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Braden wins second go-round at WNFR

LAS VEGAS – Hardy Braden is making the most of his first trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.

Coming into the 2017 Finals, Braden was just hoping to compete and maybe place a few times.

On Wednesday, Dec. 13, Braden won his second go-round at the Thomas & Mack Center, scoring 88 points on Hi Lo ProRodeo’s Garden City Gal for the Round 7 win.

Braden SECONDARY FOR WEB“That’s pretty unbelievable,” Braden said. “I came in with the mindset of being happy to place in some rounds, let alone win two of them. Two out of seven is good compared to what I said I’d be happy with. I treat it like any rodeo, and show up with a level head and do the best with what you got and block out the pressure of so much money in a perf.”

Braden had never been on Garden City Gal before, but rode her like she was old hat.

“I had never actually seen her,” Braden said, “but Jacobs (Crawley) had been on her before and some of my friends too, and they all said she had some moves and tricks, and to try to stay back on her – and that’s what I did, and she had an outstanding trip today.”

Crawley is still leading the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings with $226,927. Crawley placed fifth in Round 7. 

Aus notches second win of 2017 WNFR

After tying for first in the second round, bareback rider Tanner Aus hit a cold spell, placing just once over the next three rounds. But a night after breaking that streak with a tie for fifth, Aus scored 87 points on Three Hills Rodeo’s Jr. Bonner.

“It’s nice,” Aus said. “That’s just part of the competition being so tough here, sometimes you’re going to split round wins. To be able to head out there tonight on my own, this is basically the culmination of a long season and a lot of preparation. It’s a dream come true to be on that stage again, and I’m very thankful that I get to go out there.”

Aus had to wait for a re-ride from Orin Larsen before he could truly celebrate his win.

“Well, I knew that Orin (Larsen) had a good shot (on his re-ride) – Orin’s been riding great all week, he had a great horse, this is a tough pen,” said Aus, from Minnesota. “I was just waiting with bated breath, I guess, but thankful to have the round win for sure.”

World standings leader Tim O’Connell tied for second in the go-round and heads into Round 8 with $289,762, more than $80,000 ahead of Aus, his closest competitor.

Eldridge goes 3.3 seconds to win steer wrestling

Dakota Eldridge posted the fastest time of the 2017 WNFR in the steer wrestling competition when he stopped the clock at 3.3 seconds. That was plenty fast to win Round 7 and take home $26,231.

Eldridge entered the seventh round with the fourth best average time. His time in Round 7 kept him in fourth and has him in seventh place in the world standings with $144,006.

The quick victory had Eldridge pumped.

“The feeling when you win is something you never want to get rid of,” said Eldridge, a 26-year-old Nevadan. “The crowd goes crazy and it’s incredible. They had not done anything on that steer, but you have to have a good attitude no matter what and stay positive. 

Eldridge changed his approach and watched it work.

“I finally got close to the barrier tonight,” he said. “I’ve been giving them a head start. I’m done being nice, I’m going to get greedy.”

Being from Elko, Nev., gave Eldridge a special feeling to win in his home state.

“I have a bunch of people down here today and it’s just unbelievable to have this rodeo in your home state, six hours from my house,” Eldridge said. “You get down here, and sometimes you get caught up and get tired, and man, you just have to crave it and realize how much money you’re running for. It doesn’t get any better than having your home state crowd cheering for you. That really pumps you up.” 

Ty Erickson, who leads the aggregate, is on top of the world standings with $230,267 heading into the final three rounds of the WNFR.

Egusquiza/Koontz pair up for another round win

Dustin Egusquiza might be in the middle of his first trip to the WNFR, but he’s not roping like it.

Egusquiza, a team roping header, paired with Kory Koontz to win their second go-round in the Finals, clocking a time of 3.5 seconds, the fastest time of the 2017 Finals.

“It makes me feel good to be able to get him going in his career and to be the first guy to rope with him at the NFR,” said Koontz, in his 21st trip to the WNFR. “When I get old and I’m in my rocking chair, I can sit back and watch him do great things. I get a really good feeling in seeing guys that I was able to help move forward in their career and get them going.”

Egusquiza was ecstatic with his first win. Wednesday’s win felt just as good.

“I don’t think there could have been a greater feeling than winning the first round, but 3.5 (seconds) in the seventh go-round heading for Kory Koontz, it’s pretty crazy,” said Egusquiza, 22.

The time also tied for the second fastest in Round 7 history. Egusquiza’s confidence continues to grow.

“Man, I know that I can turn him wherever,” Egusquiza said. “When the gate opens, I can turn him and he (Koontz) is always going to be ready. I’m not ever going to catch him off guard.”

Egusquiza and Koontz have pocketed $70,712 each.

Team ropers Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira have moved back into first place in the world standings in their respective events, where they started when the Finals opened. Driggers has $196,086, while Nogueira has $196,816.

Frost capitalizes on Heavens Basement to win bull riding

Joe Frost knew he was getting a good bull. Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Heavens Basement had bucked off Tim Bingham in Round 2 of the Finals.

He didn’t buck off Frost.

Frost rode Heavens Basement for 87 points and the win in Round 7.

“Well, I talked to my dad and brother when they found what I had, and last time they watched when Bingham had him and they said he was to the right,” Frost said. “But I put that out of my mind. If I know, I will get ahead of myself, and I would rather ride in the center; and if they turn, I can catch up and play defense – that’s the best way to do it.”

It was the fifth time Frost has placed in the Finals this year, giving him $88,692 for the rodeo and $217,835 in season earnings.

“It always helps anytime you win a round,” Frost said. “It’s been two years since I won a round (at the Wrangler NFR). It’s the most fun thing – you are the star of the show and it pays well, too.”

With $340,229, Sage Kimzey continues to dominate the world standings. He’s also first in the aggregate with 513.5 points on six head.

Carlisle snaps streak to win tie-down roping round

It had been a long time since Randall Carlisle had won a round at the WNFR. That streak is over.

Carlisle won the Round 7 tie-down roping in 7.5 seconds to get his first go-round win at the Finals since his last appearance in 2013, when he won Round 2.

“I’m just thankful that things are turning around,” Carlisle said. “I started off bad and I’m trying to overcome everything.”

Carlisle said the encouragement he received from family and friends earlier in the day gave him a jolt heading into the round.

“I had text messages all day today saying that tonight was going to be my night, and I broke the ice,” he said. “Now, there are three rounds left and I’m going to keep going after it each night.”

Carlisle switched horses after the first two rounds, getting on Fletch for Round 3, and was riding him again for Wednesday’s win.

“He’s been very good,” Carlisle said. “I started using him in Round 3 and he has done the same thing every night. I used my horse, Cat, the first two rounds, and he’s a great horse that’s real strong and he was a little too strong here, so I decided to switch to (Fletch) because he’s smaller and easier (to handle).”  

Regular-season leader Tuf Cooper continues to be at the top of the world standings, stretching his lead after a second-place finish Wednesday. He has $247,406.

Murray wins first go-round at WNFR

WNFR newcomer Tillar Murray rode out last in the barrel racing on Wednesday. 

She finished first.

Murray finished in 13.40 seconds, the second fastest time for any Round 7.

Murray is in her first trip to the Finals. Through her first six rounds she had placed twice. Then came the win.

“I can’t believe that I won a go-round,” she said. “I am just so happy to be here. I’ve wanted to be at the NFR ever since I was a little kid. Just being here is cool. I really had no expectation of winning a round. There is just no way to describe it. It is the coolest feeling.”

Her horse, Commander, is adjusting to the arena.

“I am so excited,” she said. “I was nervous being last out on the ground, but Commander really handled it well. I couldn’t have asked him to work any better. He exceeded all expectations and I am so proud of him.”

Tiany Schuster has $285,339 in season earnings to continue to lead the way toward the barrel racing world championship.

Cooper gains ground in all-around race

Trevor Brazile continues to lead in the race for the coveted all-around gold buckle, but his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper, gained some ground in Round 7.

Brazile did not place in the money in the tie-down roping, while Cooper took second to win $20,731. Brazile leads the all-around race with $313,837. Cooper is second with $286,983. 

Ryder Wright atop RAM Top Gun race

In his second trip to the WNFR, 19-year-old Ryder Wright is leading the RAM Top Gun Award standings.

Wright finished second in the saddle bronc riding go-round Wednesday and earned $20,731 to move into first place in the Top Gun chase with $121,692.

He passed barrel racer Hailey Kinsel, who is second with $120,423.
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