Spencer Shows the Wright Stuff


Courtesy of the PRCA

The youngest is now first. Spencer Wright beat his older brothers and the rest of the world's best saddle bronc riders to win Round 4 of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo before a sellout crowd of 17,600 at the Thomas & Mack Center Sunday.

At age 23, he is the youngest of four record-setting Wright brothers - the first set of four siblings ever to qualify for the Wrangler NFR, let alone all in the same year.

It is Spencer Wright's first WNFR, and he is celebrating in fine fashion. He leads the average with 323 points on four head, and also tops all saddle bronc riders here this week with $40,150 earned in four rounds.

"This really is a dream come true," said Wright, 23. "I've dreamed of winning several rounds at the NFR for a long time, so I'm tickled to have won my first one."
The oldest of the Wright brothers, 37-year-old Cody, won world saddle bronc riding championships in 2008 and 2010, and has a dozen WNFR qualifications.

Twins Jesse and Jake Wright, 25, also have enjoyed success. Jesse has five WNFR qualifications and won a gold buckle in 2012, while Jake has earned three trips to the Finals.

"One of the four of us had to kick this off and win a round, and I'm glad it was me," Spencer Wright said.

He rode for 84 points on Calgary Stampede's Mata Fact, a half-point better than Cody DeMoss.

Cody Wright took third in the round when he rode for 82 points.

"Being here with my brothers has been amazing, and who better to be here with than your family," Spencer Wright said. "They're here rooting for me and helping me out, and it's been much easier to have them here with me. The first few days I just followed Jake around and learned the routine for myself.

"This has been a great experience, and I think this is something that's going to fuel next season, because it's been so great to be here."

Mata Fact shot up in the air straight out of the chute, and made it tough on Wright early in the ride.
"It's definitely more challenging to ride those kind of horses, but you have to ride them just like any other horse," he said. "Out of the chute, I was just thinking to myself that I needed to hold my feet and not miss him out. I feel like I'm riding solid right now, and I just want to keep it up and see what happens."

Steer wrestler Seth Brockman, in his second WNFR, won his first round with a time of 3.6 seconds. The Wheatland, Wyo., cowboy sits 12th in the average with a time of 19.5 seconds on three steers.
"Basically, I need to show up (Monday night) and try to blow the barrier out," Brockman said. "I'm going to try and win every round, because I'm already out of the average here."

Four-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho finished second in Round 4 with a time of 3.7 seconds, and leads the average with 14.9 seconds on four head.

Branquinho also moved into the world standings lead with $122,539. He led the world on July 18 when he was injured at California Rodeo Salinas and was sidelined until the WNFR.

Rookie bull rider Sage Kimzey won his second consecutive round, when he rode for 87 points on Frontier Rodeo's Kojack. Kimzey, 20, said he's felt in a groove all year long.

"Every time I get on a bull, I'm confident and I slide up with conviction, and things are absolutely clicking right now," he said. "That's a great bull from Frontier Rodeo that bucks really hard, but is also rider-friendly."

Although Kimzey is first in the average and comfortably leads the world standings by $40,605, he's taking nothing for granted. He could become only the second rookie to win the bull riding gold buckle; Bill Kornell did it in 1963.

"I'm not even thinking about the gold buckle until it's perma-frosted," Kimzey said. "There's no icing anything. I've been thinking and dreaming about winning a world title for a long time, but I haven't really put those thoughts into reality yet. I know that I have a good shot to win it, and I just want to keep coming and taking care of my business and it'll work out the way I want it to.

"This is what I've been working for since I was 3 years old. Hopefully, this is the year that dream turns into a reality."

The bareback riding was a story of old and young, as the veteran of the group, four-time World Champion Bobby Mote, shared the round win with the youngest contestant, Missouri Valley College student Tim O'Connell.

Mote, 38, extended his record for bareback riding round wins at the Finals to 25, which is eight more than Marvin Garrett's total. For O'Connell, in his first WNFR, it was his first round win.
O'Connell rode for 84 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo's On Tap and Mote matched him when he rode for 84 points on Andrews Rodeo's Rylee's Raisin Cain.

Mote shared one round win in 2013, but knows how difficult it is to finish first at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"Rounds are hard to win here," Mote said. "The first year I rode here (in 2001), I won the first round and I thought this place was made for me and that I could do no wrong here. I got the wrong impression. It's really hard to get round wins here. I never take it for granted, and it feels great."
Mote entered the WNFR in sixth place, and moved up to fourth in the world with six rounds remaining.

"You always wonder if you'll come back here, and there's no guarantee you'll make it," he said. "It's all about how deep you want to dig."

Mote is just $6,204 shy of winning $1 million in his WNFR career. Six others have achieved that rare feat: Trevor Brazile, Cody Ohl, Billy Etbauer, Sherry Cervi, Fred Whitfield and Joe Beaver.

"That's a big accomplishment at one rodeo," Mote said. "I wish I had it all now."

O'Connell has a big future ahead of him. He was the PRCA Bareback Riding Permit Holder of the Year in 2012 and the PRCA Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year in 2013.

"It's an honor just to ride with these guys, the best bareback riders in the world," O'Connell said. "It feels great, and it's really exciting."

O'Connell earned his first WNFR check of $17,010. He was bucked off by Andrews Rodeo's PTSD Power Play in Round 2 and suffered a similar fate when he drew Frontier Rodeo's Full Baggage in Round 3.

"You can't stub a toe, that's what I learned the last two nights," said O'Connell, 23. "I've not drawn badly, that's for sure, but when you make mistakes on great horses, they put you in the ground hard. When I did my backflip over (PTSD) Power Play, I tore a lot of microfibers in my hamstring. I've been spending two hours every morning at (Justin) Sportsmedicine. They've done a great job for me."

Tie-down roper Marty Yates, in his first WNFR, won his second round in four tries, and his time of 6.7 seconds was just .1 slower than Cody Ohl's fourth-round record set in 2009.

"I knew I had a good calf and I got a great start," Yates said. "It was pretty cool to get a good start and it all came together. It all happened really fast, so I knew I was going to be flirting with it being pretty dang fast."

The Stephenville, Texas, cowboy has won $41,070 at this WNFR, which has moved him into fourth place in the world standings with $124,257.

"I feel grateful for being here and being able to rope to my best ability and win go-rounds," Yates said. "I've always lived with a kind of live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword type of style, so nothing changes for me."

Yates said the arena suits his horse, 8-year-old Chicken, who was second in the 2014 AQHA/PRCA Tie-down Roping Horse of the Year voting.

"In this setup, he's great," Yates said. "To me, this setup was built for me and him. He makes everything so easy on me."

Team ropers Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn won the round in 3.6 seconds and were just one-tenth off the round record set in 2010 by Brady Tryan and Jake Long.

"Getting a good start here is the key to the whole deal," Brown said. "It makes it so much easier when you get out right. That back end comes fast."

It was the first check of the WNFR for Brown and VonAhn, who won the average title here a year ago.

"We practiced as hard or harder this year to do the same thing we did here last year," Brown said. "I hickeyed a horn (which is an illegal head catch) in the second round, but we're not going to change anything."

They sit ninth in the average with a time of 26.3 seconds on three head.

"I don't think anybody ever comes here just thinking about the average," VonAhn said. "That'll start playing a bigger role later in the week, in about the seventh round. You can't really back off in this arena anyway, because it's so small. If you miss the barrier here it's really hard just to catch.

"We feel like we have a pretty consistent run. Luke's been getting out and getting it on them so quick that all I have to do is catch. The situation determines how fast you can throw. If you're in the right spot, it's pretty easy.

"I can only go as fast as he (Brown) turns them. Last night he turned one so fast I wasn't even ready. I've just been trying to do my job, and most of the time it's good enough."

VonAhn is riding Frank, who'll be 21 next month and is competing in his sixth WNFR.

"I've ridden him here four times," VonAhn said. "Shannon Frascht and Travis Graves have also ridden him here."

Brown, who rides 21-year-old Slim Shady, said, "I've ridden him all but three rounds in the seven years I've been here. He's really easy to get a good start on and he won't duck. I've ridden him so much, I know him like the back of my hand. It'd be crazy not to ride him here."
Fallon Taylor won her second go-round, her time of 13.85 seconds edging Lisa Lockhart by three-tenths. Reigning World Champion Sherry Cervi was third in 13.90.

"It's the coolest thing ever," Taylor said. "Two round wins means more to me than anything, especially after such a rocky year last year and putting in a lot of hard work when nobody was watching all the long hours in the practice pen with the blood, sweat and tears. To now be able to showcase all the hard work on such a national level is really rewarding, and (my horse) Baby Flo deserves all the credit."

Branquinho leads the RAM Top Gun Award standings with $56,547. Kimzey and Taylor are tied for second with $49,345 while bareback rider Justin McDaniel is fourth with $45,463.
The 56th annual Wrangler NFR continues Monday with the fifth 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 hosts Jeff Medders and Butch Knowles.