DEC 16, 2017
Kimzey Rides to Fourth Straight Bull Riding Title
LAS VEGASCourtesy of the PRCA
For the second year in a row, bull rider Sage Kimzey did what no one has done before. He actually did two things nobody has done before.
At the age of 23, Kimzey won his fourth consecutive world title in his fourth attempt, the first bull rider to ever do that. He won the fourth one in style, riding 4L & Diamond S Rodeo’s Girl Money to the tune of 88 points to win Round 10 and take home the gold buckle at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday in front of 16,954.
His fourth title has him halfway to tying Don Gay’s record of eight bull riding world titles.
“Each one of them is a step on the way up the mountain, and each is special because the road is so different each year,” Kimzey said.
“The trials and tribulations are different, and this being the fourth one, I’m halfway up the mountain that Donnie Gay set. I usually have a healthy lead, but this year I was hurt and banged up and sore, but I got the ball rolling in the spring.”
In addition to the world title, Kimzey also won the average title with 601.5 points on seven head. Girl Money was the first bull Kimzey had ridden to the whistle since Round 7. It was his second outright round win of the Finals – he also shared the Round 3 victory – and he placed in two other rounds.
Kimzey became the only bull rider to break the $400,000 mark in a single season. The champion won $192,134 at the Finals to give him a PRCA-record for most money won in bull riding in a year at $436,479, smashing the record he set of $327,178 in 2015.
He’s not done winning yet.
“I don’t see any reason not to win nine or 10 in a row,” Kimzey said. “I’ve got the talent and drive and ability, and the Lord has blessed me in ways I can’t imagine.”
Ryder Wright is youngest saddle bronc riding champ
All Ryder Wright had to do in Round 10 was ride a saddle bronc to the whistle and the 19-year-old could revel in his first world championship.
Wright actually missed the horse out, but held on to win the world title with $284,938 – breaking the record for most money won in a saddle bronc riding season. Wright took home the gold buckle by $2,651 and became the youngest saddle bronc riding world champion of all time.
“The world title is won by pennies,” said Wright, the fourth in his famed family to win a world title. “It’s crazy, I don’t even know what to say but it’s a dream come true. I could sit and stare at it (the buckle) all day.”
When Wright saw the judge’s flag fly his heart skipped a beat.
"The mark out made me sick, I saw it out of the corner of my eye – they throw it right in your face – I know they don’t really, but it seems like they do,” Wright said.
Adding to the Wright family trophy case is something Ryder Wright will always cherish.
“Oh, it’s special, something I’ve dreamed of since I saw my dad (Cody Wright) win his and it’s awesome to follow in his footsteps.”
Wright won four rounds, including three of four at one point, and placed in eight. He took home $185,577 at the Finals.
Brody Cress won the average with 841.5 points on 10 head. Taos Muncy won Round 10 with 87.5 points on Bar T Rodeo’s Son of Sadie.
It’s title No. 2 for bareback rider O’Connell
As Tim O’Connell continued to place and sit in the top two of the bareback riding average and No. 1 in the world by more than $80,000, it remained nearly inevitable that the 26-year-old Iowan would win his second consecutive gold buckle.
O’Connell secured that world title Saturday night with an 85.5-point ride, which also locked up his second consecutive WNFR average title. O’Connell won the average with 853.5 points on 10 head to cash for $67,269 in the average.
“I can’t even put it into words,” O’Connell said. “To do it back-to-back, to have both these buckles sitting in my hands again going back to Iowa, what a blessing. It was harder this year, way harder this year than it was last year. The group of guys that are here are better than any of the guys that have set foot in this arena. This is the best set of 15 bareback riders that ever hit this arena.”
Over the course of 10 days in December, O’Connell won Round 3 and placed in six others, giving him checks in seven of the 10 rounds. O’Connell made $169,500 at the WNFR to make $371,416 over the course of the 2017 season.
“Consistency is key,” O’Connell said. “If you’re 85 (points) every time, you’re going to win a lot of money. That’s just plain as day. You don’t have to win every time, but if you can be consistent and you can show up and put the best spur ride you can every single time, then you’re going to win; it’s going to pay off in the long run just doing the same thing each and every day.”
Steven Dent and Mason Clements split the Round 10 win as each scored 88 points. Dent did it on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarlett’s Web, while Clements did it on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Top Flight.
Costa is first Brazilian tie-down roping champ
Marcos Costa was hoping he could land his first tie-down roping title. But he wanted to make sure there was no doubt about it.
So, the Brazilian cowboy went out and won the round in 7.8 seconds, clinching the average, the world title and the chance to say he’s the only tie-down roping world champion from Brazil.
“I didn’t have much growing up and Stran (Smith) went down to Brazil and found me down there and watched me and brought me here,” Costa said. “Stran taught me how to rope and he taught me almost everything about roping here (in the PRCA). I’m just happy to be here. God is great to me. I’m the happiest man in the world.”
In the process of winning $195,519 at the Finals, Costa also won the RAM Top Gun Award for taking home the most money at the WNFR in a single event.
“I don’t have words to say about the Top Gun Award,” said Costa, who received a RAM 3500 Heavy Duty Truck for the award. “This is just one more blessing I received this night.”
Costa won Round 10 and placed in another six rounds along the way. He finished in 81.3 seconds on 10 head for the average title. Heading into the final round, he knew what he needed to do.
“I was thinking about just go rope that calf and try and win the title,” he said. “When I was praying today, I was saying that I was going to give everything I got to try and win the world if I had a chance. God’s plan is different than ours, and if you trust in him in all of your heart, things will happen for you.”
Rogers/Petska score team roping world title
Team roping header Erich Rogers was just slightly more than $200 behind the world standings leader when the WNFR started.
His partner, team roping heeler Cory Petska, was less than a $1,000 behind the heeling leader.
Both of them made the most of their 10 days in Las Vegas, as they teamed to win $131,705 each at the Finals and capture their first gold buckles for their respective events – and set records in the process.
“Man, this is a great feeling to get a championship,” Rogers said. “I’ve been here several times and to finally get an opportunity to capitalize on it, and to have Cory behind me, especially to have him heeling for me, it’s a great feeling to have him there and the confidence that he has in both of us is just one of the greatest feelings a guy could have.”
Rogers set the record for most money won by a header in a year, while Petska did the same for heelers.
The fact that Rogers and Petska are such good friends only added to the pride in their title.
“It’s awesome, because he’s like my best friend and my brother,” Petska said. “We spend so much time together that you’d want to win it with someone you like, and you want to be around. We spend hours together and we’re really good friends, so to win it with one of your best friends is dang sure better than winning it with someone you don’t like.”
Rogers and Petska finished the 2017 season with $265,417 each. The pair placed in seven rounds, splitting the win in Round 5.
They tied for second in the Finals average, finishing behind only Chad Masters and Travis Graves, who won with 61.2 seconds on 10 head. Garrett Rogers and Jake Minor won Round 10 in 4.1 seconds.
Pearson wins first career steer wrestling title
As the Finals wore on, steer wrestler Tyler Pearson refused to look at the standings. He didn’t want to know where he was or what he needed to do.
Instead, in the 10th Round, Pearson went out and put up a 5.2-second time to take second in the average and win his first gold buckle with $265,457.
“I didn’t want to know (what the numbers were),” said Pearson, of Louisville, Miss. “That would just make me more nervous. I didn’t want to look and see what somebody else did and then see what I had to do. I just wanted to go throw my steer down and let the cards lay. After I finished my run, I didn’t know where that put me and then they came out and told me I won. I thought Ty (Erickson) won it and I was proud for him, and then they told me I won and that was awesome. I was ecstatic.”
Pearson placed in five rounds, but never won one. He didn’t need to, as his worst round was 6.3 seconds. He had two seconds, two thirds and split another second-place finish.
Now, he’s sporting a nice, new, shiny buckle.
“This is unreal,” he said. “This is always what I wanted to do, but this is going to take me a week or two to believe this happened. This is nuts. I’ve been around a bunch of world champions and hung out with a lot of them, and I’m just blessed to be a world champion, and now to always be known as a world champion is unbelievable.”
Dakota Eldridge won the average with 45.4 seconds on 10 head. Tyler Waguespack won Round 10 in 3.2 seconds, setting a round record.
Miller, Sister win barrel racing title
When the WNFR opened on Dec. 7, barrel racer Nellie Miller was third in the world standings by a margin of $119,841.
Ten days later, Miller left the Thomas & Mack Center with $177,961 to give her $308,498 on the year and a world title gold buckle.
“I just have no words,” said Miller, who was aboard Sister.
Miller won the average in 137.32 seconds on 10 runs. She won Round 1 to set her on the right track. Then she placed in six of the next nine rounds.
“This is just so great for my family,” Miller said. “Rodeo is what we do. I mean, this is the biggest event that you can win.”
Hailey Kinsel closed the barrel racing competition with her fourth go-round win. She set a Round 10 record by finishing in 13.17 seconds.
“When I was at the NFR in 2010 we struggled, so, to come back this year and have this type of year is just really amazing,” Miller said.
Cooper wins all-round title on final night
Thanks to placing second in the average in tie-down roping, Tuf
Cooper locked up his first all-around cowboy title
Cooper, who trailed his brother-in-law Trevor Brazile in the final days leading up to Round 10, scored $54,577 with the second-place finish in the average.
“This is the best title and the best buckle you can win in rodeo,” Cooper said. “Trevor really created this award by winning it all those times. I just grew up as a kid who wanted to rope calves like my dad and brother-in-law. They both have won the all-around, and now I have one, too. This one feels different than the three tie-down roping gold buckles I have because this one says, ‘Cowboy,’ on it.”
Cooper finished with $341,560 in earnings across tie-down roping and steer roping. Brazile was second and Dakota Eldridge third.