I know it’s sure been a while since I was on here with a new blog, but as the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” -- and I’ve been having a good time. Everything has been good with me. It seems like school is receiving the most attention from me at this point, being in my third year at Cal Poly- San Luis Obispo now. I’ve been getting to do some branding from time to time, and been roping. I just got back from getting to spend the weekend at Kyle and Leigh Lockett’s, where I got to rope a lot and be around some really good people. Happy 36th Birthday Kyle.
The college rodeos for the Fall are in the books, and they gave us something to build on. My brother, Taylor, has joined me at Cal Poly this year as a freshman. It’s awesome to be able to team rope with him at the college rodeos this year. He’s really been working hard at his calf roping too -- and had some good success in the steer wrestling. We are excited about the rest of the season. We’ve got a decent break from any college rodeos for now though, until March. It’s been fun to have a bunch of new freshman talent on board for the Mustangs this year.
It seems like no matter what is going on around us, this is always about the time of year it seems justifiable to put what you can on hold to think about the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR). It’s just two weeks away! The field is set- with some big headlines out there.
In the bareback riding, Kaycee Field has dominated the last two years in Las Vegas. Bobby Mote is coming into this year’s Finals in the top spot and is as healthy as he’s been going into it in a long time though. I’m rooting for him to win the Gold Buckle. If he were to leave Vegas as the Champ, it would tie him with Bruce Ford and Joe Alexander for the most World Titles in that event at five. Will Lowe has had a good year too, so there dang sure won’t be anything given away out there- the Gold Buckle will be EARNED. Those three guys are only separated by about $10,000 going into the WNFR. On their heels is Ryan Gray and Wes Stevenson -- more veterans.
In the steer wrestling, I first want to send a shout out to congratulate Stan Branco and Dakota Eldridge. Stan has finished in the 16th position twice- but got it done this year to make his WNFR debut. I grew up with Stan being the older kid at the Jr. Rodeos that all of us younger kids looked up to. That’s pretty cool that he’ll be running steers at the Big Show. I’ve known Dakota for a while now, and he’s such a great guy. That’ll be really neat to get to watch him out there. He’s got a really good horse, and has worked hard for it. It’ll be good watching. Something out of the ordinary this year is that Luke Branquinho is coming in near the bottom of the pack at 13th. We all know he’ll be wickedly dangerous at the Finals though. Casey Martin came on strong at the WNFR last year, and hasn’t cooled off. He really came into himself, and seems comfortable. Trevor Knowles is due for a Gold Buckle too. He’ll have a good Finals, and be tough to beat on that great horse- Jesse- he’ll be riding. Jule Hazen is back after a few years of being absent too
The team roping dang sure has some storylines. I think this is always the toughest event to predict what’s going to happen out there. Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill, Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves, Brandon Beers and Jim Ross Cooper, Erich Rogers and Cory Petska, Luke Brown and Kollin VohnAhn, Riley and Brady Minor, Trevor and Patrick (No last names required, but it’s Brazile and Smith), Derrick Begay and Cesar De la Cruz, and I could name off the rest of the top 15 teams- it’s a stacked field. I don’t know what is going to happen every night, but I do know every night will be worth watching! Only two headers and one heeler are making their first appearance this year. On the heading, Justin Davis is making his first trip. He’ll get to rope the Champ- Clay O’Brien Cooper- so that’s not a bad deal for an NFR Rookie. The other new guys are a team: Drew Horner and Buddy Hawkins. The team I haven’t mentioned that I think is going to have a really, really good week is Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton. Nick has been phenomenal out there the last couple times he’s been there- including winning a World Title. Rich is going to do what he does best. Catch two feet. It’s going to be a fun year in the team roping.
I’m no saddle bronc rider, but it doesn’t seem wise to bet against a Wright brother. Cody and Jesse are coming in in the top two spots. It should be a brotherly battle for the Gold Buckle.
The tie-down roping will be fun too. Tuf Cooper- who’s won the last two World Championships- comes in with about a $40,000 lead. Tyson Durfey and Cody Ohl are the closest guys to him. How many times has Cody Ohl won the first two rounds out there? If he does that, it is a two man race between Tuf and Cody. That’s what I envision. I’ve been a Cody Ohl fan since I new what rodeo was and I’d never bet against him. He’s capable of winning 5-6 rounds and the average- which would give him a shot at his 7th World Title (He has 5 Tie-Down Roping and 1 All-Around). Caleb Smidt and Stetson Vest are making their Rookie debuts in this event. It’ll be fun to watch, as always.
As for the barrel racing and the bull riding- your guess is as good as mine. Hard to think it’s not going to come down to Sherry Cervi and Mary Walker in the barrel racing. If I had to pick in the bull riding I’d go with J.W. Harris. I’m sure rooting for Trey Benton III too!
Well, those are some thoughts on a few headlines of the upcoming WNFR. We’ll be bringing you lots more action and insight as we get closer, as well as during all 10 days of it. Be sure and like Ropers Sports News on Facebook to stay up-to-date.
I appreciate you checking this out, and hope all is well with all of you! See you in Vegas.
It’s my journey, and your experience.