Dec 12, 2021
It Don’t Get No Better Than That
By Patrick Everson
In case anybody thought Sage Kimzey would miss more than one beat as a world champion bull rider, well, think again.
Kimzey, who won six consecutive gold buckles from 2014-19, had his dominant run halted in 2020, when Stetson Wright took the bull riding title. But in 2021, Kimzey entered the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo leading the world standings, and when the Thomas & Mack Center dust settled Saturday night, he was officially a seven-time world champion.
Kimzey tied for second in the final go-round, pocketing $21,554. He was third in the NFR average, covering six bulls for a total of 506 points and a $44,414 check. For the 10 days, he earned $146,727, giving him total season earnings of a whopping $411,465, well ahead of second-place Josh Frost’s $363,352.
“It feels good. But it’s just one step closer to where I want to be,” Kimzey said “I want to be the nine-time world champion.”
That, of course, would beat the record eight titles held by Don Gay. Kimzey is now tied with Jim Shoulders for second at seven bull riding gold buckles.
“It was a lot of hard work. I worked harder for this one than any of the others,” Kimzey said, while pointing out that the only year he didn’t win was when the Wrangler NFR was held in Texas, in 2020. “I’m still undefeated at the Thomas & Mack!”
Frost won the average with a stellar week, staying atop seven bulls for 568.5 total points, including a 92.5-point first-place ride in the 10th go-round. Frost collected $233,160 in the past 10 days alone.
Kaycee Feild got a little choked up Saturday night when asked if this latest milestone – a record sixth bareback gold buckle – might be the end. It sounds like it could be.
“I’ve accomplished everything I’ve set out to do,” Feild said. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do after tonight, but I’m happy with what I’ve done with my career.”
If he’s retiring, he’s certainly going out on the tippy top. Feild ripped off four straight world championships from 2011-14, then put together back-to-back titles in 2020 and 2021. In Saturday night’s 10th go-round, he posted an 89.5, good for second place and $21,336. That also cemented second place in the NFR average, for another $56,171, giving him $231,564 over the past 10 days.
More important, it gave Feild $357,420 for the year, enough to hold off hard-charging youngster Jess Pope, who had an outstanding NFR, as well. Pope won the 10th go with a 92-point ride, netting $26,997 for his fourth victory of the week. He won the average with a total score of 873 points on 10 rides – a mere half-point ahead of Feild. And Pope finished second in the world standings, at $340,499.
Friends don’t let friends win gold buckles without a fight. Such was the case this whole week between good buddies Tyler Waguespack and Will Lummus.
Lummus won the NFR average with a stellar 10-round total time of 43 seconds flat, netting a $69,234 bonus on top of more than $100,000 in go-round money. But Waguespack was second in the average – pocketing $56,171 – and cashed in nine of 10 go-rounds. Critically, the Gonzales, La., cowboy made money in each of the last eight rounds, after breaking the barrier for a 10-second penalty in the second round.
Waguespack capped his week with a third-place time of 4.20 seconds Saturday night. And he rode his eight-round check-cashing run to more than $213,000 in NFR earnings, giving him seasonlong winnings of $289,791, good for his third world championship. Waguespack also won in 2016 and 2018.
“After that second round, people were saying that was tough luck,” Waguespack said, noting those same people said they looked forward to him bouncing back next year, not this week. “I turned around and said, ‘I’m gonna come back and put my foot on the gas.’ There were eight rounds to go all out, and I was fortunate enough to get a check in all eight.”
Rounds 6, 7, 8 and 9 were particularly good: tie for second, first, second, then a four-way tie for first, respectively. Summed up, that was enough to fend off Lummus.
“I’m lucky to get out of here with this one. I had to work harder for this one than the others,” Waguespack said, while recounting the first thing that went through his mind after clinching another championship. “That it’s over. It’s a big relief that it’s finally over. The pressure’s off.”
And the Wrangler NFR’s return to Vegas, site Waguespack’s first two championships, suited him just fine.
“When the crowd screams in Vegas, you can feel it in your veins,” Waguespack said.
Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira didn’t have to set the world on fire in Saturday night’s 10th and final go-round. But they needed to be clean.’
“We kind of knew the numbers, knew where we were at. All we had to do was catch him,” Driggers said.
And so they did, in a safe 7.10 seconds. Header Driggers and heeler Nogueira were far from earning a go-round check with that effort, but they sewed up third in the average for a $44,414 payday apiece. And that was more than enough to give each their first team roping gold buckles.
Driggers led all headers with $263,227 in season earnings, and Nogueira topped the heelers with $277,612.
Nogueira won the all-around title in 2016, so he’s got a little experience with gold buckles. For Driggers, though, this is new territory after nine NFR qualifications.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I don’t feel it yet, but to accomplish our goals is something you dream of forever – roping in this arena, being in this position,” Driggers said. “Since we were kids watching the NFR on TV, this is where we dreamed of being. With 18,000 fans, that’s what’s so special. All the fans feel like they’re right there on top of you. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Nogueira now has a team roping gold buckle to go with his all-around hardware.
“Man, that’s awesome, a dream come true for sure,” he said. “Now was our time. That was a battle, and everyone roped great. It’s not easy. Anybody can have a good week and win the world. Thank Jesus, it was us this week.”