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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (January 23) – The cold and windy weather in Oklahoma City was no match for the heat of competition inside the Jim Norick Arena during the 49th annual International Finals Rodeo. Contestants numbering at 131 from across the U.S., Canada and even Australia competed in the rodeo events of bareback and saddle bronc riding, team, tie-down and cowgirls breakaway roping, cowgirls barrel racing, steer wrestling and bull riding, all in the quest for a gold buckle and world championship.
   Pennsylvania bareback rider Tyler Waltz headed into the Finals with a $10,000 lead and it was enough to keep him in the top position throughout the weekend to land him a world championship title. Central Region’s 2017 bareback champion Joseph Courville placed in the second spot, followed by Joshua Michael Cragar of Columbia, Tennessee.
   It was a tight race in rodeo’s classic event, saddle bronc riding, with Travis Gardner, who finished third in the standings last year, going head-to head with reigning Northeast Region Champion Raymond Hostetler for the title. After four rounds of intense saddle bronc riding, Hostetler claimed his world champion title and added a gold buckles to his collection.
   On the heading side in the team roping, seven-time IFR qualifier Jacob Dagenhart out-roped the field of competitors and Oklahoma cowboy Shawn Kreder claimed the world champion heeling crown.
   Oklahoma cowgirl Angela Chaffin won the Cowgirls Breakaway Roping world title. She came into IFR49 in seventh place and roped her way to the number one spot. Chaffin describes her horse, Hitman, as an oversized dog who loves his humans and his job. The Hitman did his job at IFR49.
   In barrel racing, IFR history was made with three family members competing against each other in the same event. When the dust settled, it was the youngest daughter, Taycie Matthews, reigning cowgirls barrel racing Rookie of the Year, who outran her mother, sister and 12 other contestants to claim the world championship.
   In the bull riding, reigning World Champion Corey Bailey added a gold buckle to his collection and clinched his third world title, followed by Knoxville, Tennessee, competitor Cody Brewer.
Justin Thigpen dominated the standings this past year and led in two events heading into IFR49 in tie-down roping and steer wrestling. He added yet another world championship in both events to his vast collection of gold buckles. The     Georgia cowboy also retained his reign as All-Around World Champion.
   For the champs, there’s no time to sit and relax, the 2019 rodeo season started Dec. 1, 2018, and they’ll be trying to make it back to the 50th International Finals Rodeo in January, 2020.
   For more information, visit IFRodeo.com or IPRArodeo.com.
   The International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) has been providing rodeo excitement for more than 50 years. The IPRA is the spot’s second largest professional rodeo association, sanctioning over 400 rodeos. The IPRA is keeping the spirit of the west alive from coast to coast throughout the United States and Canada.
The International Finals Rodeo is the premier display of the top rodeo cowboys and cowgirls of the IPRA. The IFR offers more than $350,000 in cash and prizes. Four action-packed performances of the IFR are held every January inside the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., where the year-end world champions are crowned for each event.