Ropers Sports News | November-December 2022

PAGE 6 ROPERS SPORTS NEWS NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2022 Team Roping Elite Set to Rope at Record $14 Million 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo By Lane Karney Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira left Las Vegas a year ago as the 2021 world champion team ropers, and will return to the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge as the leaders of the pack. While the Top 15 teams will compete December 1-10 for their share of the record $14 million payoff at Rodeo’s Super Bowl—which is up from $13.3 million in 2021— the NFR payoff isn’t the only money record making headlines. Driggers and Nogueira didn’t just win the regular season—they dominated, shattering the previous regular-season team roping earnings records. Of course, an up-tick in money won by contestants coming into the NFR is always a good thing, and usually means increased payoffs throughout the season. But this was a jaw-dropping, recordshattering display of team roping. Driggers and Nogueira’s regular-season earnings of $227,878 a man bested the previous records of $150,512 (set by header Clay Smith in 2019), and Travis Graves’ 2010 heeling record of $147,653. Driggers will ride into the Thomas & Mack Center on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus with an $83,214 lead over the #2 header, Clay Tryan, while Nogueira has won nearly $100 grand ($97,546) more than Jake Long, who comes in second among heelers. For the sake of perspective, Driggers and Nogueira won the 2021 world championships with $263,226 and $277,611 in the final world standings, respectively. Th o u g h t h e s t o r y l i n e throughout 2022 has been primarily Kaleb and Junior, this year ’s Finals field guarantees that we’re all in for great watching during the NFR’s 10day run. Not only was I able to catch up with Driggers and Nogueira about their dream season to get their thoughts going into the NFR, but also last year’s record-setting NFR average champs, Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins. Another team that jumps off the page is two-time World Champion Hee l er Pa t r i ck Smith, who will heel at his first Finals since 2015. He’ll rope with NFR-rookie Tanner Tomlinson. Other NFR-rookie headers include Lightning Aguilera and Jake Orman. On the heeling side of things, Brye Crites and Jonathan Torres will make their debuts at this year’s Super Bowl of Rodeo. Here are highlights from conversations with some of the top team ropers in the world, as they get ready to ride into the 2022 National Finals Rodeo. Kaleb Driggers NFRs: 10 (2011-14, 2016-19, 2021-22) Hometown: Hoboken, Georgia Partner: Junior Nogueira Lane Karney: You won the world last year, and obviously set out to do it again. But tell me about this record regular season. Kaleb Driggers: Winning the regular season has always been important to me, because it’s the guys that do the best that year in every situation. Long scores, short scores, coming from the right side (like Oakdale, California and Prescott, Arizona), and coming from the left side (like Salinas, California). I have won the regular season before and not won the world, because we get to rope for so much money in Vegas. That’s great for us, but being the guys that do the best all year is important to me. This year, we had a really good winter, which we’ve never real ly had. We had maybe $80,000 going into Reno. I’ve never had more than like $30,000 going there before. We normally have really good summers. In 2016, Junior and I won $125,000 in three months. We had an even better summer than usual this year, but the biggest difference was our winter. LK: Ideally, earnings records are routinely broken, which would mean the money is getting better for you guys everywhere. But you and Junior’s win percentage amazed me more than the money. I have heard you guys won money at over 70% of the rodeos you entered. What all contributed to that rate of success? KD: We have a really good set of horses on both sides of our team. That gives us a lot of confidence when we can play them for their strengths in different situations. It is super special to us, but records are made to be broken and hopefully ours will be, too. LK: Does this kind of lead do anything for your mindset going into the Finals? You looked so in control at last year’s NFR. How similar is your approach to last year, when you came in just behind the leaders? KD: I’m going to try to keep the same mindset as last year. It’s easy to get down there and want to blast when they’re going 3 (seconds) in the rounds. But I want to rope every steer for what he is, and not get caught up in what’s going on around me. We have a pretty good lead, but that can go away in about three go-rounds. We’re just going to do our jobs, and win as much as we can. LK: What are you planning to ride at the NFR? KD: My plans are to ride the bay, Cuervo (who’s 15), that I rode last year. After Salt Lake at the end of July, I brought him home and he stays with Danita Walker in Lipan. She keeps him on the hot walker and her machines year-round when I’m not using him. He doesn’t need tuning up, and Danita will go to Vegas with us, so hopefully we can keep him sound and ride him for 10 rounds. She’s gone out there with me and taken care of my horses since about 2013, and has been a lifesaver to me. She gives me that peace of mind you get when you’re doing the best you can by your horses. I’ll also take my sorrel, Oliver (7), that I jackpotted on and rode at all the long scores this year. I did good on him at Northside the other day at Charly Crawford’s roping, so that’s my back-up plan. Junior Nogueira NFRs: 9 (2014-2022) Hometown: Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil Partner: Kaleb Driggers LK: You’ve won two world titles—the 2016 world allaround championship and last year’s heeling gold buckle. But I know how much it means to you to win the regular season. This is your sixth time to do that, and you and Kaleb shattered the regular-season earnings record. Describe your season. Junior Nogueira: We had a really good winter, which helped a lot. We never had a great winter in the past, but have done really well in the summer. This year, we won Fort Worth in the winter, which was a blessing, and caught a lot of steers. We were more consistent this year. Kaleb roped great and turned a lot of steers, and our horses were great. It wasn’t perfect, but it was amazing. We are blessed to do what we love, see this beautiful country and make friends for the rest of our lives, plus make a living. Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s a great life. I want to thank God, my family, my sponsors and my whole team for another great year. LK: You’ll show up in Las Vegas as the reigning world champion heeler. What’s your mindset going in? JN: I’m not going to change the game plan. I’ll prepare and try to do my best every single time. I know my partner is trying 100% and is going to do his job, so I’m going to ride in focused on my job. Nothing has changed. We had a great season, and we feel the same as going in last year. I’m looking forward to doing the best I can, and seeing what God has prepared for us. LK: What are you going to ride at the Finals? JN: I’m planning to ride my buckskin, Timon (who’s 12). He’s super comfortable in that set-up, and has done good for me there before. It’s hard to find the perfect horse out there. You see guys who make the NFR and switch horses just for there. During the year, the shapes of the arenas change, the scores change, and I can ride him everywhere. But Timon’s done really good in the short Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira shattered the regular season earnings record in 2022, and are looking to add second consecutive gold buckles to their belts. – PRCA ProRodeo Photo by Rod Connor See WNFR TEAM ROPERS On Page 8 TEAM ROPING (Payoffs Are Per Roper) 10 Go-Rounds 1st. . . . . . . $28,914 2nd. . . . . . . $22,851 3rd. . . . . . . $17,255 4th.. . . . . . . $12,125 5th. . . . . . . . $7,462 6th.. . . . . . . . $4,664 Each Go-Round: $93,270 Average 1st. . . . . . . . $74,150 2nd. . . . . . . . $60,159 3rd. . . . . . . . $47,568 4th.. . . . . . . . $34,976 5th. . . . . . . . $25,183 6th.. . . . . . . . $18,188 7th. . . . . . . . $12,591 8th.. . . . . . . . . $6,995 Average: $279,811 2022 WRANGLER NATIONAL FINALS RODEO TEAM ROPING PAIRINGS Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins Coleman Proctor/Logan Medlin Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick Smith Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves Rhen Richard/Jeremy Buhler Tyler Wade/Trey Yates Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp Jr. Dees/Levi Lord Lightning Aguilera/Jonathan Torres Riley Minor/Brady Minor Clay Smith/Jake Long Chad Masters/Joseph Harrison Jake Orman/Brye Crites

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