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Steer wrestler Eldridge gets big WCC win

PUEBLO, Colo. – This win couldn’t have come at a better time for steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge.

Scrambling to qualify for his third consecutive Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Eldridge captured a big victory at the Sept. 2 Wrangler Champions Challenge, presented by Justin Boots, with a 4.6-second time at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.

“This was awesome timing,” said Eldridge, who was competing for the B&W Trailer Hitches team. “I’m glad to be in these (Wrangler Champions Challenges), and at the end of the year, they’re good bullets to have.”

The $5,440 check was a huge boost for Eldridge. He was 16th in the Aug. 31 Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings with $54,025. In addition to his win in Pueblo, Eldridge tied for second in both Walla Walla, Wash., and Filer, Idaho, and was fourth in Plains, Mont. He totaled $12,245 for the weekend, and moved seven spots to ninth in the Sept. 8 world standings.

“I have hit some big licks this year, but they’ve come off and on,” Eldridge said. “Then, I kind of drew the bad end of them there for two weeks and doing that and keeping your head up is tough. I just tried to stay positive because rodeo is full of ups and downs, and you’re going to have the downs. So when you get good steers, you have to be positive, and that’s what I was able to do.”

At the WCC event, Eldridge was riding the horse of his good friend and fellow steer wrestler Ty Erickson, Shakem, a former racehorse.

“I left my horse (Rusty) at Ellensburg (Wash.),” Eldridge said. “I’d never been on (Shakem) before, but he was a really good horse. I saw Ty ride him a lot, and I was a little bit nervous to ride him, but I listened to Ty and he told me exactly how to ride him, and the horse was awesome. Ty’s a great buddy of mine. We’re both young and we’re both just starting out and I feel like we have a lot in common.”

Erickson leads the Sept. 8 world standings with $79,409.

Eldridge punched his ticket to the Wrangler NFR in 2013 and ’14, finishing fifth both years. The Elko, Nev., cowboy would love nothing more than to make another trip to Vegas this December. The regular season ends Sept. 30.

“I just need to do my best to keep winning,” Eldridge said. “(The WNFR is) too good of a rodeo to miss when it’s in my home state. This year is a crucial year to make it there. A guy can make some substantial money.”

Other winners at the $123,600 rodeo were bareback rider Seth Hardwick (86 points on Harry Vold Rodeo Company’s Little Linda) for Team Las Vegas, team ropers Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton (5.6 seconds) for Team Experience Kissimmee, saddle bronc rider Jake Wright (87.5 points on Harry Vold Rodeo Company’s Happy Valley) for Team Wrangler, tie-down roper Marty Yates (7.9 seconds) for Team RAM, barrel racer Callie DuPerier (17.10 seconds) for Team Colorado Springs Airport and bull rider Cody Teel (87.5 points on Mo Betta Rodeo’s Slick Hills) for Team Texas Landmen.

  • Eight-time WNFR bareback rider Ryan Gray suffered multiple fractures and lacerations to the left side of his face while competing in Ellensburg, and was transported to Seattle for a follow-up with a specialist. It’s not yet known how this will affect the last three weeks of the regular season for Gray. He moved up to 17th in the Sept. 8 world standings, and sits just $3,747 behind 15th-place Tanner Aus.

  • A late start to the season and an injury that took Cody Ohl out of Cowboy Christmas may end up costing him his 21st trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Just let it be noted that he is not conceding anything. Not now. Not ever. He earned checks totaling $13,896 last week to move up from 35th to 28th in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings (Consider he did not even crack the top 50 until Aug. 17). The big breakthrough came with his win at the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo worth $6,066, but he also won the Sanders County Fair & PRCA Rodeo in Plains, Mont., and placed at the Wrangler Champions Challenge in Pueblo, Colo., the Walla Walla (Wash.) Frontier Days Rodeo and the IPE & Stampede in Armstrong, B.C. That’s five checks in three states and one Canadian province, his most productive week of the season thus far. He has worked his way into eligibility for the Justin Boots Playoffs in Puyallup, Wash., with a realistic shot at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb.  

  • And on the theme of gallant comebacks: Steven Peebles. This is a guy who very nearly died July 2 when broken ribs suffered in a hard fall at the Livingston, Mont., rodeo nicked an artery and filled his lungs with blood. He missed a month of prime earning opportunities while recovering; by the time he returned in early August, Peebles had dropped from 11th in the world to 20th. He has been fighting ever since to get back into the top 15 and earn his seventh-consecutive Wrangler NFR qualifying berth. Back-to-back wins in Ellensburg and Walla Walla, along with a second-place result in the Wrangler Champions Challenge in Pueblo, Colo., brought him total money of $15,509 for the week and moved him from 17th in the world standings back to the No. 11 spot he held when he got hurt. Apart from Peebles, the only other bareback riders to reach five figures for the week were Austin Foss ($12,079) and Ryan Gray ($10,829). Four-time reigning World Champion Kaycee Feild earned $7,416 – the bulk of that from finishing second in Ellensburg – to move ahead of Evan Jayne, despite having competed in fewer than half as many rodeos as the Frenchman. It was the only lead change of the week in the world standings.

  • Propelled by a win at the Sept. 2 Wrangler Champions Challenge in Pueblo, Colo., World Champions Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton had just the week they needed to get themselves off the bubble. In addition to the WCC, they earned checks at Montana’s Biggest Weekend in Dillon, the Colorado State Fair Rodeo in Pueblo, the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo and the Walla Walla (Wash.) Frontier Days Rodeo to bank $11,208. That moved Sartain, the 2009 world champion header, from 16th to ninth in the world standings and eight-time World Champion Skelton from 15th to eighth.

  • It’s been quite a year for Canadian saddle bronc riders – Zeke Thurston, Tyrel Larsen and Clay Elliott are all in the top 20 – and now here comes Layton Green of Meeting Creek, Alberta, making a late move. A win at the IPE & Stampede in Armstrong, British Columbia, was the big ($6,486) paycheck of the week, but he also placed at rodeos in Pueblo, Colo.; Walla Walla, Wash.; Merritt, British Columbia, and Lakeview, Ore., for total earnings of $11,348, moving him from 28th in the world a week ago to 23rd.

  • It begins to look more likely that Marcos Costa will become the first Brazilian to qualify for the Wrangler NFR as a tie-down roper. His win at the Walla Walla (Wash.) Frontier Days Rodeo, along with top-four finishes in Plains, Mont., and Dillon, Mont., gave him total earnings of $8,140 for the week and moved him from 15th to 12th in the world standings, with three weeks left in the season.

  • Brazile watch: Trevor Brazile left Pueblo, Colo., with $6,483 from the Wrangler Champions Challenge event there and the Colorado State Fair Rodeo, moving his leading all-around total for 2015 to $189,321. He is third in both team roping (heading) and steer roping while moving up one spot from 10th to ninth in the tie-down roping. He is on pace to qualify for the National Finals in all three events for a record 11th time.

Read more about the Pueblo Wrangler Champions Challenge in the Sept. 25 ProRodeo Sports News.


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