Archive for October, 2017

postheadericon Braden chasing circuit title

Hardy Braden has had the best season of his career. He hopes to improve it with the year-end title during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo next week. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

Hardy Braden has had the best season of his career. He hopes to improve it with the year-end title during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo next week. (GREG WESTFALL PHOTO)

DUNCAN, Okla. – For much of his seven-year career, Hardy Braden’s focus was on the Prairie Circuit, a regional tour made up primarily of contestants and rodeos in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

It’s home to Braden, who lives in the northeastern Oklahoma community of Welch. He attended both Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University on rodeo scholarships. Riding saddle broncs in the circuit has made sense.

Hardy Braden

Hardy Braden

He returns to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan. This marks his sixth qualification to the regional finale, and he’s excited to return.

“My goal this year was to make sure I got my rodeo count,” he said, referring to a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rule that stipulates cowboys and cowgirls compete in at least 15 Prairie Circuit rodeos in order to qualify for end-of-the-year honors. “Last year I missed my rodeo count by one, so I wasn’t eligible.”

Braden won the average championship in Duncan a year ago. Had he been eligible, he would have advanced to the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla. He didn’t make the trip.

This year, though, he not only got to plenty of circuit events, he did pretty well at most of them. Of the seven bronc riding titles he won in 2017, six were in the Prairie Circuit. He has earned $19,000 in the region and owns the No. 1 spot heading into the finale.

More importantly, his lead over the No. 2 man – Colt Gordon of Comanche, Okla. – is more than $5,600. Braden still needs a solid performance in Duncan if he hopes to claim his second year-end championship.

“The circuit finals is even more important now since the money at the finals counts toward the world standings,” he said, pointing out that money earned at the 2017 Prairie Circuit Finals will count toward the race to the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“For me, it’s a celebration to the end of the year. Everybody works hard to ride good, and now the chances of you getting on a decent horse are good there. You get to show up and show off.”

Braden has shown off quite a bit this year. Nationally he has earned more than $100,000 and will compete at the NFR for the first time. He will be among an elite few that advance to ProRodeo’s grand championship, set for Dec. 7-16 in Las Vegas, which features only the top 15 from each event.

By competing in Duncan, he will have a preview of what it will be like for 10 nights inside the Thomas & Mack Center on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus.

“For somebody that’s going to his first NFR, it’s going to be a good time for me to refresh my muscle memory in Duncan,” Braden said. “The ultimate deal at the circuit finals is to make the RAM finals in Florida, but I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity.”

He has the right mind set as he prepares for two of the biggest rodeos of his life.

postheadericon Ropers secure top finishes at OSU

ALTUS, Okla. – Haven Meged knew attending Western Oklahoma State College would be a benefit to his rodeo career.

Early October in Miles City, Mont., typically features cold weather. The winter can be long and brutal, so Meged knew being in southwestern Oklahoma would offer plenty of opportunities to hone his roping skills. He proved it this past weekend by dominating the tie-down roping at the Oklahoma State University rodeo in Stillwater.

“Winning that rodeo helps out a lot, because it gets you to where you want to be at the end of the year, the college finals,” said Meged, a sophomore tie-down and team roper. “It just keeps the ball rolling, and you realize you have a chance to make it. You just keep pecking away at each rodeo.”

Haven Meged

Haven Meged

Stillwater was the third of 10 rodeos in the Central Plains Region, and it was a big experience for WOSC ropers. Not only did Meged claim the title, but Colton Kofoed of Evanston, Wyo., finished as the runner up. They were joined in the championship round by Shane Smith and J.T. Adamson, the latter of whom finished fifth in the opening round but failed to mark a score in the finale.

“There was about a foot of mud in the arena when I ran my first calf, but I had a really good calf,” Kofoed said. “I just made a solid run and tried not to make any mistakes.”

It worked. He finished third in the opening round, then handled a big, tough calf in the short round to finish in a tie for fourth in the round. His two-run cumulative time of 21.7 seconds gave the Wyoming cowboy the runner-up finish.

“It was really big for our guy’s team, because Haven and I finished first and second,” Kofoed said. “I’d really like to see us take all three calf ropers to the college finals.”

In college rodeo, the top two teams in the region advance to the College National Finals Rodeo, which will take place next June in Casper, Wyo. The top three contestants in the region standings also qualify.

The men weren’t the only ropers to find success in Stillwater. Makayla Mack won the first round in breakaway roping, then suffered a no-time in the final round. Still it was a solid showing for WOSC.

“I had a really good calf, and my horse was working good and scoring solid,” said Mack of Christmas, Fla. “I was able to use a great calf. It was a little sticky, and the weather was a pretty big influence on the weekend.

“Missing my calf in the short round was very frustrating, because I had a good calf. I didn’t rope to my full potential. I just didn’t rope aggressive like I should.”

It’s all a learning experience, even for the greatest ropers in the sport. For Western Oklahoma State, coach Jess Tierney and his assistant, Jace Crabb, are the guiding forces.

“Jace just told us to go out there and rope sharp and take care of business,” Meged said. “What Jess does with us is helps us get mentally strong in the practice pen.”

Kofoed agreed.

“I’ve learned more from Jess in the first few weeks of school than I learned from anybody else in my life,” he said. “He breaks you down on what you’re doing, then he builds you up. He doesn’t try to change your roping style like a lot of coaches, but he wants to make your style better. He pushes us and makes us match each week. It’s a really fun environment.”

That’s a vital part of the sport. Yes, the competition is always there, but cowboys and cowgirls have a true passion for the game, and that’s always the driving force. But having fun and having the opportunities to compete are valuable, too.

“This school has probably one of the best facilities I’ve ever seen at a college rodeo, and I visited a lot of schools,” Kofoed said. “From the facilities to the rodeo program, it’s the best I’ve seen.”

That says a lot about the future of rodeo at WOSC.

postheadericon Roseland earns OSU title, buckle

ALVA, Okla. – Talon Roseland has seen the best steer wrestlers in the Central Plains Region compete for the top honors in all of college rodeo.

Now a senior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Roseland has placed himself in that category. He is the No. 2 man in the region behind teammate Cody Devers, but Roseland is gaining ground. He did so this past weekend by winning the bulldogging title at the Oklahoma State University rodeo in Stillwater.

“This helps, because the points will help me in qualifying for the college finals,” said Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa. “I think I’ve made the short round most of the time I’ve been to Stillwater, and now I’ve got a buckle with Pistol Pete on it.”

Talon Roseland

Talon Roseland

He’s talking about the OSU mascot, but the buckle is just one aspect of the rewards he received with the crown. He moved to within 15 points of Devers, of Perryton, Texas. They are among eight Rangers who are in the top 15 of the standings.

Roseland opened the competition with a 5.5-second run, good enough for fourth in the first round. He then posted a 4.8 in the championship round to win the two-run aggregate by six-tenths of a second. Devers, who finished in a tie for second place overall, won the hort round with a 4.6-second run.

They were joined in the final round with several other Rangers, including fellow bulldogger Ethan Price of Leedey, Okla., who finished third in the opening round. Other key Northwestern cowboys were Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, who finished fourth in tie-down roping, and Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, who finished second in both rounds and the average in team roping with his partner, Sam Stamper of OSU.

When the points were tallied, Northwestern had finished second for the second time in a row. Through each of the first three rodeos, the Rangers men have been among the top two all season.

“As a team, I expect us to win the region and get a good team out to the college finals,” Roseland said. “I think we can get some things done there. I’d like for us to have all the year-end champions in all the timed events and dang sure send three bulldoggers to the finals.”

The top two teams in each region advance to the College National Finals Rodeo, which will take place next June in Casper, Wyo. The top three individuals in each event also qualify. That’s why it’s important for each member of the team to get as many points as possible at each regional rodeo.

The Northwestern women finished the OSU rodeo in a tie for first place. The Rangers were led by Jenny Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, who won the short round and finished second in the two-run aggregate in goat-tying. Massing didn’t place in the first round with an 8.2-second run, but she was half a second faster than the field with a 7.1 in the championship round.

Other Rangers who earned points were breakaway ropers Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., who finished fifth and Alyssa Gabrielson of Perham, Minn., who placed sixth. Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., finished in a tie for fifth in the opening round but was unable to earn a qualified time in the short round.

It’s proof that the hard work in practice is paying off for the men and the women.

“Probably the greatest thing that Stockton does is he always has good steers to run, and we can run as many as we want,” Roseland said of Northwestern rodeo coach Stockton Graves. “He has ways for us to improve ourselves.

“We have weekly jackpots, which gives us a chance to compete. Getting behind the barrier in competition never hurts you and always makes you better because of it.”

It seems to be the secret to Northwestern’s rodeo success.

postheadericon Crawley claims Linderman title

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – One of the special nuances of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo is its unique Linderman Award, which is given to the contestant that does well in both timed and roughstock events.

It’s similar to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Linderman Award, which is given annually to the cowboy that earns the most money in three events, with two being on one side of rodeo and the third being on the other. It’s named after Bill Linderman, who won six world titles combined between bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and steer wrestling.

Sterling Crawley

Sterling Crawley

“It’s a neat deal, because cowboys are diverse and can do multiple events,” said Sterling Crawley, the 2017 Waller County Linderman winner who earned the title during Saturday’s final performance. “I hadn’t roped calves in 10 years, then I started roping this past winter. I bought a little horse to play around with at the house, and I figured I’d enter here and give it a shot.”

He means that somewhat literally. By winning the Linderman, he won an automatic rifle and follows in the footsteps of his big brother, Jacobs, who won a rifle a year ago competing in the same events.

Crawley competed in tie-down roping and finished his run, but his time wasn’t fast enough to finish among the top eight. He then dismounted his horse and quickly prepared to get on his saddle bronc, Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Jumpin John, which he rode for 80.5 points.

That was good enough for fifth place and a check worth $482.

“We’ve roped since we were little kids, so this was pretty cool,” said Sterling Crawley, 26, of Stephenville, Texas.

A week ago, he put the wraps on one of the best regular seasons of his career. He finished the 2017 campaign ninth in the world standings with nearly $93,000 in earnings. He is headed to his fourth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which takes place in December in Las Vegas.

“This year’s been a complete blessing,” he said. “We just tried to stay the course and stay steady the whole year. That was fun, because I got on a fun horse of Pete Carr’s. That helps make it fun.”

He has officially kicked off the 2018 season, which serves as a jump-start to his run at the NFR – that’s rodeo’s richest rodeo, where go-round winners earn more than $26,000 per night for 10 rounds. Of course, he’s made Hempstead’s rodeo a regular part of his schedule for much of the last decade.

“I came here before it was PRCA sanctioned,” Crawley said. “When I was in high school, I came here. It’s always been fun. The atmosphere has always been good here, and it’s just gotten better. It’s not far from home, and the horses are usually good, so we want to be sure to compete in Hempstead.”

It worked pretty well again this year.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 5-7
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Justin McDaniel, 83 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Coal Thunder, $1,884; 2. Jake Brown, 82, $1,444; 3. (tie) Clint Laye and Zach Hibler, 80, $879 each; 5. Blade Elliott, 79, $440; 6. Winn Ratliff, 77, $314; 7. (tie) Lane MGehee and Evan Jayne, 76, $220 each.

Steer wrestling: 1. Matt Reeves, 3.6 seconds, $2,119; 2. Clayton Hass, 3.8, $1,842; 3. (tie) Justin Shaffer and Morgan Grant, 3.9, $1,428 each; 5. (tie) Billy Bugenig, Jacob Talley and Blake Doyle, 4.0, $737 each; 8. Justus Whitcher, 4.1, $184.

Team roping: 1. Lane Ivy/Budy Hawkins II, 4.2 seconds, $2,520; 2. Dustin Egusquiza/Kory Koontz, 4.4, $2,255; 3. Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 4.6, $1,990; 4. (tie) Kaleb Driggers/Junior Noguiera, Joshua Torres/Jonathan Torres, Tyler Waters/Caleb Anderson and Clayton Van Aken/Richard Durham, 4.8, $1,327 each; 8. (tie) Caleb Smidt/Coleby Payne, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, Tanner Green/Shawn Turner and Jake Orman/Will Woodfin, 5.0, $298 each.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 86 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Showgirl, $2,064; 2. Bradley Harter, 84, $1,583; 3. Chet Johnson, 83, $1,170; 4. Isaac Diaz, 81.5, $757; 5. Sterling Crawley, 80.5, $482; 6. Cody Anthony, 80, $334; 7. Wyatt Casper, 79.5, $275; 6. (tie) Garet Aldridge and Heith DeMoss, 79, $103 each.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Clay Long, 7.5 seconds, $2,551; 2. Marcos Costa, 7.7, $2,218; 3. Justus Whitcher, 8.0, $1,886; 4. Blane Cox, 8.4, $1,553; 5. (tie) Kody Mahaffey and Ike Fontenot, 8.6, $1,054 each; 7. Justin Macha, 8.7, $555; 8. Adam Gray, 9.1, $222.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kelly Bruner, 14.47 seconds, $2,480; 2. Taylor Jacob, 14.72, $2,108; 3. Taci Bettis, 14.80, $1,736; 4. Jennifer Sharp 14.82, $1,488; 5. Rainy Pratt, 14.91, $1,240; 6. Morgan Breaux, 14.92, $868; 7. Sara Withers, 14.96, $620; 8. Amanda Cupp, 14.97, $496; 9. Lacy Kimball,14.98, $434; 10. Michelle Alley, 15.05, $372; 11. Jessi Wade, 15.11, $310; 12. Jackie Whitcher, 15.14, $248.

Steer roping: First round: 1. Tuf Cooper, 10.1 seconds, $1,018; 2. (tie) Mike Chase and Cash Myers, 10.7, $755 each; 4. (tie) Jarrett Blessing and Ryan Willberg, 10.9, $404 each; 6. (tie) Trevor Brazile and Jess Tierney, 11.7, $88 each. Second round: 1. Trevor Brazile, 8.9 seconds, $1018; 2. Vin Fisher Jr., 10.0, $842; 3. (tie) Tuf Cooper and J. Tom Fisher, 10.8, $579 each; 5. Cody Lee, 10.9, $316; 6. Rocky Patterson, 11.0, $175. Third round: 1. Trevor Brazile, 9.1 seconds, $1,018; 2. Lawson Plemons, 9.4, $842; 3. (tie) Mike Chase, Jarrett Blessing and Ryan O’Rourke, 10.1, $491 each; 6. (tie) Rocky Patterson and J.P. Wicket, 88 each. Average: 1. Trevor Brazile, 29.7 seconds on three runs, $1,527; 2. Mike Chase, 32.1, $1,263; 3. Rocky Patterson, 33.5, $1,000; 4. Jarrett Blessing, 34.2, $737; 5. J. Tom Fisher, 34.6, $474; 6. Jess Tierney, 37.0, $263.

Bull riding: 1. Clayton Sellers, 83 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Son of Sam, $2,941; 2. (tie) Markus Mariluch and Tristan Mize, 82, $1,975 each; 4. Foster McCraw, 80, $1,105; 5. Jeffrey Joseph Ramagos, 78.5, $718; 6. Denton Fugate, 75, $525; 7. Dakota Nye, 71.5, $428; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Ivy, Hawkins take lead in Hempstead

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Buddy Hawkins is a glass-half-full kind of person.

Finishing the 2017 regular season 16th in the world standings – one spot out of qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – can oftentimes be a deflating feeling. That’s not the case for Hawkins, a 2013 NFR heeling qualifier from Columbus, Kan., who finished just $3,000 out of advancing to Las Vegas in December.

Buddy Hawkins

Buddy Hawkins

“I may have ended up 16th, but that’s not down to me,” he said. “I finished the 2016 season 47th, so 2017 was up. If we move up that much, we’ll be wearing gold in 2018.”

He had that mentality on Friday night during the second performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, and it worked. He and his header, Lane Ivy of Dublin, Texas, stopped the clock in 4.2 seconds to take the team toping lead in Hempstead.

“Buddy makes my job a whole lot easier,” said Ivy, who finished the 2017 season 20th in the heading world standings. “I don’t have to worry about handling the steers as good for him; he just cleans anything I turn.”

In team roping, the header tries to rope the steer’s horns, then turns the steer to allow his heeler to take a good shot. All this happens in a virtual blink of an eye.

“Roping’s so fast now that if you want to win, it’s full contact all the time,” Ivy said.

Now just a year into their partnership, things are looking up for the duo. The regular season ended last Saturday, so their run in Hempstead was the first of the 2018 season. Even though the world champions for 2017 won’t be crowned until December, there will be several thousand dollars won by many contestants before the grand finale begins.

Lane Ivy

Lane Ivy

“We didn’t rope as good as we’re able to in the winter,” Hawkins said, reflecting on the team’s close call this past season. We finally got into the top 15 as a team in July, but in the end, we didn’t do what we’re capable of. If we’d done everything we could and came up short, then we might be more disappointed, but we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

But the new campaign offers a new beginning; Ivy and Hawkins are off to a hot start.

“This is a really good rodeo with good money,” Ivy said of the purse, which features $5,000 in added (committee) money per event and per side in team roping. “I’ve finished second here before, plus what we will win this year. It’s been good.”

He pointed out that it’s important to do well all year. That’s the best route to making the NFR, and the rodeo trail is long and winding. That’s why it’s vital that the teammates understand their roles and know what it takes to win at an elite level.

They’re off to a good start, so now it’s making everything come together the best way possible.

“In our business, the best way I can describe heeling to sports people is we’re the goaltender,” Hawkins said. “We can go months on end without allowing a goal, but that doesn’t guarantee us the win. My partner is the offensive guy, and he’s got to score for us.

“I had the best spin tonight. We had a strong steer, and he spun the best steer. That’s what set us up here.”

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 5-7
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Justin McDaniel, 83 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Coal Thunder; 2. Jake Brown, 82; 3. (tie) Clint Laye and Zach Hibler, 80; 5. Winn Ratliff, 77; 6. Lane MGehee, 76; 7. Paden Hurst, 74; 8. Kirk St. Clair, 71.

Steer wrestling: 1. Matt Reeves, 3.6 seconds; 2. Clayton Hass, 3.8; 3. (tie) Justin Shaffer and Morgan Grant, 3.9; 5. (tie) Billy Bugenig, Jacob Talley and Blake Doyle, 4.0 each; 8. Justus Whitcher, 4.1.

Team roping: 1. Lane Ivy/Budy Hawkins II, 4.2 seconds; 2. Dustin Egusquiza/Kory Koontz, 4.4; 3. Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 4.6; 4. Kaleb Driggers/Junior Noguiera and Joshua Torres/Jonathan Torres, 4.8 each; 6. (tie) Caleb Smidt/Coleby Payne, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, Tanner Green/Shawn Turner and Jake Orman/Will Woodfin, 5.0 each; 10. Justin Lovell/B.J. Dugger, 5.1.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 86 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Showgirl; 2. Bradley Harter, 84; 3. Chet Johnson, 83; 4. Isaac Diaz, 81.5; 5. Wyatt Casper, 79.5; 6. Garet Aldridge, 79; 7. Curtis Garaton, 77; 8. Will Smith, 76.5.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Clay Long, 7.5 seconds; 2. Marcos Costa, 7.7; 3. Justus Whitcher, 8.0; 4. Blane Cox, 8.4; 5. (tie) Kody Mahaffey and Ike Fontenot, 8.6 each; 7. Justin Macha, 8.7; 8. Adam Gray, 9.1.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kelly Bruner, 14.47 seconds; 2. Taylor Jacob, 14.72; 3. Jennifer Sharp 14.82; 4. Rainy Pratt, 14.91; 5. Morgan Breaux, 14.92; 6. Sara Withers, 14.96; 7. Amanda Cupp, 14.97; 8. Kimball Lacy,14.98; 9. Michelle Alley, 15.05; 10. Jessi Wade, 15.11; 11. Jackie Whitcher, 15.14; 12. Fallon Taylor, 15.17.

Bull riding: 1. Clayton Sellers, 83 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Son of Sam; 2. (tie) Markus Mariluch and Tristan Mize, 82 each; 4. Foster McCraw, 80; 5. Jeffrey Joseph Ramagos, 78.5; 6. Denton Fugate, 75; 7. Dakota Nye, 71.5; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Eagle rodeo up for national honors

A packed house crowded in for each performance of the 2017 Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, which has been nominated for medium rodeo of the year nationally and in the Mountain States Circuit. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

A packed house crowded in for each performance of the 2017 Eagle County Fair and Rodeo, which has been nominated for medium rodeo of the year nationally and in the Mountain States Circuit. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

EAGLE, Colo. – The honors keep coming for the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo.

Two weeks ago, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association recognized Eagle rodeo as one of the top five medium size rodeos of the year with nominations for the year-end award. This week, the fair board learned its rodeo is also nominated for Mountain States medium rodeo of the year.

“It’s been an amazing year for us,” said Hanna Albertson, chairwoman of the fair and rodeo’s advisory committee. “Both of these nominations mean quite a bit to us. We have a hard-working crew made up mostly of volunteers that puts in a lot of hours and effort into making our fair and rodeo successful.

“By being recognized at this level, it’s a testament to the hard work we’ve done. The county staff deserves a lot of credit for what they have done and the support they provide us every year. Each of them is a valuable part of our team.”

The Mountain States Circuit is made up of contestants and rodeos primarily in Colorado and Wyoming. The nominations come from voting PRCA members, so it’s always an honor to be recognized in that capacity.

“We are extremely blessed to work with some of the best in the business, from our stock contractor, Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, to our announcer, Scott Grover,” Albertson said. “There are so many people who help make our rodeo very good, and I’m glad that others see it, too.”

Pete Carr has been nominated for the sixth time for Stock Contractor of the Year. Three members of his crew – pickup man Jeremy Willis, bullfighter Clay Heger and secretary Sandy Gwatney – are also up for the end-of-the-year awards, which will be announced Wednesday, Dec. 6, during the PRCA Awards Banquet, in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Gwatney won the Secretary of the Year award in 2016.

“For us to be nominated alongside those names and in a category with four other great rodeos is amazing to me,” Albertson said. “By being nominated for medium rodeo of the year, the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo is one of the top 20 rodeos of all sizes in 2017. That is incredible.

“It is a telling statement for not only the people who work hard for our rodeo every year but also for the people of this community and the sponsors that help make it so great. We couldn’t do it without them.”

postheadericon Top guns begin new season

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – A new season offers new opportunities and, sometimes, provides a chance at redemption.

With the 2017 regular season ending this past Saturday, many of ProRodeo’s biggest stars are kicking off their 2018 campaign at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. For steer wrestler Clayton Hass, missing the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in four years has left a bad taste in his mouth. He tried to cleanse his palette Thursday night during the first performance with a 3.8-second run to take the early lead.

Clayton Hass

Clayton Hass

“It’s always nice to get off to a good something, and it’ll probably win something,” said Hass of Terrell, Texas, who finished 17th in the 2017 world standings, just $647 short of the 15th spot; that would have secured his fourth consecutive NFR bid. “Missing it by $600 ticked me off a little bit.

“Hopefully we’ll get a little better this winter and get stronger, then come back in full force and be better than it was this year.”

Saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley was at the other end of the spectrum. He just capped off his best regular season, earning more than $184,000. His redemption will come in December, when he hopes to close out the campaign in Las Vegas with a second gold buckle, which would match the one he earned in 2015.

“I haven’t even thought about the term regular season,” said Crawley of Boerne, Texas, who rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Showgirl for 86 points to take the early lead. “For me, it’s always one rodeo season. I had a great regular season last year, and I came up one bronc short, so I could care less. The regular-season lead sounds really good, but it’s not what I’m after.”

Jacobs Crawley

Jacobs Crawley

Crawley carried the lead into the 10th and final night of the 2016 NFR, then was bucked off. He finished with a cumulative score of 662 points on eight rides, but four other men had scores through nine rides. That pushed the Texan down the NFR average, which pays a bonus to the top cumulative times through all 10 rounds. He finished $2,831 shy of world champion Zeke Thurston and fell to No. 2.

“This year I’ve got nothing to lose, so it’s a fun place to be,” Crawley said. “The chase isn’t over until the 10th round is over.”

It’s critical to do well in Las Vegas, where go-round winners can pocket more than $26,000 each night. The average champion will add more than $67,000. And in a sport where dollars equal championship points, it’s vital to find success in Sin City.

“Anyone could walk out of there with the world title,” he said, referring to the big dollars that are available at the NFR. “You must have a presence at the NFR to walk out of there with the gold buckle … a round presence and an average presence. That’s what I’m going for.”

Both Crawley and Hass have been regulars at Hempstead’s rodeo. It’s close to home – two hours for Crawley and four for Hass – and it’s always nice to kick-start the new season at a good-money rodeo. It helps to find success on the opening night, too.

“That run wasn’t textbook by any means,” Hass said. “I stayed pulling on my right arm, stayed hustling and it worked out. I’ve had some success here before. It’s good to get started like this at the first rodeo of the year”

Crawley has excelled in spite of some limitations. He suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee about a month ago and is riding through the pain. He will compete this week and next, then begin the building blocks he’ll need to compete at the NFR.

“In two weeks, I’ll take a break for a month and a half, let my knee heal up all the way and be 100 percent by December,” he said.

Maybe it’s just being cowboy tough, but he wasn’t about to let the injury stop him from competing in Hempstead.

“This is a great rodeo; I love Waller County,” he said. “It’s got a good turnout, and they’re trying to make it a better event every year. I’m just a fan.

“If the environment’s right, it makes you want it that much more, and that environment is right here. You have a great dance, a great hospitality, and Pete Carr brings great bucking horses.”


Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 5-7
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Clint Laye, 80 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Big Lights; 2. Paden Hurst, 74; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.8 seconds; 2. Riley Duvall, 4.8; no other qualified times.

Team roping: 1. Kaleb Driggers/Junior Noguiera, 4.8 seconds; 2. (tie) Caleb Smidt/Coleby Payne and Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, 5.0 each; 4. Kolten Schmidt/Tyler Worley, 5.8; 5. Anthony Lucia/Colton Brittain, 6.6; no other qualified times.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 86 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Showgirl; 2. Isaac Diaz, 81.5; 3. Garet Aldridge, 79; 4. Will Smith, 76.5; 5. Toby Collins, 75; 6. Matt McCloy, 68.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Clay Long, 7.5 seconds; 2. Caleb Smidt, 9.2; 3. King Pickett, 10.8; 4. Lane Livingston, 12.1; 5. Jason Bell, 23.6; no other qualified times.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Morgan Breaux, 14.92 seconds; 2. Kimball Lacy,14.98; 3. Michelle Alley, 15.05; 4. Jaime Barrow, 15.52; 5. Kimberly Hintz, 16.30; 6. Kelly Tovar, 20.11; 7. Zoe Brama, 20.14; 8. Brooke Rix, 20.22; 9. Jodee Mill34, 20.82; 10. Megan Mariluch, 21.08.

Bull riding: 1. Clayton Sellers, 83 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Son of Sam; 2. (tie) Markus Mariluch and Tristan Mize, 82 each; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Bellville fans ready for rodeo fun

The list of entries for this year's Austin County Fair and Rodeo has increased by more than 60, which is a good indication of the type of event held in Bellville, Texas. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The list of entries for this year’s Austin County Fair and Rodeo has increased by more than 60, which is a good indication of the type of event held in Bellville, Texas. (COURTESY PHOTO)

BELLVILLE, Texas – The Austin County Fair and Rodeo offers quite a bit more than a chance for cowboys and cowgirls to win good money.

It also offers a lot of fun – for contestants, fans and sponsors. From the great fair atmosphere to the carnival rides to a championship-caliber rodeo, a great deal is happening at Bellville’s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Austin County Fairgrounds.

“The atmosphere there is great,” said Chuck Swisher, one of the bullfighters who will work the rodeo. “It’s a stock show and rodeo. It’s cool to have the whole community come together and make such a great event.

“It’s a rodeo crowd. They know what’s going on, who to cheer for, what pays the rent there. It’s a really good crowd every night and a lot of fun. They also have a good concert every night.”

That’s true. This year’s fair will feature headliners Daryle Singletary on Thursday, Tracy Lawrence on Friday and the Charlie Daniels Band on Saturday.

“I think what makes it the most fun is that it’s a good ol’ fashioned fair and rodeo,” said Kelly Kaminski, a two-time world champion barrel racer from Bellville. “The committee takes care of the contestants. The hospitality is great. When you rodeo and you’re coming in from a long way away, it’s nice to not have to worry about supper.”

Kaminski has never had to worry about that at her hometown rodeo, but she’s been on the rodeo trail enough to understand the necessity that comes with outstanding hospitality. But what cowboys and cowgirls also get is an opportunity to play the game in front of amazing fans. This year’s list of entries has increased by more than 60, so that says quite a bit about Bellville’s rodeo.

“The atmosphere around here is a little Germanic,” she said. “A lot of old families that have settled here are German, Czech and Polish. We’ve got just about everything under the sun. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and this is their time to shine.

“It’s really an Oktoberfest feel to this fair and rodeo, and that makes it a lot of fun.”

That includes the rodeo, which regularly features many of the biggest names in the sport. Caleb Smidt, who won the all-around title in his hometown of Bellville last year, earned the 2015 tie-down roping world championship, and he is heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the fourth time in five years – the only year he missed the finale was in 2014 after suffering an injury.

He is just one of many NFR veterans who are expected to be in Bellville, but that’s just what fans have come to expect.

“It really is a great little rodeo,” Kaminski said.

postheadericon Johnson, Wakefield win in Durant

ALVA, Okla. – Team roping is the Johnson family business, and Jayden Johnson is doing his part.

The junior header at Northwestern Oklahoma State University teamed with his heeling partner, Riley Wakefield of O’Neill, Neb., to win the team roping championship this past weekend at the Southeastern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Durant.

“It means a lot to get that win,” said Johnson, a seventh-generation rancher near Casper, Wyo., whose father, Justin, is a Northwestern graduate. “This is what we do, and we work at it every day. Whether we’re roping the dummy or watching film, we’re working at it. We don’t have to run steers to work at it.

“We do rodeo every day, so it’s nice to see our hard work pay off so early. I’d like to keep that momentum going as we move forward.”

Both the Northwestern men and women placed second in Durant.

Johnson and Wakefield were two of five Rangers who scored points in team roping. They were joined by the tandem of Kass Bittle of Kremlin, Okla., and Jaydon Laubhan of Follett, Texas, and header Dylan Schulenberg of Coal Valley, Ill.

Northwestern had five steer wrestlers who garnered points, led by Jace Rutledge of Harrisonville, Mo., who won the final round and the average. Colten Madison finished in a three-way tie for third place in the first round but was unable to secure a time in the finale, while Brent Woodward placed in a tie for second overall, and Bridger Anderson placed fifth.

Wakefield made a push for the all-around crown by finishing third in tie-down roping. Tanner Nall placed fifth, and Ethan Price finished sixth. In all, the Rangers scored 560 points – even though it was better than their winning score two weeks ago in Colby, Kan., the team settled for second place.

“I chose both schools I went to because of how good I think the teams are going to be,” said Wakefield, who transferred from Gillette (Wyo.) College. “I knew a few guys on this team, and I knew they were really handy.”

Similar to his partner, Johnson transferred from Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., so this was his first big win in the Central Plains Region. Wakefield won the tie-down roping title in Colby, so this was a fresh start for the team ropers.

“It’s been really nice to have Riley,” Johnson said. “If I turn the steers, he’s going to catch them. He’s that type of guy. I’m glad to have him as a partner.”

The women’s team was led by a quartet of barrel racers, who all gathered points. Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., paved the way; she won the first round, finished fifth in the short round and earned the average championship with a two-run cumulative time of 33.59 seconds – she was four-tenths faster than the runner-up.

Ashlyn Moeder finished third in the opening round but fell off pace in the final round. Alyssa Gabrielson placed sixth in the first round, fourth in the short round and sixth in the average. Jennifer Massing was fourth in the opener, sixth in the short and fifth overall.

Breakaway roper Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., finished second overall, helped in large part to her 3.4-second, second-place run in the championship round. She was joined in the finale by Gabrielson, who finished in a tie for third place in the first round.

Overall it was a solid team effort by both the Rangers men and women.

“This is the best team I’ve been on in college rodeo,” said Johnson, whose uncle, Jhett, was the 2011 heeling world champion and attended school at Northwestern in the early 1990s. “Everybody is here to compete, and they do a good job of staying focused. They all want to work hard and try to get better every day.”

postheadericon Finale features top bullfighters

Wacey Munsell, left, will be one of two bullfighters who works the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in Duncan, Okla.

Wacey Munsell, left, will be one of two bullfighters who works the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in Duncan, Okla.

DUNCAN, Okla. – As the hooves pound, the muscles strain. When done right, bull riding can be poetry in motion.

That lasts just seconds. When those moments are over, the bullfighters move in quickly with great agility and tremendous athleticism. It is their job to distract the bull, move him away from the cowboy and try to keep everyone in the arena safe.

It’s a job that Wacey Munsell and Chuck Swisher know well. Both will return to southern Oklahoma for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

It’s an honor, really. Both have been selected multiple times to protect cowboys at the regional finale. Their places are determined by the bull riders, and it’s recognition that Munsell and Swisher are good at their jobs.

“The quality of cowboys in our circuit is really good,” said Munsell, 31, of Ulysses, Kan. “If you can make the circuit finals, I think you could do just as well at the NFR. As a bullfighter, getting votes from that quality of cowboy means a lot. It’s a big honor.”

This marks the seventh time Munsell has been selected to fight at the circuit finals, the second time since it moved to Duncan in 2012. Swisher will now work the championship for the third time.

“It’s really cool because the bull riders trusted me enough to step into the arena and work the rodeo,” said Swisher, 27, of Dover, Okla. “That’s pretty awesome to have those guys pick you out of a list full of bullfighters so that you can do what you love at an event like that.”

It takes true athleticism to handle a bullfighter’s load effectively. They will work together, gain the animals’ attention and finish by utilizing their athletic ability to remain out of harm’s way.

Both men have worked some of the biggest events in ProRodeo. Munsell has worked rodeos in Denver; Tucson, Ariz.; Greeley, Colo.; and Dodge City, Kan., just to name a few. Among Swisher’s highlights are San Antonio; Sikeston, Mo.; and a 2014 assignment to protect bull riders at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“What’s great about the circuit finals is that it’s the top 12 in each event,” Swisher said. “It’s cool to see all that talent coming together and compete against each other.”

Both men were raised in the region, so they comprehend the talent level that sits inside the Prairie Circuit. Whether it’s all-around world champion Ryan Jarrett of nearby Comanche, Okla., or a rising star like saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden of Welch, Okla., it doesn’t get much better than seeing all the top cowboys competing inside Stephens County Arena.

“What makes the circuit finals great is the quality, both contestants and stock,” Munsell said. “There are a lot of horses and bulls that have been to the NFR, so you know we’re going to have top-quality stock. The circuit usually produces really good cowboys, and a lot are NFR caliber.

“When you have that, it makes for a great rodeo.”

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