think that it would’ve been great if that had happened to me when I was a kid, so I want to give that to someone.”

That’s a fascinating part about how Hodges goes about his business. He understands his role as part of the rodeo production, and he wants to add to it. He wants fans to be part of the rodeo experience and to go home after each of the three performances in Duncan knowing they enjoyed the show.

Rodeo is a unique mix of family-friendly entertainment and world-class competition. Hodges has lived both sides of it, and he sees each show through the audience’s eyes. He also knows how special it is to work the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“That is the Prairie Circuit, and those are real cowboys out there,” he said, recognizing the fact that a number of qualifiers for the finale also are NFR regulars. “You get to work with the best, and that’s always great.”

postheadericon Moore claims Eliminator title

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Timber Moore likes competing in The Eliminator at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

On Tuesday night, the four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Aubrey, Texas, put the wraps on his second straight title in the unique competition that featured eight NFR qualifiers owning 13 world championships.

Timber Moore

Timber Moore

“There are a lot of guys that rope great that were here,” said Moore, who earned $5,000 for the victory. “I swapped horses and was riding my good horse in the second half, and he was making stuff happen. I drew good, and luckily it all worked out in my favor.”

The event featured three world champs: Fred Whitfield, who has seven gold buckles, Cody Ohl (6) and Shane Hanchey (1). Hanchey and Moore return to the NFR this December, as do the other four cowboys in the mix: Marty Yates, Caleb Smidt, Hunter Herrin and Cory Solomon.

All eight competed in the first round, with the bottom two times being eliminated. Over the remaining rounds, the slowest individual times were dropped, which is the key to The Eliminator’s format. It was a great precursor for the fair’s rodeo, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday in the same arena at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.

As the competition unfolded, it became a race in the final round between Moore and Ohl, who owns a record 52 NFR wins on his impressive resume. Ohl roped first and put together a blazing time of 7.4 seconds.

“Knowing how fast you’ve got to be sure makes it a lot easier,” said Moore, who followed with a 6.9-second run, the fastest time in the two years of the competition. “Knowing I had to go fast, I just had to take some chances.”

With ProRodeo’s grand championship still two months away, The Eliminator allowed the cowboys the opportunity to make pressure-packed runs. Now they’ll spend the remaining weeks fine-tuning their talents to compete for the biggest purse in the sport.

“It’s a fast start, and you have to tie them fast,” Moore said of The Eliminator. “It kind of prepares me, but we’re still so far off that I’ve still got more preparing to do before I get there.”

postheadericon Ohl replacing Shiozawa in Eliminator

Matt Shiozawa

Matt Shiozawa

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Matt Shiozawa is heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the eighth time in his career, but an injury over the weekend will sideline the Chubbock, Idaho, cowboy for Tuesday’s Eliminator at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead.

Shiozawa suffered an ankle injury on the final weekend of the 2015 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season. Since his priority is to be ready for the NFR in December, he is unable to compete in Waller County.

Cody Ohl

Cody Ohl

The Eliminator is to feature eight of the top tie-down ropers in the game all competing in knockout rounds in Hempstead. All eight will compete in the opening round, with the bottom two times eliminated from the competition. Every subsequent round will feature the slowest single time eliminated.

Shiozawa’s replacement will be Cody Ohl, a seven-time world champion from Hico, Texas, who has 20 NFR qualifications under his belt. He will be joined by eight-time champ Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas.

They will be matched against six other cowboys that are heading to the 2015 NFR, including 2013 world champion Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.; Cory Solomon of Prairie View, Texas; Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla.; Marty Yates of Stephenville, Texas; Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas; and defending champion Timber Moore of Aubrey, Texas.

The action begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.

postheadericon Breuer ends season with Royal win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Every year keeps getting better for bareback rider Casey Breuer.

Now in his third year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the 23-year-old cowboy finished his 2015 season among the top 25 in the world standings. More importantly, he closed out his campaign on a high note by winning the American Royal PRCA Rodeo.

AmericanRoyal“This year was a lot of ups and downs,” said Breuer, of Mandan, N.D. “It started out really slow, then it picked up. From June through August, I went on a pretty good stretch where I was pulling checks and rodeo was fun. The last three or four weeks, it’s been tough.”

It got much better Saturday night. Riding Frontier Rodeo’s Cross Fire during the final performance of this year’s championship, Breuer and the strong sorrel danced across the Hale Arena dirt for 85 points. For that, he pocketed $1,839.

“It feels good to finish with a win for the year to build some momentum for next year,” he said. “With this sport, you have to be consistent all year if you want to be on top. You don’t want to waste any opportunities.”

That’s important, especially for a man who is about to add to his family in a little more than a month. On Oct. 30, Breuer will marry his high-school sweetheart, Brooke, in Mandan. Once the nuptials are complete, he’ll go back to work making a living on the rodeo trail.

Still young in the game, he is taking the lessons learned while traveling with three friends, all of whom can now lay claim to being qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that features only the top 15 contestants in each event: brother Ty Breuer, who went to Vegas in 2013; Joe Gunderson, who qualified in 2010; and Tanner Aus, a 2015 finalist.

“Ty and Tanner started traveling together when they started,” Casey Breuer said. “I was lucky enough to jump in with them and Joe.

“Joe got hurt earlier this year, and Tanner ended up making it. Me and Ty got close, but close doesn’t count much in this sport.”

No, it doesn’t, but finishing among the sport’s elite allows Breuer a fresh start on the 2016 season. With a new bride that’s part of his life, there’s little wonder why he’s so excited for new beginnings.

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 25-26
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. Casey Breuer, 85 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Cross Fire, $1,839; 2. (tie) Kyle Brennecke and Devan Reilly, 81, $1,226 each; 4. George Gillespie, 80, $674; 4. Clint Cannon, 79, $429; 6. (tie) Ethan Assman and Will Lowe, 78, $276 each; 7. (tie) Luke Creasy and Mason Clements, 76, $92 each.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.2 seconds, $2,400; 2. (tie) Ryan Bothum, and J.D. Struxness, 4.0, $1,930 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.1, $1,461; 5. Ryan Swayze, 4.2, $1,147; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.3, $835; 7. (tie) Jule Hazen, Josh Clark and Jacob Edler, 4.5, $243 each.

Team roping leaders: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 3.6 seconds, $2,992; 2. Luke Brown/Kollin VohAnh, 4.1, $2,677; 3. (tie) Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, Miles Baker/Dustin Serarcy and Joe Bach/Jim Ross Cooper, 4.2, $2 ,047 each; 6. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 4.5, $1,417; 7. (tie) Jeremy Hemmann/Jeff Brown, and Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 4.6, $,945 each; 9. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves and Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 5.1, $157 each.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, 85 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy, $2,109; 2. Bradley Harter, 84, $1,617; 3. David Martin, 83, $1,195; 4. (tie) Taos Muncy and Hardy Braden, 82, $633; 4. Dalton Davis, 81, $352; 7. (tie) Chuck Schmidt and Jesse James Kirby, 79, $246.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 7.9 seconds, $2,140; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.0, $$1,861; 3. Dillon Holder, 8.3, $1,582; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.4, $1,303; 5. Tuf Cooper, 8.5, $1,023; 6. (tie) Monty Lewis and Clay Brown, 9.0, $605; 8. Cody Quaney, 92, $186.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kimmie Wall, 14.30 seconds, $2,107; 2. Vickie Carter, 14.34, $1,791; 3. Deb Guelly, 14.48, $1,475; 4. Carmel Wright, 14.53, $1,264; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 14.55, $1,054; 6. Layna Kight, 14.56, $738; 7. Laura Kennedy, 14.63, $567; 8. Calyssa Thomas, 14.66, $422; 9. Marne Loosenort, 14.67, $290; 10. (tie) Trula Churchill and Sherry Cervi, 14.68, $290 each; 12. Ashley Bauer, 14.69, $211.

Bull riding: 1. Corey Atwell, 88 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Big Money, $2,096; 2. Dallee Mason, 85, $1,607; 3. Trevor Reiste, 81, $1,188; 4. John Young, 79, $768; 5. Kody DeShon, 76, $489; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Ferley is back in the saddle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Saturday afternoon’s performance of the American Royal PRCA Rodeo was Chad Ferley’s last shot at making the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I had to come here and do good to have a legit shot to stay in the top 15,” said Ferley, a two-time world champion from Oelrichs, S.D.

Chad Ferley

Chad Ferley

The pressure didn’t seem to bother the veteran saddle bronc rider. He matched moves with Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy for 85 points to take the lead at the American Royal. He is virtually guaranteed a solid payday in Kansas City, but he will have to wait out Saturday’s evening performance to know for sure where he will finish the rodeo.

“It worked out, and it’ll be up to the other guys this weekend; this is my last rodeo this year,” he said.

Ferley entered the week No. 15 in the world standings with $58,490. Only the top 15 in the world standings advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the year-end championship that takes place in December in Las Vegas.

Heading into Saturday night’s final performance, though, Ferley had already dropped to 16th, when Tyrel Larsen of Ingles, Manatoba, earned enough money in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday to move past Ferley by $700.

The saddle bronc riding champion at the American Royal can win up to $2,300, depending on the final breakdown on the purse. While Ferley is done for the 2015 regular season, Larsen is scheduled to compete in Omaha (for the second time this week) on Saturday night and in Apache, Okla., on Sunday. There still are others in the mix to make a move, including 2012 world champion Jesse Wright of Milford, Utah.

With the biggest pay in the game in Las Vegas in a couple of months, it’s important to full-time cowboys to earn a spot in the top 15. What would that mean to Ferley?

“It kind of sucks to finish right there out of it,” he said. “Honestly it would be my own fault. I didn’t go to very many rodeos this year. I rodeoed pretty easy and just had fun.”

There were a lot of reasons for the 35-year-old cowboy to stay back in South Dakota much of this year. He and his wife, Jessica, have two daughters, ages 4 and 10 months.

“I rodeoed a little harder this fall because I was in a position where I needed to,” he said. “I stayed home more and spent a little more time with my family.”

Ferley and his wife have been married since 2007 but waited to have children because of the life he lives on the rodeo trail.

“I went out and rodeoed hard for quite a few years and waited to have kids,” Ferley said. “I wanted to try to be home more when I had kids. Now I’m slowing down just a little bit because of that.”

Still, riding broncs as one of the best cowboys in the game is how he puts food on the table and how he pays his electricity bill. He needs to be on the road to make sure those things are accomplished. There’s no place to do it better than at the NFR.

“That’s the kicker in the deal,” he said, noting that the payout in Vegas is at an all-time high starting this December. “It pays so much better now, not that it didn’t pay great before. It’s twice as good now. You can make up that money pretty fast in one round.

“You can go in 15th in the world standings and have a really good shot at winning the world title now. You can win almost twice as much money at the finals as you can rodeoing all year.”

That’s why he’s in a solid position to return to Vegas for the ninth time in his championship career. That’s why he made his trip to Kansas City on Saturday count.

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 25-26
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. (tie) Kyle Brennecke, on Frontier Rodeo’s Miss Garrett, and Devan Reilly, on Frontier Rodeo’s Lizzard Medicine, 81 points; 3. George Gillespie, 80; 4. Clint Cannon, 79; 5. (tie) Ethan Assman and Will Lowe, 78; 7. (tie) Luke Creasy and Mason Clements, 76.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.2 seconds; 2. (tie) Ryan Bothum, and J.D. Struxness, 4.0 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.1; 5. Ryan Swayze, 4.2; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.3; 7. (tie) Jule Hazen, Josh Clark and Jacob Edler, 4.5.

Team roping leaders: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 3.6 seconds; 2. Luke Brown/Kollin VohAnh, 4.1; 3. Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, 4.2; 4. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 4.5; 5. (tie) Jeremy Hemmann/Jeff Brown, and Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 4.6 each; 7. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves and Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 5.1.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, 85 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy; 2. Bradley Harter, 84; 3. Taos Muncy, 82; 4. Dalton Davis, 81; 5. Chuck Schmidt, 79; 6. Doug Aldridge, 78; 7. Tyrel Larsen, 75; 8. Evan Hecht, 73.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 7.9 seconds; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.0; 3. Dillon Holder, 8.3; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.4; 5. Tuf Cooper, 8.5; 6. Monty Lewis, 9.0; 7. Kadin Boardman, 9.3; 8. Cade Swor, 9.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kimmie Wall, 14.30 seconds; 2. Vickie Carter, 14.34; 3. Deb Guelly, 14.48; 4. Carmel Wright, 14.53; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 14.55; 6. Layna Kight, 14.56; 7. Laura Kennedy, 14.63; 8. Calyssa Thomas, 14.66; 9. Marne Loosenort, 14.67; 10. (tie) Trula Churchill and Sherry Cervi, 14.68.

Bull riding: 1. Corey Atwell, 88 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Big Money; 2. Dallee Mason, 85; 3. Trevor Reiste, 81; 4. John Young, 79; 5. Kody DeShon, 76; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Moore sprints into roping lead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Timber Moore didn’t have much to stress about when he arrived at the American Royal PRCA Rodeo on Friday night.

He’s won more than $105,000 during the 2015 ProRodeo season and sits second in the world standings. He’s assured himself of a fourth trip to Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo as the No. 2 tie-down roper on the money list.

Timber Moore

Timber Moore

None of that stopped him from trying to win in Kansas City. The 29-year-old cowboy roped and tied his calf in 7.9 seconds to take the early lead at the American Royal with two more performances remaining – at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hale Arena inside the American Royal complex.

“I’ve already placed in Omaha, and now I’m winning Kansas City; it feels great to finish the year strong,” said Moore of Aubrey, Texas. “Hopefully things will keep going this way and try to win the world this year. Maybe we’ll keep picking away at them during the finals if things go my way.”

The NFR is rodeo’s super bowl and features just the top 15 contestants in each event in the year-end championship. This year’s finale features an unprecedented purse, with go-round winners earning more than $26,000 each for 10 straight nights.

Making the NFR is imperative for rodeo’s stars that make their living in the game they love. Yes, he made a good living this year, but traveling expenses covered a big portion of that money. There are no guarantees in rodeo; cowboys and cowgirls not only cover their own expenses, but they also must pay fees in order to compete.

“My year’s been great, but I owe it all to Colonel,” Moore said of his horse, an 11-year-old sorrel gelding. “He got a little sore during the summer, but he’s been great all year. Without him, it wouldn’t be possible.”

Moore competed Thursday in Omaha during the River City Rodeo, then made the short commute to the West Bottoms on Friday. He returns to Omaha on Saturday for another PRCA event, ending his season after traveling to 71 rodeos all across the country. Having a solid mount is key to any cowboy’s success.

“He’s got a good mindset,” he said of Colonel. “He’s a little smaller, more compact. He’s real quick footed and wants to stop fast and be quick. He makes things happen. Anymore the calf roping is so tough you’ve got to cut time off where you can, and he allows you to do it.”

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 25-26
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. (tie) Kyle Brennecke, on Frontier Rodeo’s Miss Garrett, and Devan Reilly, on Frontier Rodeo’s Lizzard Medicine, 81 points; 3. George Gillespie, 80; 4. Ethan Assman, 78; 5. (tie) Luke Creasy and Mason Clements, 76; 7. Tim O’Connell, 75.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.2 seconds; 2. (tie) Ryan Bothum, and J.D. Struxness, 4.0 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.1; 5. Ryan Swayze, 4.2; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.3; 7. (tie) Jule Hazen, Josh Clark and Jacob Edler, 4.5.

Team roping leaders: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 3.6 seconds; 2. (tie) Jeremy Hemmann/Jeff Brown, and Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 4.6 each; 4. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, and Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, 5.1 each; 6. Cale Markham/Billie Jack Saebens, 5.5; 7. Ty Bach/Allen Bach, 5.7; 8. Jesse Stipes/Tyler Worley, 6.2.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Dalton Davis, 81 points on Salt Creek Rodeo’s Campfire; 2. Chuck Schmidt, 79; 3. Tyrel Larsen, 75; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 7.9 seconds; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.0; 3. Dillon Holder, 8.3; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.4; 5. Tuf Cooper, 8.5; 6. Monty Lewis, 9.0; 7. Kadin Boardman, 9.3; 8. Cade Swor, 9.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Vickie Carter, 14.34 seconds; 2. Deb Guelly, 14.48; 3. Jeanne Anderson, 14.55; 4. Layna Kight, 14.56; 5. Laura Kennedy, 14.63; 6. Calyssa Thomas, 14.66; 7. Marne Loosenort, 14.67; 8. (tie) Trula Churchill and Sherry Cervi, 14.68; 10. Ashley Baur. 14.69.

Bull riding: 1. Corey Atwell, 88 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Big Money; 2. Dallee Mason, 85; 3. Trevor Reiste, 81; 4. John Young, 79; 5. Kody DeShon, 76; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Qualifiers ready for circuit finals

DUNCAN, Okla. – For 24-year-old Brodie Poppino, there are a lot of goals he has set for his ProRodeo career.

In his two seasons in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, he has accomplished some of them. In 2013, he was the steer roping rookie of the year and qualified for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo. In 2014, he returned to the circuit finals and also qualified for the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping.

This year, he’s closing in on another major goal: Winning the Prairie Circuit title.

Brodie Poppino

Brodie Poppino

“To me, the Prairie Circuit is really important, especially in steer roping without a whole bunch of rodeos out there for us,” said Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla. “Oklahoma and Kansas are some of the bigger areas in the steer roping industry. To me, it’s more of a prestigious deal to be able to go to those events, and the chance to compete for the circuit title is big.”

The Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. It will feature just the top 12 contestants in each event who have qualified through the regular season on the Prairie Circuit, made up primarily of events in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Steer roping, which will feature the top 15 cowboys, is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 16.

Poppino is No. 1 in the standings with $13,449 and owns a $2,000 lead over the No. 2 man, Mike Chase of McAlester, Okla. The No. 3 man is Rocky Patterson, a three-time world champion from Pratt, Kan. They are among three circuit finalists who also have competed at the NFSR, joining J.P. Wickett of Sallisaw, Okla.; Ralph Williams of Skiatook, Okla.; Chet Herren, Brady Garten and Rod Hartness of Pawhuska, Okla.; and Brady Garten of Claremore, Okla.

“There’s good money up in Duncan, plus if you with them or get the chance to go to Torrington (Wyo.),” Poppino said of the site for the Ram National Circuit Finals Steer Roping. “That’s a big deal in the steer roping world. Plus, the majority of the Prairie Circuit guys are NFSR qualifiers ever year. That makes our circuit finals as prestigious as any event we can go to.”

That sentiment is echoed by all the contestants who will make their way to Duncan in mid-October. Poppino is among nine contestants who will all enter the finale in the standings lead, joined by bareback rider Caine Riddle of Vernon, Texas; steer wrestler Stockton Graves of Alva, Okla.; header Coleman Proctor of Pryor, Okla.; heeler Jake Long of Coffeyville, Kan.; saddle bronc rider Steven Dent of Mullen, Neb.; tie-down roper Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla.; barrel racer Kim Couch of Rattan, Okla.; and bull rider Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla.

“This year I’ve got a chance to win the circuit,” Poppino said. “I’ve got two goals in that regard, to win the average in the circuit finals and to win the year-end title. That’s an achievement everybody wants to do, and I’m just blessed to be in that position.”

He is a second-generation circuit finals qualifier. Both his mother, barrel racer Tana, and his father, steer roper Marty, have been to the finale. Tana Poppino also is a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier.

“My dad has always stayed home and worked and just went to a handful of rodeos a year to try to make it to the circuit finals,” Brodie Poppino said. “He stays home and supports mom and me. He’s the backbone to everything we do.

“He does a lot of the tuning on the horses. I’m the roper; he’s the trainer. Mom’s attitude and optimism is just unreal. She can pick me up and make me feel unbeatable.”

That type of support is a major contributor to Poppino’s success. He loves the idea of carrying on a family tradition in Duncan.

“It’s really cool to go to a deal like that,” he said. “The people in Duncan appreciate us and show us that. They want us to be there. The people are super good to the cowboys.”

It all adds to the championship atmosphere that people in southern Oklahoma have come to expect.

postheadericon Herl wins title near his hometown

ALVA, Okla. – Northwest Kansas always will be home to Laine Herl.

The Northwestern Oklahoma State University cowboy found a homecoming quite to his liking this past weekend, winning the steer wrestling title and helping guide the Rangers men to the team title at the Colby (Kan.) Community College rodeo.

Northwestern-Logo-200“Everybody had a great week,” said Herl, a senior from Goodland, Kan., just 40 miles west of Colby. “Everybody was focused. We’ve got a really talented team this year.”

The Northwestern men scored 550 points to beat reigning Central Plains Region champion Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Herl contributed 150 to that total by placing in both go-rounds, winning the championship round and the average title. In all, he grappled two steers to the ground in 9.8 seconds, finishing nine-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Jacob Edler.

“It means a lot to win that rodeo,” Herl said. “My family was able to be there, and just to start off the season on a good note was big. It’s great to start off the season with a win and hopefully keep plugging along to win the region and make the college finals.”

Herl was one of three Rangers to win Colby titles, joined by tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist and barrel racer Sara Bynum. Seachrist won both rounds and the average title; he downed his first calf in 8.7 seconds, then followed that with an 8.6-second run in the short round.

Bynum, who paced the way for the women’s team that finished second overall in Colby, won the first round with a 16.58-second run. She followed that with a 17.26 to place in the short round and clinch the title.

They were just a few of many Rangers that placed in Colby: Goat-tiers Leremi Allred and Tearnee Nelson; header Hunter Munsell and his partner, Sawyer Barham as well as heeler Wade Perry; steer wrestlers Joby Allen and Brock White; bull riders Marcell Jacob and Weston Wilson; and bareback rider Austin Graham.

“I think we’re just smarter about how we go about stuff,” Herl said. “We’ve added some good guys this year, and that makes it a lot better.”

Another valuable asset is how the team prepares. All attribute much of their success to coach Stockton Graves, a Northwestern alumnus who is a seven-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“He’s been there at the highest level, so he knows what it takes to win,’ Herl said. “We’re having some up-tempo practices. We’re running more steers on the ground and focusing on the little stuff so when it comes down to it, you’re making the same run time and time out. We’re working on the basics.

“We’re starting up the matches. With that, we’re learning what to do in certain situations, so come short-go time at a college rodeo, you’re not panicking. You know you’ve been in the same place in a match before, so it helps a lot.”

It paid off this last weekend in northwest Kansas.

postheadericon Playoff time for rodeo’s elite

American Royal a big stop for top contestants on final weekend of regular season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The scramble is on.

The last week of the 2015 ProRodeo regular season has begun, and contestants are scripting their plans for the mad rush that comes with trying to finish the campaign among the top 15 in the world standings in order to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the year-end championship that takes place in December in Las Vegas.

It’s a mixture of “Last Man Standing” and “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” as those cowboys and cowgirls battle for all the money they can muster. In rodeo, dollars not only pay bills but also stand as championship points; the contestants in each event who earn the most money will be crowned world champions.

Andy Stewart

Andy Stewart

There are more than 20 sites designated for this week, with the American Royal PRCA Rodeo being the most prestigious. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.

“This is almost like a wildcard game in the NFL or Major League Baseball,” said Andy Stewart, the event’s announcer. “These guys might have one shot left to make it to the NFR. It’s so important, because I have seen guys that go to rodeos like Kansas City that have that much money in the purse and being at the end of the season that they can win enough money and get to the NFR.

“That’s the difference between ending your season and having a shot at winning the NFR average title or winning the world title.”

Bareback rider Luke Creasy is one of those cowboys scrambling over the final few days of the regular season. Last week, he was at a rodeo every day, crisscrossing several states in the process: Iowa to Texas to New Mexico to Oregon. Flights and all-night drives are just part of the game, especially when he needs to earn thousands of dollars in order to move up from 20th into the top 15 on the money list.

Luke Creasy

Luke Creasy

“In Pasadena (Texas), I made a little money there on a little horse that didn’t have a day, but getting a check in the bank always helps boost the mind a little,” said Creasy, a native Canadian now living in Lovington, N.M. “All the other rodeos that I’m going to, I’m hoping to cash in.

Creasy has been near the top of the standings most of the season. In fact, he was among the top 10 when he suffered a broken fifth metacarpal bone in his right (riding) hand over the summer and had surgery to repair the ailment. Once he was released by doctors to ride again, he’s been going ever since. As of last Friday, he needed to make about $25,000 in the final 10 days of the season if he had any hope of qualifying for the NFR for the first time.

“There’s a lot of money out there,” he said. “It’s all vital. It’s going to be a held-breath kind of week. I’m hoping and trying my best to make it. All roads have led me here.”

ProRodeo features thousands of contestants, with hundreds battling for the coveted world championships. Only the best 120 in the game get the chance to compete at the NFR, which features the largest purse in the sport over 10 nights in Las Vegas. There are dozens of contestants on the bubble who need big checks at all the rodeos taking place on the final weekend.

“I was in the top five a lot of the year, then things happened,” said Creasy, who has finished among the top 25 three times in the past five years; he finished the 2014 campaign 17th in the standings, just two spots out of qualifying. “Now I’m in a very familiar spot. I just need to do the best I can and have a little luck come my way.”

That makes Kansas City an important stop for rodeo’s elite.

postheadericon Rodeo committee fights to be the best

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The rodeo committee that organizes the annual event during the Waller County Fair and Rodeo keeps its focus simple: Continue to improve.

That mindset works for everyone involved, from those who work behind the scenes to the cowboys that are in the middle of the competition to the fans who want to see a good show. It all comes together from Thursday, Oct. 1-Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.

WallerCountyLOGO“We have increased our purse every year,” said Paul Shollar, co-chairman of the Waller County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “We do that because this is rodeo country, and we know the people who come to our fair and rodeo want to see the greatest cowboys in the world in Hempstead.”

The quality of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo is virtually unmatched in this region of Texas. In fact, it’s downright comparable to any of the large rodeos that are across North America.

“From our stock contractor to hospitality, we really want every cowboy and cowgirl who comes to our fair and rodeo to see this rodeo as one of the best in the country,” said Chad Kersh, a member of the rodeo committee.

To that end, the rodeo committee has enlisted the help of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, the largest stock contracting firm in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Each of the past two seasons, no other contractor has had more animals selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He’s been the stock contractor in Hempstead since the rodeo transitioned to the PRCA a few years ago.

“What we love about Pete Carr is that he has the kind of stock that attracts world champions and regular NFR qualifiers,” said Clint Sciba, the fair board’s president and co-chairman of the rodeo committee. “There’s a reason that Pete has been nominated for stock contractor of the year for the third year. He should’ve won it already. He’s been the best stock contractor in rodeo for a long time.”

Just look at the reigning champion in Hempstead as proof to the elite contestants that come to town every fall. Most of the 2014 winners have been to the NFR, including bareback rider Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, who won his hometown rodeo for the first time in his career after scoring 87 points on Carr’s Night Bells.

Steer wrestler Darrell Petry, tie-down roper Matt Shiozawa and heeler Kinney Harrell have all played on the biggest stages of the game. But so have the animal athletes that guided the champions to victory in the roughstock events. Night Bells has been to the NFR six times, while Line Man has been recognized as one of the top bulls; he guided Casey Huckabee to the bull riding title with a 90-point ride.

Jacobs Crawley won the saddle bronc riding championship on Carr’s Icycle, a horse that is showing great promise.

“We want our fans to know that year in and year out, we’re going to work hard to put on a great rodeo,” Shollar said. “They deserve it.”

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