Team Ropers Make Winning a Habit


Courtesy of the PRCA

Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager remain perfect at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and one of them called it a life-changing experience.

The red-hot team ropers won Round 2 before a sellout crowd of 17,858 at the Thomas & Mack Center Friday, and for the second consecutive night they set a record for the round. Powell and Kirchenschlager won Round 1 in 4.0 seconds and bettered that the second time around with a time of 3.8 seconds.

It's the sixth time that the same team ropers won both Rounds 1 and 2 at the same Finals.

The partners earned $19,002 each for the second straight night and again climbed several spots in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings. Powell entered the Wrangler NFR in 13th place and has shot up to second, while Kirchenschlager has moved from 12th to fourth.

Kirchenschlager said winning more than $38,000 in two nights is a dream come true.
"This money changes my life," he said. "I told my fiancé (Whitney Godinez) last night we can buy a new house now. This changes life greatly for me and my family."

And the ropers aren't done yet.

"We're just going to stick to our guns and keep going as fast as we can go," Powell said.

Powell, who is competing in his ninth Finals, won a gold buckle with heeler Jhett Johnson in 2011. After just two nights, he's in position to do it again.

"I'm just glad to see our plan's coming together," Kirchenschlager said. "We need eight more rounds just like the first two."
This is the second Finals for the 23-year-old Kirchenschlager.

"It's so great to be here," he said. "This is my dream. This is what I've always wanted to do, right here. Our game plan of going at every single steer just like we did all year long is what we're here for. There's no sense changing what got us to this point.

"Now we just need to finish strong and do what we set out to do."
Both ropers live in Stephenville, Texas, the current roping capital of the world. Powell, 41, said there's no reason they can't keep winning.
They're also the early leaders for the Ram Top Gun Award, which goes to the top money winner in a single event at the Finals.
"Dakota roped that steer right there in the corner and we finished strong," Powell said. "I think that's what helped us the most in that run. My heeler will try it on every time, so we have a chance to win all 10 rounds if I catch 'em all."

Another cowboy making a move toward the top of the standings is four-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho. He shared the Round 2 win with Kyle Irwin, as both bulldoggers had a run of 3.6 seconds.

Branquinho said would let Irwin be awarded the buckle for winning the round when the winners are recognized on stage at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa later in the night.

"Luke is a great guy, and a competitor and a winner, so to share this win with him just gives me more confidence," said Irwin, who moved to sixth in the world standings.

Branquinho, who led the world standings before suffering an injury July 18 at California Rodeo Salinas, has cashed two checks in two nights for $30,189 and is fourth in the world. He had surgery the end of July, and was sidelined until the Finals.

"I've just been rehabbing and trying to make sure everything is strong," he said. "My therapist at home made sure everything is tight and felt good, and he was right on par with what needed to get accomplished to be successful here.

"This feels good, especially since I was able to be home and spend a lot of time with my kids and family, more so than I ever have. I think that really freshened me up. I've been going to the gym and therapy a lot, and that helped my body heal up from years of traveling down the road."

Irwin, who is competing in his first Finals, was thrilled with his success.

"This is great," he said. "All the hard work, all the practice and the late-night drives, it all paid off tonight. It makes it all worth it, and I just hope the momentum can build and I keep up this success in the other eight rounds."

Tie-down roper Cade Swor won a check for the second straight night and sits second in the average. Trevor Brazile took second place in Round 2 and earned a check for $15,018 to move within $29,938 of world leader Tuf Cooper.

Swor, who is fifth in the world and $53,597 behind Cooper, said the WNFR is "like 10 one-headers. When I back in there, I will not look at that average until the last go-round."

Swor bought his horse, Floyd Money, in March and credits his mount with much of his success.

"He was awesome tonight," Swor said. "This is the first time I've ever ridden my own horse here. That horse has been the key to my success."

Steven Peebles recreated a bit of history by winning Round 2 in the bareback riding competition for the second straight year. He scored 85 points on New West Rodeo Productions' Right Spur, and had high praise for his mount.

"That's a strong bucking horse right there; the definition of a bucking horse," Peebles said. "He threw everything he had at me, and tested me, for sure. He dang sure had my heart pumping."

Peebles, 25, is battling a cold, along with a persistent pain in his lower back.

" I've had some lower back pain for a few years now; my right hip gets out of line and pinches some nerves," Peebles said. "I didn't feel it all summer, but then I did at my (RAM Columbia River) Circuit Finals."
The pain didn't keep him from winning the RCRCF, however. Peebles said he felt pain in his lower back in Round 1 also.
"I've ridden with pain all my career, and I've learned to block it out," he said.

Peebles' season earnings rose to $145,932 - he's second in the world - but he still trails three-time defending World Champion Kaycee Feild by $45,454. Peebles said he's a long shot to catch Feild, but still has hope of winning his first gold buckle.

"Kaycee would have to slip up and I'd have to pound it, but I'm ready," Peebles said. "It's an outside chance, but I've got a shot."

Jacobs Crawley won the saddle bronc riding when he rode for 82.5 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock's Spade to claim his second career round win at the Finals.

Crawley was the first saddle bronc rider to climb on Spade, after the horse switched over from bareback competition in 2011.

"I won on him in Claremore, Okla., in his first-ever saddle bronc trip, so it was pretty special to draw Spade tonight and win on him," Crawley said. "I'm looking forward to going to the South Point stage, thanks to Spade."

Crawley moved within $19,148 of world standings leader Taos Muncy. First-round winner Cort Scheer is second, and Crawley said the world title is up for grabs.

"I'm excited, and I feel like I'm riding like I want to ride, which is consistent and take care of business," Crawley said. "Winning the (NFR) average last year really made winning the world a possibility in my mind. If you would've asked me two years ago, winning the world would've seemed so far off, but now after winning the average here last year, I feel like if I can pick up a few round wins and grab the average again, that it's anybody's game this year."

Only four bull riders stayed aboard for eight seconds for the second night in a row, and Aaron Pass claimed the victory when he rode for 89.5 points on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock's Seeing Red. He celebrated by throwing his hat in the air.

"The bull was great, and people had talked good about him," Pass said. "I usually don't throw my hat in the air like that, and I usually just throw my hands up in the air. I just bought this hat today and my buddy Trey (Benton III) told me I had to get it dirty, so that's why I threw it. This is an exciting atmosphere and it's hard to explain what that moment felt like. It's a lifelong dream to be here, and I'm really hoping I get a few more go-round wins under my belt."

Joe Frost, who won Round 1 and was fourth Friday, is the only bull rider with two qualified rides.

Lisa Lockhart rode her buckskin horse, Louie, to the barrel racing win in 14.29 seconds, just .02 faster than Kassidy Dennison. It's the fifth time the Round 2 winner has prevailed by less than .03 seconds.
"I rode very conservatively tonight," Lockhart said. "Although I couldn't see what was going on in the arena, I could hear that the times were not what they have been in the past, so I had it in my mind to back off just a little and let Louie pick his pace."

The 56th annual Wrangler NFR continues Saturday with the second round at the Thomas & Mack Center. The action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 7-10 p.m. (PT) with Jeff Medders and Butch Knowles announcing.