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Joel Cowley, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo President/CEO; Jim Winne, Chairman of the Board; Michael Gomez, Mrs Baird’s Regional Sales Manager (RodeoHouston® Team Roping is sponsored by Mrs Baird’s and KHOU 11); Ty Blasingame, RodeoHouston champion team roping header; Kyle Lockett, RodeoHouston champion team roping heeler. –Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Photo

By Lane Karney
Special To Ropers Sports News

   With the win at RodeoHouston, Ty Blasingame and Kyle Lockett put themselves in prime position for return appearances at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which this year will run December 5-14 in Las Vegas.
   The win—one of the most prestigious and profitable in both of their all-star cowboy careers—pocketed them $55,750 a man, which for the first time in a long time counts toward Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings. At press time, Blasingame had jumped to the #1 spot amongst team roping headers, while Lockett landed second on the heeling side, just $1,000 shy of world #1, Ryan Motes, who won The American heeling for Coleman Proctor.

   “It’s a life-changing experience for me, my family and my kids (daughters Kashlyn, 10, and Kodie, 6). I have the Finals pretty much made in March. Houston is a prestigious rodeo and everybody wants to win it—it’s like Cheyenne and all them. It’s the biggest win I’ve ever had. It’s a blessing to win it,” said Blasingame, who lives in Casper, Wyoming, and is best known to most as “Blaster.”
   As for having the Finals pretty much made in March, that’s something we haven’t seen much of in years past. It’s also pretty refreshing for Lockett, now 41, who’s stuck close to home since his last of seven qualifications to Rodeo’s Super Bowl in 2005. Lockett made The Big Show in 1997-98, 2000-03 and 2005.
   “It’s crazy. I still don’t believe it. To look at the standings, have $69,000 won and probably have the National Finals made in March is crazy. I can pretty much stay home, do nothing and go to Vegas in December. Even to think about next year—I’ll get to go to San Antonio and Houston again. And I’ll get to go to Houston for the next three years in a row (three years of champions’ byes after the win is tradition at RodeoHouston). It’s a lucky deal,” said Lockett, who calls Visalia, California, home with his wife, Leigh, and their four kids, Shayla, 12, Georgia, 10, Sutton, 8, and Blevins, 5.
   I grew up in the era of Wade Wheatley and Kyle Lockett being “California’s Pride,” in the words of legendary rodeo announcer Bob Tallman, so the thought of watching Lockett heel inside the Thomas & Mack Center again is a thrill, and his kids are just as pumped at the idea.
   “There’s not a better place in the world to go rope,” Kyle said. “It’s fun, and I’ve done good there in the past, so I have confidence. I’m extremely excited to go run ’em for $26,000 a night. The last time I went I think the go-rounds at the Finals paid about $14,000. The first time I went it was not even equal money there in the team roping. I don’t know what horse I’ll ride or who I’ll rope with, but I made it.
   “From being content with not going and rodeoing, and being content with watching the Finals from the couch, to getting to go back—it’s bizarre. My kids are old enough to understand it, and they’re probably more excited than me. It’d be different to go back and them be too young to understand, but this is really cool.”
   For Blaster, RodeoHouston played a huge role in what will most likely be his second trip to the NFR, with his previous lone qualification coming in 2010, when he headed for Cody Hintz.
   “It’s cool,” said Blasingame, who’ll turn 35 on June 27. “It’s honestly unreal, because it’s so early. The way the NFR is now with $26,000 a night and the average paying what it does is so unreal. The last time I made it, it was half that.    The money at Houston and having a chance to rope for that much in Vegas is unbelievable. It could change my career around. It could make my career go like I’d planned for it to go. I’m excited.”
   Following his 2010 NFR berth, Blaster rodeoed hard for another few years, finishing 21st in 2011, 18th in 2012, 23rd in 2013, and 20th in 2014. He’d decided to pull back a little bit about that time and pursue other ventures, but never gave up on this ride he finds himself on now.
   “I rodeoed hard after 2010 for four or five more years, and I just came up short,” said Blasingame, who plans to rodeo with Brandon Bates the rest of the year. “Then I started a trucking business. I sold all those trucks but one, and I drove that and still circuit rodeoed and went to the good ones. This year, I decided to go a little bit, so I went to four or five rodeos with different partners. I did good at San Angelo and Rapid City, and now this win at Houston. I wanted to make the Finals again so bad, but it didn’t seem like the cards lined up with horses and all that. I kind of gave up on the thought of making the Finals again until I found the right horses. This kind of gave me the chance to do what I’ve wanted to do.
   “My thoughts are to kind of back off. I’d like to start back at Reno, go to the BFI (Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic), go hard through the Fourth of July, and of course go to the bigger rodeos the rest of the year. I need some more head horses, and never really have had the money to buy them. So I’d like to get some young horses and put them together. It sounds crazy, but my plan now is to really prepare for December and set myself up for next year.”
Blasingame and Lockett were paired up at RodeoHouston due to their performance at San Angelo. The San Angelo champs are seeded into RodeoHouston, and if they’re already qualified to compete at Houston, they roll down in the San Angelo average to fill the spots. Blasingame and Bates won second, but because Aaron Tsinigine and Lockett won San Angelo and Tsinigine was already qualified for Houston and entered with Walt Woodard, Blaster rolled up to fill the open heading spot and rope with Lockett.
   “It all came from San Angelo. They won the average and we won second,” said Blaster, who rode a horse he was trying on the first three steers in their Super Series, but called on his old faithful mount, Blackie, for the last three steers at RodeoHouston. “Tsinigine was already in, so I got to rope with Kyle and I was excited. I’ve always looked up to him and he ropes amazing. We’d never roped together before, and our run just worked. Steers always broke in the left lead and we placed on every steer we ran.
   “That last heel shot—that was just Kyle Lockett. People were calling and saying how crazy that last heel shot was, but if you have watched that guy as long as we have you knew it was over. It was awesome. To never run a steer with him and have that success was pretty cool.”
   While they hadn’t run a steer prior to backing in the boxes at RodeoHouston, the stars aligned.
   “It was a perfect set-up for us,” said Lockett, who rode the sorrel horse he calls Stinky. “He likes to reach and go for first, and what better place to do that? It’s three one-headers to advance out of the Super Series, and you pretty much go for first. He got good starts and did a great job. He put it on the horns good and gave me good looks. He was a fun guy to rope with there.”
   Lockett—who has taken on the role of stay-at-home dad, day working, ranching around the house, riding a few horses and going to circuit rodeos since burning up the rodeo trail—doesn’t plan on changing his rodeo schedule.
   “I’m in Florida right now (for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee), then up at Austin Monday,” he said at press time the third week in March. “Then I’m going to get back home and circuit rodeo. I’ll go to Reno, the BFI, and Pendleton. Unless I don’t win anything and think it’s going to take a lot more to make the Finals, that’s my plan. Just going to the rodeos is a lot. I was gone for a month this winter. Luckily, Cliff and Lynn (Garrison; Leigh’s parents) live right next door, and my parents (Jim and Sharyn Lockett) live five minutes down the road. So one of them watched two kids and one of them watched the other two, so then Leigh could come see me some. It takes everybody.
   “I feel really lucky. I’m stoked and I want to thank RodeoHouston’s committee and their Rodeo Village. They feed us three times a day, all the food you want. I was there for 10 days, and I really appreciate that.”