Las Vegas, NV


2011 World Champions Crowned Following Round 10


By Kyle Partain, ProRodeo Sports News

Information Courtesy of the PRCA


LAS VEGAS – If ever there was a reason for Luke Branquinho to shake his booty at the Thomas & Mack Center, this was it.

Branquinho – who routinely performs the celebration dance in the arena following fast times – won his third world title and first since 2008. He came out on top in the pivotal average race after a 4.7-second run that earned a sixth-place check in front of 17,720 fans during Round 10 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday.

Championship Saturday at the Wrangler NFR featured a relatively equal number of veteran champions and gold-buckle newcomers. Branquinho was joined in the veterans category by saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy, barrel racer Lindsay Sears and all-around champion Trevor Brazile. Newcomers to the world champion club included bareback rider Kaycee Feild, team ropers Turtle Powell and Jhett Johnson, tie-down roper Tuf Cooper and bull rider Shane Proctor.

A trio of steer wrestlers had a strong chance to win the world going into the final round, but Branquinho earned the average title with a time of 41.9 seconds on 10 head. He claimed checks in nine of 10 rounds to earn a Wrangler NFR record $146,779 in his event. That pushed his season total to $234,518 – more than $56,000 ahead of second-place Shawn Greenfield, who also took second in the average.

“Winning one is amazing, but winning three – I can’t even explain it,” Branquinho said. “Just to be in the situation to win one, let alone three, is an amazing feeling.”

Branquinho saw his two closest competitors – Greenfield and Jason Miller – break the barrier for 10-second penalties in Round 10.

“Those guys were going in there knowing they had to win good in the rounds to stay ahead in the average and get the money they needed,” Branquinho said. “They were taking a chance, you know. If I was in their situation, knowing that I had to win good in the go-rounds, I maybe would have clipped the barrier, too. But, that’s just rodeo. It happens day in and day out in rodeo, and unfortunately for those two, it happened in Round 10 at the NFR.”

In his fourth Wrangler NFR, Cooper didn’t have the week he might have dreamed about, but he still won $46,731 and held off a fierce challenge from fellow Texan Cody Ohl and Idaho cowboy Matt Shiozawa. Cooper took sixth in the final round with a 9.6-second run and finished seventh in the average.

“We didn’t have the Finals that we were expecting, and if you look back on paper, that’s the ones we were expecting,” Cooper said. “It’s definitely worked out the way we wanted it to, and it all works out in the end.

“Everything’s going to change from this point on. We’re trying to take the steering wheel and do the driving instead of being along for the ride. I’ve got a big responsibility to a lot of people, and I’m going to try to do the very best job that I can.”

Cooper won $192,042 on the season -- $18,266 ahead of Shiozawa, who won the average title for the first time in his five trips to the Finals.

One cowboy who didn’t have to sweat it out on Saturday was Feild. After winning or splitting the win in five of the first nine rounds, he locked up his first world championship. But he still had some unfinished business heading into Round 10. He was within spitting distance of the Wrangler NFR average record set in 2008 by Justin McDaniel, and he held a slim lead in the Ram Top Gun Award standings over saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright.

Mission accomplished.
Feild topped Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night for 87 points to win an event record sixth Finals go-round and top the average record by 1.5 points.

“Like I said, I wanted to come out here and dominate,” Feild said. “Beating the average record wasn’t my goal coming in, but through the week I looked up the score and knew what I would have to do to beat it. So, I kind of made that my goal.”

Winning a Ram truck thanks to his $179,327 – a Wrangler NFR record in bareback riding and for any cowboy competing in a single event – was just icing on the cake for a year in which Feild earned an event record $319,986.

Feild wasn’t the only one setting Wrangler NFR records.

Team ropers Powell and Johnson bested the year-old earnings record ($120,419 set by Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith in 2010) with $125,625 during their 10 days in Las Vegas. To put that in perspective, Powell entered the Wrangler NFR with just $69,782 won, while Johnson had $71,487. The two placed in seven rounds and won the average titles as Powell went from 13th to first in the heading world standings and Johnson went from 12th to first in the heeling standings.

It’s the first world title for each of the ropers, Powell from Stephenville, Texas, and Johnson from Casper, Wyo.

“I told Jhett this morning we should have met for breakfast at 5 o’clock, because we were both laying there staring at the ceiling,” Powell said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of backing in the box in the 10th round at the NFR with the championship on the line, but it’s a lot different than I expected. That’s the hardest steer I’ve ever run I my life.”

Johnson had a tough angle for his heel loop and caught just a single hind leg as the team finished sixth in the round with a time of 10.0 seconds. Clay Tryan and Travis Graves failed to place in the round, but took third in the average and finished a close second – less than $8,000 behind the leaders.

“When Turtle’s rope went on, that steer shot back to the right, which put me in a bad position,” Johnson said. “I was just trying to find a place to get a shot then. I knew I had to catch him. It wasn’t the loop I’ve always dreamed about in that situation, but I got him.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get one (a world championship). I’m a lot closer to the end of my career than the beginning.”

After leading the world standings nearly all season, Proctor found himself in a close battle with three-time World Champion J.W. Harris that left the gold buckle in doubt down to the final two bull rides of the Wrangler NFR. When Harris bucked off in the final round, Proctor was assured of the world title. Unfortunately, Proctor was bucked off and stepped on by his draw, Powder River Rodeo’s Black Attack. Suffering a broken left arm, Proctor lay motionless in the arena for several minutes before being carried out by the Justin Sportsmedicine Team. He was X-rayed at the arena and surgery is being arranged.

Proctor finished fourth in the average and amassed $238,249 in earnings. Harris finished the year with $209,361 after earning $78,317 at the Finals. Wrangler NFR rookie L.J. Jenkins claimed the average title by riding six bulls for 501 points.

Muncy, the 2007 world champion, placed sixth in the final round with an 81.5-point ride aboard 2009 PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year Spring Planting to hold onto second place in the average race and fend off Jesse Wright for his second world championship.

Muncy earned $94,471 during his 10 days in Las Vegas and edged Wright by just $8,540 after Wright earned a Wrangler NFR record $160,962 in the event. Wright also topped the average record – by 1.5 points – set by his brother Cody in 2010. Despite all that, it was Muncy who claimed the gold buckle.

“I just had to focus on myself and I couldn’t worry about what Jesse was doing,” Muncy said. “It was awesome to watch him ride; I’ve never seen someone spur over a horse’s head like he did. He had a heck of a week, and I’m thankful to have another gold buckle.

“The first time I won the world, it was my first year and I was really going hard and everything fell into place. I didn’t really know how hard you have to work to get another one. This took a lot of work, and it means a lot to me.”

Sears locked up her second barrel racing world title with a 13.75-second run in Round 10 on Saturday. She took second in the round, locked up the average title and finished the year with $238,864. When it was all said and done, she won the title by more than $55,000 over second-place Brittany Pozzi.