Aug 12, 2022
For Nogueira, 2021 Gold Buckle Fulfilled LifeLong Dream
Here we go with part five of Gold Buckle Buzz, a series of exclusive interviews with each 2021 PRCA World Champion. Please enjoy team roping champ Junior Nogueira.
By Brian Hurlburt
There is no question that earning any Wrangler National Finals Rodeo® gold buckle is a dream come true.
But for 2022 PRCA World Champion team roping heeler Junior Nogueira, some dreams are more meaningful than others.
“It was great to win the All-Around title in 2016, but my goal was always to win the heeling title,” Nogueira says. “I finished second in the world four times in a row (2016-19) after having a great regular season. Each time I had come into the NFR ranked number one and left number two. So, it was kind of a weird feeling last year because I came in number one again. Because of that, I had that scared feeling and thought, ‘Is this going to happen again?’ But I did feel a little more relaxed coming into the 2021 NFR and I knew we were prepared. I knew that on God’s time, it would be my turn. When I finally won, it was amazing. To fulfill my dream was terrific for me, but I was happier to see the celebrations of my family, friends, sponsors, and everybody who has been behind us the whole time. That was the best part.”
Nogueira teamed with header Caleb Driggers to earn the championship. The duo earned $143,896 during the 2021 Wrangler NFR to finish third over the 10 nights. The first time the two teamed up was 2016 when Nogueira won that All-Around title.
However, that gold buckle celebration was tempered because he lost the team roping title. He also empathized with Driggers, who narrowly missed winning his first world title.
In 2021, both Nogueira and Driggers celebrated their first team roping world titles together. They are a true partnership, and Driggers appreciates Nogueira for what be brings to the team on and off the horse.
“Junior is a great human being and he always has positive energy,” Driggers says. “He and I feed off of each other. If he’s a little bit down, I’ll bring him up and vice versa. Both of us are never negative at the same time and I think that is one thing that is very uplifting in our relationship.”
Nogueira earned $277,612 in 2021, and is roping and riding well again in 2022. Through early August, he was first in the world rankings with $152,956 and had a substantial lead over second-place Buddy Hawkins. Driggers also led the header’s standings.
Even with the all-around and heeling titles now under his belt, Nogueira doesn’t plan to rest on his laurels.
“I always like to dream extremely big and have dreams that are almost impossible to reach because even if I fall short, I have dreamt so big that I will still be successful,” Nogueira says. “If you don’t dream big and don’t try to reach that goal, you will be below average. Even if you get halfway to your goals, you will probably end up higher than a lot of people’s dreams.”
Nogueira’s dreams began to materialize in his native Brazil, where he has now reached legendary status. He won the country’s biggest team roping competition seven times. For those efforts and others, he earned 54 motorcycles and two horse trailers, among other prizes. He started roping at age four and turned professional at 14.
Rodeo has always been a family tradition. His late father, Lucinei, was an accomplished tie-down roper and his mom, Eliziane, is a breakaway roper and a team roping header. Now Nogueira has own family. He and wife, Jacqueline, have a daughter, Isabella.
Nogueira is appreciative of everything.
“I’m very blessed to do what I love and have a great family,” Nogueira says. “There is an old saying, ‘if you love what you do, you will never have to work one day in your life.’ That is me because I love what I do and I also love to work at it. I believe that if you do everything with your heart, you will have success and a great life.”
It appears Nogueira’s heart will be in Las Vegas in December with another world title there for the taking.