LAS VEGAS – Most nights this time of year, the Thomas and Mack Center is a basketball court.
This week, it’s home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It’s a lot smaller than at a typical rodeo, so times must be fast. Wyatt Smith is learning that the hard way.
On Tuesday night, the education came through for the Rexburg, Idaho, cowboy. He wrestled his steer to the ground in 3.6 seconds to finish second in the sixth go-round, earning $15,018 in the process. It was just the second qualifying run for Smith.
“The start is so fast here, and I’m just trying to figure it out,” he said. “I’ve been late on everything. Finally I figured out how to get out of the start, and it’s super-fast.”
Steer wrestlers must catch their steers before they reach midcourt if they hope to win. When the animal gets too big of a head start, the chances of the steer wrestler earning a check is slim.
“It finally felt good, and I can relax a little bit and have some fun now,” he said.
Smith wasn’t having much fun. After posting a 5.6-second run on opening night, he failed to secure a time in Rounds 2-5.
“Oh, yeah, you could see me take my hat off and wipe my brow,” Smith said. “I have been having heck and fighting things. I kept telling myself that if could get my hands on one, I’d be OK and remember how to tip one over.”
Then he did a back flip in celebration, showcasing his years in gymnastics.
“Everybody keeps saying we’re at halftime, and there’s still a lot of money out there and a lot of steers to get thrown down,” Smith said of the 10-round marathon that is the NFR. “Everybody’s bulldogging so good, and that’s what it’s all about.
“It’s tough. It’s a dogfight.”
It is, and now Smith is back in it. Each night, each of the top 15 race for their share of $61,298. The man with the fastest time earns a nightly paycheck of $19,000. That is plenty of incentive.
“I’m out of the average,” he said, referring to the cowboy who finishes the NFR with the fastest 10-round cumulative time. “Now it’s all about going for first every run. I know it’s going to be so fast, so you just have to have fun.”
1. Aaron Pass, 83.5 points on Honeycutt Rodeo’s Pair a Dice, $19,002; 2. Sage Kimzey, 73.5, $15,018; 3. Beau Hill, 72, $11,340; no other qualified rides.
1. Britany Diaz, 13.89 seconds, $19,002; 2. Kaley Bass, 13.90, $15,018; 3. Christy Loflin, 13.91, $11,340; 4. Fallon Taylor, 14.08, $7,969; 5. Trula Churchill, 14.13 $4,904; 6. Jana Bean, 14.18, $3,065.
1. (tie) Marty Yates and Matt Shiozawa, 6.9 seconds, $17,010 each; 3. (tie) Cody Ohl and Timber Moore, 7.3, $9,654 each; 5. Adam Gray, 7.5, $4,904; 6. (tie) Tyson Durfey and Hunter Herrin, 7.6, $1,532 each.
1. Jake Wright, 79 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Rich N Fancy, $19,002; 2. Cody DeMoss, 78.5, $15,108; 3. (tie) Heith DeMoss and Spencer Wright, 78, $9,654 each; 5. Tyler Corrington, 77.5, $4,904; 6. (tie) Cort Scheer and Dustin Flundra, 76.5, $1,532.
1. Aaron Tsinigine/Clay O’Brien Cooper, 4.0 seconds, $19,002; 2. Turle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlage, 4.2, $15,018; 3. Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 4.4, $11,340; 4. Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill, 5.0, $7,969; 5. Tom Richards/Cesar de la Cruz, 5.3, $4,904; 6. Coleman Proctor/Jake Long, 5.5, $3,065.
1. Austin Foss on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Movie Madness, 86 points, $19,002; 2. Bobby Mote, 83, $15,018; 3. (tie) Tilden Hooper, Jessy Davis and Caleb Bennett, 81, $8,071 each; 6. (tie) Will Lowe and Kaycee Feild, 80, $1,532 each.
1. K.C. Jones, 3.5 seconds, $19,002; 2. Wyatt Smith, 3.6 $15,108; 3. Clayton Haas, 3.7, $11,340; 4. Dru Melvin, 4.1, $7,969; 5. Bray Armes, 4.2, $ 4,9046; 6. (tie) Ty Erickson and Seth Brockman, 4.8, $1,533.
LAS VEGAS – Coleman Proctor has waited a lifetime for his moment in ProRodeo.
He’s living it this week in Las Vegas, home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale. Roping with his longtime friend, Jake Long, Proctor found the City of Lights to his liking. That was most evident Monday night, when the team stopped the clock in 4.1 seconds to win the fifth go-round and a $19,000 check.
“I’ve got the best heeler in the world, and I’ve got to just turn steers for him,” said Proctor, a header from Pryor, Okla. “Jake’s made it here three times before. I was his biggest fan and talked to him every night. But I was at home watching it on the couch, because I didn’t want to come until I made it.
“He’s shown on paper how great he is in this building. He’s so awesome in here, and I just want to give him an opportunity to just go throw his rope.”
Now that he has arrived in the Nevada desert, the Oklahoma cowboy is taking advantage. After missing his first-round steer, the tandem had placed three of four nights – they posted a 4.5 to finish as runners-up in the second round, then finished tied for fifth in the third with a 4.3. At the halfway point of the 10-round championship, Proctor and Long have each earned more than $38,000. That’s an outstanding work week.
They have each earned more than $113,000 this season and sit fourth in their respective world standings and trail the leaders, Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill, by less than $26,000. They have five more rounds to add to their total.
“Jake is like my brother; he’s family,” Proctor said of Long, 30, of Coffeyville, Kan. “We’ve been roping together since our diaper days, when he was 3 and I was 2. To win my first go-round here with him is a dream come true.”
Their bond is a key component, not only to their success but also how they handle the day-to-day life of traveling the rodeo trail.
“I’ve had the privilege of experience this rodeo three other times, but to get to experience this with a guy who’s basically my brother and finally live it out is beyond words really,” Long said. “Coleman did a great job making that steer easier for me to heel by really softening him up in the turn. I told myself I was going to be more aggressive in my approach tonight. I decided to turn it up a notch, and it worked out really well.”
LAS VEGAS – Carlee Pierce’s confidence is growing.
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the perfect place for that boost. On Monday night, the Edmond, Okla., cowgirl circled the cloverleaf pattern in 13.93 seconds to finish sixth in the fifth round, adding another $3,065 to her earnings. She now has earned more than $14,000 in Sin City.
“Faster times each run is a success,” Pierce said after posting her fastest time of the 2014 NFR. “We are finally getting more confidence and looking for first place.”
That assurance comes from Streakin Easy April, a 6-year-old sorrel mare she calls Lolo that is competing at just the fourth rodeo of her young life. It just so happens, this is a 10-round championship that features the very best horses in ProRodeo.
“I was super excited about that run,” she said, referring to the fifth-round time. “Every time I ride her, I’m seeing more and more great things.”
The young horse comes from a strong pedigree. Her sire is A Streak of Fling, a top-producing performance horse stallion; her dam is Easy April Lena, a top producer.
“I’m just working hard to make sure we’re doing everything right,” said Pierce, who pushed her season earnings to more than $104,500 and is sixth in the world standings. “We tipped a barrel Sunday night, and that was rider error.”
The cowgirl learned from the mistake.
“I rode a lot better, and it showed,” she said.