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postheadericon Some notes heading into Round 7

Here are your money leaders
We’ve got just four go-rounds remaining in the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and here are the contestants in each event who have won the most so far:

–       Bareback rider Caleb Bennett, $46,575
–       Steer wrestler Dean Gorsuch, $46,575
–       Team ropers Brady and Riley Minor, $48,117
–       Saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell, $52,985
–       Tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, $58,894
–       Barrel racer Sherry Cervi, $70,413
–       Bull rider J.W. Harris, $67,007

Other end of the spectrum
There are several contestants who haven’t found that type of success. In fact, ??? haven’t found any at all:

–       Bareback rider Jared Smith
–       Steer wrestler Straws Milan
–       Barrel racer Jean Winters
–       And bull riders Cole Echols and Tyler Willis

postheadericon Corrington places in 4th straight round

LAS VEGAS – Tyler Corrington rides saddle broncs for a living.

He loves his job, and he’s showing it this week in his second qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Tyler Corrington

Tyler Corrington

Corrington, 27, of Hastings, Minn., has placed in each of the last four go-rounds, including a sixth-place finish Tuesday night that was worth $3,005. He rode Barnes PRCA Rodeo’s Cat Power for 80 points, and that move propelled his NFR earnings to $32,752.

So far this season, Corrington has earned $130,679 riding bucking horses. He is sixth in the world standings but just about $17,000 behind the world standings leader, two-time world champion Cody Wright.

Go-round winners earn $18,630 each of the 10 December nights of ProRodeo’s grand finale, so if things go well, the Minnesota cowboy could move into the top spot on the money list. That’s easier said than done, though, because the NFR features the 15 greatest bronc busters from the 2013 season.

Still, Las Vegas is the place for cowboys to find their riches. What’s most valuable, though, is that the contestants in each event who finish the NFR with the most money will walk away from the Thomas & Mack Center with the most coveted prizes in the sport, a world champion’s gold buckle. That’s one of the things for which Corrington is riding.

But he also is having a blast. You see, each night the top 15 bucking horse riders are matched against the greatest broncs in rodeo. That makes it fun for the cowboys and exciting for the more than 17,000 fans who pack the Thomas & Mack every night.

On Wednesday night, the bronc riders will face their biggest tests of the NFR, being matched against the “eliminator” pen of bucking horses, the nastiest, hardest-to-ride animals in the game. Corrington’s blind draw has him matched against Killer Bee of Oklahoma-based Beutler & Son Rodeo. Last Friday, Killer Bee bucked off five-time NFR qualifier Heith DeMoss.

Corrington knows the challenges he faces over the remaining four rounds, but he’s ready for them. He likely will handle his business with a smile on his face.

postheadericon Cure finding success in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Every year at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, several contestants make powerful statements with their performances during the 10-day championship.

Hunter Cure

Hunter Cure

Steer wrestler Hunter Cure of Holliday, Texas, is one of them.

Through six go-rounds inside the Thomas & Mack Center, Cure has placed four times, including a Round 5 victory. He has earned $44,571 of Vegas money and has moved up to fourth in the world standings race – his 2013 earnings are inches close from $110,000.

On Tuesday night during the NFR’s sixth go-round, Cure grappled his steer to the ground in 3.9 seconds to finish in a three-way tie for fourth place. He pocketed $5,208 for his run.

To compare this year’s championship to the only other time he has competed at the NFR, he already has placed in more go-rounds than he did in 2009. Oh, and there are still four rounds to go, so the possibilities of increased success stand out quite well in the Nevada desert.

Cure also has the seventh fastest cumulative time, downing six steers in 34.2 seconds. The top eight in that aggregate at the conclusion of the NFR will earn bonus checks, with the average champion earning nearly $48,000. Should the Howard College (Texas) and Texas Tech University graduate remain in seventh, he will add another $8,100 to his paycheck in the City of Lights.

postheadericon Attitude change works for Armes

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.”

Bray Armes

Bray Armes

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.

postheadericon Bennett places second Tuesday

LAS VEGAS – How focused is bareback rider Caleb Bennett?

“I go to bed thinking about making a statement with my riding,” said Bennett, now in his second straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “I go to bed thinking about great bucking horses and riding great bucking horses. I wake up, and I think about it all day long.

Caleb Bennett

Caleb Bennett

“Thoughts become things, and I just picture myself winning go-rounds and drawing great horses and winning lots of money.”

He’s right, because thoughts are becoming things. On Tuesday night, Bennett matched moves with Three Hills Rodeo’s Peaches N Cream for 84 points to finish as the runner-up in the sixth go-round. He added $14,724 to his NFR earnings, which have reached $46,575.

“Three Hills brought a great horse,” said Bennett, who has placed five of six nights, including the victory in Round 1. “That’s another one I’ve never been on, and I’ve wanted to get on her and have watched her for years. I really thought that was the one to win the round on tonight. She’s very consistent, the same trip every time.”

It’s been a special week for the Utah cowboy, who has moved from 15th to sixth in the world standings and is the No. 1 man in the average race – his six-ride cumulative score of 497 points is just half a point better than another Utah bronc buster, two-time reigning world champion Kaycee Feild.

“Right now I’m just trying to keep a level head,” Bennett said. “I just keep thinking about the good ones and hope that they’re by my name every time and try to ride them the best I can.”

Cowboys are matched with their livestock by a blind draw, and the NFR features 100 of the very best bareback horses in the game. It takes equal parts of quality horse and a quality ride to make for big scores.

“I am humbled,” he said. “This is unreal. I read a deal that Wade (Sundell) said that he was far enough down that he had nothing to lose, so he was just going to make a statement here.”

So he visited with traveling partner J.R. Vezain of Cowley, Wyo., about those thoughts, then put them into his own words.

“I know I’m 15th, and I know I squeaked in there,” Bennett said. “I know a lot of guys aren’t really looking for me to do that good this year. I’m going to be like Wade, and I’m going to try to make a statement.”

He is … to nearly $50,000 in six nights.

NOTE
Vezain has been wearing a vest specially made by Ty Skiver, who is the step-father of another traveling partner, R.C. Landingham. Skiver made the vest in support of his wife and Landingham’s mother, Wendy Skiver. All the bareback riders will sign the vest, and it will be part of a raffle; tickets are being sold at the Barstow booth at Cowboy Christmas, and money raised will go to help with Wendy Skiver’s medical bills.

“We really want to help them as much as we can, and I think this is a great way to tie it all together,” Bennett said.

postheadericon Kastner claims title

1. Trevor Kastner on Corey & Lange Rodeo’s Wild Eyes, 88 points, $18,630; 2. J.W. Harris, 86, $14,724; 3. Cody Teel, 85.5, $11,118; 4. (tie) Chandler Bownds and Parker Breding and Tyler Smith, 85, $5,208 each.

postheadericon Colletti wins for 2nd straight night

LAS VEGAS – Casey Colletti is pretty excited about his back-to-back go-round victories at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I’d almost do a happy dance for you, but I’d probably hurt myself,” said Colletti, 27, of Pueblo, Colo., who suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during a rough get-off in the third round.

Casey Colletti

Casey Colletti

While he limps around Las Vegas, his bum knee doesn’t seem to bother Colletti on the back of the best bucking horses in the world. On Tuesday night, he posted an 86.5-point on J Bar J Rodeo’s Smack Daddy to win the sixth round. He cashed in another $18,630 and pushed his NFR earnings to $40,515.

“I had her in San Angelo (Texas), and finished second in the long round,” he said. “She grew up. When I had her, she was about 200 pounds lighter and a little bit smaller. I was so tickled to have her. It was kind of an underdog, because a lot of guys didn’t know what she was. In the back of my head, I was going, ‘If she does what she does, it’s going to be good.’

“She kind of bucked. She wasn’t super rank bucking, but she was phenomenal.”

So was Colletti, who has credited the Justin Sportsmedicine Program for getting him ready to ride each night.

“The ride felt good,” Colletti said. “What a bareback ride should feel like, hurt or unhurt, that’s just what it felt like.”

It seems to be working so far.

“It’s kind of a dream come true to me,” he said. “I just set my goals of other things when I get here, and one of the things was to win back-to-back go-round buckles.

“She jumped out and had a hard move to the right, which I did not expect that. All I was thinking was, ‘Zing your feet because you’re not going to win not spurring her.’ There are 15 of the best guys in the world trying to compete for go-rounds. I’m just going to try to win first every night.”

postheadericon Rookie making a big move

1. Taylor Jacob, 13.37 seconds, $18,630; 2. Mary Walker, 13.64 seconds, $14,724; 3. Brittany Pozzi, 13.69, $11,118; 4. Sherry Cervi, 13.75, $7,813; 5. Fallon Taylor, 13.76, $4,808; 6. Lisa Lockhart and Christy Loflin, 13.87, $1,502 each.

postheadericon Jacob sets new NFR arena record

Rookie Taylor Jacob posted a 13.37-second run on Tuesday night to win the sixth round and claim a new arena record, bettering the mark of Carlee Pierce, who posted a 13.46 in 2011.

postheadericon Maass claims tie-down title

1. Justin Maass, 7.2 seconds, $18,630; 2. Shane Hanchey, 7.3, $14,724; 3. (tie) Tyson Durfey and Clif Cooper, 7.4, $9,465 each 5. Tuf Cooper, 7.5, $4,808; 6. Shane Slack, 7.8, $3,005.