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Ryder Wright triples down at the WNFR

by | Dec 03, 2016

Ryder Wright Round 3 Wrangler NFR

LAS VEGAS – It’s Ryder Wright’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

To say the 18-year-old saddle bronc rider is on fire would be a large understatement, and he’s now in the driver’s seat to win the gold buckle at his inaugural Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.

Wright covered Powder River Rodeo’s Lipstick N Whiskey for 86.5 points to earn his third consecutive round win of these Finals.

“I’m feeling awesome, and really confident in my riding,” Wright said. “I’m just taking it one horse at a time, and am going to keep it rolling.”

Wright has moved from 14th to second in the world in just three nights, and as the leader in the average, now controls his own destiny for both the gold buckle and the WNFR average title.

World standings leader and defending World Champ Jacobs Crawley failed to earn a check in Round 3, which means his lead over Wright is down to just about a round-winning check of $26,230.

“It’s crazy. I couldn’t even tell you where I thought I’d be,” Wright said of his anticipated spot in the world standings after three nights. “I love riding broncs, and this is where it brought me. I’m going to take full advantage of it.” 

Wright is aiming to become the fourth member of his family to win the world title. His father, Cody, won gold buckles in 2008 and 2010, while Ryder’s uncles, Jesse (2012) and Spencer (2014) also are world champions.

“They’re really excited,” Ryder said of his family’s reaction to his three-round sweep. “They said to share first place – but I’m going to keep riding for first. I’ve just been lucky enough to draw the best horses out there. I was really happy with what I had drawn tonight. I had watched that horse a bunch, so I was happy I drew that one.”

Shane Proctor reminded everybody why he was the 2011 world champion when he stuck it on the 2016 PRCA Bull of the Year in Round 3.

Proctor become just the second man to ride the bull for eight seconds in PRCA competition, and was rewarded with a 91-point score.

Midnight Bender has only been ridden once in PRCA competition in the past three years – by Wyatt Mecham, who earned 79 points in Belton, Texas, in 2014. 

“Normally, I don’t check what I have drawn until I get to the locker room that night, but this morning CBS let it slip that I had Midnight Bender and I was excited,” Proctor said. “There isn’t a bull I’m scared of here, and I thought it would be a good match-up.” 

Proctor is the only man to ride three bulls so far, and has the lead in the average. He was second in Round 1, fourth in Round 2, and tops tonight, which has moved him from 15th to fourth in the world. 

If there’s any man who can catch two-time defending World Champion Sage Kimzey, it’s looking like that man is the 31-year old Proctor.

“My banker sure likes it,” Proctor said of the $67,962 he’s earned so far this week. “I’ll just hold onto it and invest some, just be smart and be businesslike about it. I'm not into fancy cars. I just look toward the future.”

Bareback riders Tanner Aus and Clayton Biglow are off to big starts at the WNFR, and continued to put pressure on world standings leader Tim O’Connell Saturday night.

Aus, of Granite Falls, Minn., rode for 88 points on C5 Rodeo’s Virgil to match Biglow’s trip on Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Ship just a few rides before. Aus was up to the challenge after he saw the 2016 PRCA/Resistol Rookie of the Year post a solid ride.

“I was thinking that, holy smokes, it was going to be a great bareback riding tonight. And it was,” Aus said. “Everybody showed up tonight, and the horses were great. The atmosphere in the locker room was electric. We had the tunes bumping, and everybody was looking forward to riding.”

Biglow, who placed second in the first round, and has now split first the last two rounds, has had about as good of a start to his first WNFR as he could’ve imagined.

“In my head, yes, I did imagine it going this way,” Biglow said. “My goal is to win first every night, and I don’t expect anything less. But this is rodeo, and anything can happen. There are plenty of people telling you where you are in the standings after each night, so it’s impossible to ignore that stuff.”

Steer wrestler J.D. Struxness split the Round 3 victory in his signature event with Tyler Waguespack.

Both men clocked times of 3.9 seconds, which gave Struxness – who’s from Appleton, Minn., which is 40 miles from Aus’ hometown – the first WNFR round win of his young career.

“This is a little bit of weight off my shoulders,” Struxness said. “Everybody wants to get their first round win, and to be able to do it this fast is kind of a relief. Now, we can just go run at the other ones. But I’m sure this will not sink in for a while.”

Waguespack, who’s riding Cadillac, the 2016 PRCA/AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year, retook the world standings lead by a slim margin over traveling partner Clayton Hass.

“That horse is outstanding here,” Waguespack said of Cadillac. “I feel like all three nights he put my feet on the ground in the best position I could possibly be in to win, and I can’t ask for much more than that.”

Cade Swor and Hunter Herrin are both right in the middle of the tie-down roping world title hunt, and they helped their cause Saturday night.

The two men stopped the clock in 7.0 seconds to split the Round 3 win and collect $23,481 apiece. 

For Swor, it was a personal-best at the WNFR. His previous fastest time was 7.1 seconds, when he tied for third in Round 1 at the 2015 WNFR.

“We go all year for these 10 days, and this is how we make our living,” he said. “You can’t back off and you can’t plan on tying 10 down and hoping you win a little check in the end. You’ve got to get all you can get every time you nod your head.”

Herrin made his run right before Swor, and was pleased with a split for the round win.

“I had a great calf, and when I found out I had her I was pretty ecstatic about it,” Herrin said. “I missed the barrier a little bit, and had to get a little more rope out there than I preferred and everything happened so fast. I put a wrap and a hooey on her, and I’m just glad she stayed down. Everything was done, and I was glad Cade was 7 flat instead of 6.9.”

Matt Sherwood is a two-time world champion, and a veteran competing in his fifth WNFR. His partner had never roped in the Thomas & Mack Center before the 2016 WNFR. But the two came together in Round 3 to stop the clock in 4.5 seconds to split the team roping win with Riley and Brady Minor.

“Quinn and I have been roping together for two years,” Sherwood said. “The year before that, I had a tough year and went home with no partner. Quinn was just home from serving a two-year (Mormon) mission. He’s really aggressive, and I knew he’d be a good fit for me.”

Kesler has leaned on his partner’s experience, and now has settled in with his first go-round buckle.

“A lot of hard work and perseverance,” Kesler said of the key to making it to his first WNFR. “Matt and I have known each other for a long time, because he roped with my dad (Greg). That makes it way easier. I worry less, because he’s been there and done that. So I can focus on what I need to do.”

The Minors needed a big win to stay in the world title hunt, and the brothers from Ellensburg, Wash., got it.

Riley moved to fourth in the world in the heading standings, and his brother, Brady, is now fifth in the heeling standings.

“We’ve grown up roping together, so we both know where to go and what to do,” Riley said. “There are arguments daily, but we can tell each other what we think without tiptoeing. So, we can break it down more easily. We’re a team.”

Barrel racer Lisa Lockhart, of Oelrichs, S.D., teamed up with her horse, Louie, to win the third round with a time of 13.72 seconds and move to third place in both the world and WNFR average standings.

“It was just crazy-fast tonight,” Lockhart said. “That first barrel is always tough for all of us, but Louie nailed it tonight and that’s what set us up for a wicked-fast time and the win.”

Lockhart said the key for Louie was a little extra attention from her husband.

“Louie is just an easy guy to keep happy,” Lockhart said. “Nearly every day is a good day for him. Today, I think Grady, my husband, just petted on him and rubbed his ears for nearly 20 minutes. When his ears perk up he is ready.” 

The 58th annual Wrangler NFR continues Sunday with the fourth round at the Thomas & Mack Center. The action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 7-10 p.m. PT.

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