Shiozawa Takes Aim at Top Spot


Courtesy of the PRCA

Matt Shiozawa is chasing an elusive gold buckle, and the veteran tie-down roper put himself in great position to get it done Tuesday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

The Chubbuck, Idaho, cowboy broke the Round 6 WNFR record with a run of 6.9 seconds before a sellout crowd of 17,495 at the Thomas & Mack Center, and it was good enough to share the round win with 20-year-old Marty Yates, who had already won two rounds in his first Wrangler NFR.

Shiozawa, who is competing in his seventh Finals, took over the average lead and sits second in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings with $148,551. He trails world leader Tuf Cooper, a two-time world champion, by $16,101.
The 10-day rodeo concludes Saturday.

"We were at halftime (of the WNFR), and it was time to score," said Shiozawa, 34. "I came in behind in the average and we still have four more to run, but I have to win money on the ones I'm supposed to, and get by on the ones that I'm supposed to get by on. It's that simple."

Shiozawa and Yates each earned $17,010 by splitting the win. They each broke Cody Ohl's Round 6 record of 7.1 seconds, set in 2003.
Yates is third in the world standings, but sits 12th in the average because he's had two no-times.

Cooper is second in the average with a time of 57.3 seconds on six head. Shiozawa has a time of 54.8 seconds on six head.

"A guy has to keep going at 'em," Shiozawa said. "There's still a lot of game left in this deal and it's definitely not any time to coast. The average will play a factor, but you can't worry about that until it's over."

The average winner will add $48,732 to his bank account, and that could determine who wins the gold buckle.
Yates said he's determined to stay aggressive, and would even if he was fighting for the average title.

"I kind of have a run-and-gun style, and I've been really running at the barrier every night and getting a good start," he said. "The ones I have won on, I've been really aggressive. The two I missed, I backed off a little bit. I just have to stay focused and stay aggressive."

Bareback rider Austin Foss rode for 86 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo's Movie Madness, then sweated out three re-rides by other cowboys before he was officially declared the winner. It was the first career round win for Foss, who is competing in his second Wrangler NFR.

"Sitting on that horse and taking a victory lap at Thomas & Mack was just incredible," Foss said. "The people are whooping and hollering, and it was all for me. It's just an indescribable feeling. It's the most moving feeling I've had all year. It could be an addicting feeling, it felt so good."

The 22-year-old Terrebonne, Ore., cowboy was the 2012 PRCA Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year. He won 10 rodeos outright in 2014, and shared the title at five others, and said it was all he had hoped for.

"It's absolutely beyond expectations," Foss said. "I was hovering around the 1-2-3 spots all year and it was a really good feeling to be able to stay there. I was very consistent all year, and it just kept adding up."

Of the three re-rides, only Bobby Mote's was good enough to earn a check as the four-time world champion bareback rider took second when he rode for 83 points.

"You sit there and grit your teeth," Foss said. "There's not much you can do, because the cards are going to fall the way they're going to fall. It's a great feeling to know you won.

Mote's check for $15,018 pushed him past $1 million in career earnings at the WNFR. He's the seventh contestant to reach that mark, joining Trevor Brazile, Cody Ohl, Billy Etbauer, Sherry Cervi, Fred Whitfield and Joe Beaver. Mote is in eighth place in overall career earnings with $2,576,039 after passing ProRodeo Hall of Famer Dan Mortensen when he finished third in Round 3.

Steer wrestler Luke Branquinho had won a check in each round of this year's Finals until Round 6; he's within $25,722 of reaching $1 million in WNFR competition.

K.C. Jones broke through to earn his first check of this Finals in a big way, when he took the steer wrestling round buckle in 3.5 seconds. Jones, an eight-time qualifier for the WNFR, improved to second in the average with a time of 28.3 seconds on six head. Jones is fifth in the world with $101,058.

Branquinho is first in the world standings with $128,976 and leads the average with 24.6 seconds on six head.

"It's anybody's game right now," Jones said. "There are a lot of guys who could still walk out of here with that gold buckle. I'm just lucky I've got all (my steers) down and I won a little money tonight. I'm also glad I have four more steers."

Jones changed horses, after riding Tebow for five rounds.

"We were making good runs, but we just haven't been able to light up the leaderboard," Jones said. "He came up with a sore suspensory (ligament), so we were going to give him some time off. I got on the black mare of Judd Little's called Smoker I rode here the last two years. She's really electric and I got a great start.

"I'm just throwing all caution to the wind, and I'm just going to try and blow that barrier out every night and see how much we can win."
Bull rider Aaron Pass claimed his second round win - he also took Round 2 - when he scored 83.5 points on Honeycutt Rodeo's Pair a Dice. He was the first cowboy to ride Pair a Dice.

"I didn't know that going in, and all I was told was the bull was big, strong and gave people a bunch of trouble," Pass said. "It's always nice to break a bull's streak, just like to break a great athlete's streak. The bull was good and did what he was supposed to do, and I just had to stay on and do my part.

"I feel good. I wanted to win more rounds by now, but I've had some bad rides. I'm happy that I've won two rounds, and I told my wife on the way to Vegas that I wanted to win three rounds out of 10. So I guess I have four more nights and maybe I can win more than three. That's the plan."

Only three bull riders stayed aboard for eight seconds. World standings leader Sage Kimzey, a rookie at age 20, took second with 73.5 points while 35-year-old Beau Hill was third with 72.

Kimzey, who leads the average, is trying to become just the second bull riding rookie to win a gold buckle; Bill Kornell accomplished the feat in 1963.

Jake Wright won the saddle bronc riding in Round 6 when he rode for 79 points on Powder River Rodeo's Rich N Fancy.

"That was the best 79 points I've ever had," said Wright, who earned a check for $19,002.

Wright finished second in the world standings last year when he won four rounds at the WNFR. In 26 career rounds at the Finals, the Milford, Utah, cowboy has won seven times.

"This is a rodeo that's close to home for me, and I love to ride in front of a hometown crowd," Wright said. "It's a great atmosphere, and everybody is excited to be here and it's the best broncs and bronc riders in the world. You just try to bring your 'A' game.

"Tonight was the horses' second trip this NFR, and they seemed a little tired compared to Round 1. But I'll still take the win."

Heith DeMoss took the lead in a red-hot world saddle bronc riding race, where $735 separates him from third-place Cort Scheer. Taos Muncy, who entered the Finals in first place, is second. Spencer Wright, who tied for third in the round, leads the average with 479.5 points on six head; Scheer and Cody Wright are the only other cowboys to make the whistle in all six rounds.

The four Wright brothers - Cody, Jake, Jesse and Spencer - are the first set of brothers to qualify for the WNFR, and all did it in the same year. Spencer and Jake both have round wins at this Finals, while two-time World Champion Cody (2008, 2010) and 2012 World Champion Jesse have yet to take a victory lap.

"Cody rode great last night, but Wade (Sundell) is also riding great right now and it just depends on who rides the best each night," Jake Wright said. "It's been awesome to be here competing with my three brothers, and it's everything we thought it would be."

Team ropers Aaron Tsinigine and Clay O'Brien Cooper won their first check of the WNFR with a run of 4.0 seconds. The 28-year-old Tsinigine is competing in his first Finals while Cooper, 53, is roping at his 28th. The legendary Cooper is a seven-time world champion (1985-89, 1992, 1994) and ProRodeo Hall of Famer.

"My confidence is higher roping with the Champ," Tsinigine said of Cooper. "He knows everything. And if he doesn't know something, he knows how to figure it out. I don't want to get too excited. I've seen guys win go-rounds and not do good the next night. I like to stick to my game plan - get out of the barrier and catch every steer."

Cooper, whose last round win at the WNFR was in 2006 in Round 5 when he was roping with Speed Williams, praised his heading partner and said the Thomas & Mack Center is ideal for Tsinigine.

"Aaron's been roping great and turning steers fast all week," Cooper said. "This short setup is right up his alley, because it's a fast track. Aaron has a hair trigger. He can take one swing and just wham 'em right there. It happens so fast, and I've felt like I was behind all week because I wasn't riding my position so great and was riding in too early. I needed to be more patient. I was finally able to get it right tonight. I couldn't have asked for a more clear shot."

Britany Diaz, aboard her horse Rootie, won the barrel racing with a time of 13.89 seconds, and sits third in the average and fifth in the world. Fallon Taylor was fourth in 14.08 seconds and leads the world with $203,803 - which is $25,602 ahead of Kaley Bass.

"I am so excited," said Diaz, who earned her first round win in her second WNFR. "Rootie has been really consistent. It's been a great ride thus far."

Kimzey leads the RAM Top Gun Award standings with $79,381. Taylor is second with $72,332 and steer wrestler Luke Branquinho is third with $62,984.

The 56th annual Wrangler NFR continues Wednesday with the seventh 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.