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Waguespack takes over steer wrestling lead

by Matt Naber | Dec 14, 2018

LAS VEGAS – Tyler Waguespack knows what it takes to win the steer wrestling world title.

He proved that in 2016. He’s showing it again at the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Waguespack stopped the clock in 3.7 seconds to earn his second round victory of the Finals in front of 16,929 fans during Round 8 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13. The win also moved Waguespack into first place in the 2018 PRCA | RAM World Standings.

“We’re going to keep taking it one steer at a time and do the best we can on whatever we draw,” said Waguespack, of Gonzales, La.

Waguespack is riding Scooter, the 2017 and 2018 PRCA | AQHA Horse of the Year for steer wrestling. The horse owned by Tyler Pearson and Kyle Irwin is a key reason for Waguespack’s success, he said.

“Every time you back in the box, you always feel like you have a good chance because you know you’re riding the best one there is,” Waguespack said.

Waguespack is up to $192,744, with $113,160 of that coming from the Wrangler NFR. In addition to being first in the world standings, he’s second in the aggregate in 34.3 seconds on eight head. Curtis Cassidy is second in the world standings with $188,356. Will Lummus is third in the world standings with $178,682. He’s first in the average with 33.0 seconds on eight head.

But Waguespack isn’t counting on anything yet.

“I try not to get nervous, but in the back of your mind it’s always going to be there,” he said. “It absolutely helps that I have been through this before and won (the world championship). It takes some of the pressure off, but still, it is the world title, so you’re going to have pressure on you the whole time.”

When Waguespack saw which steer he had drawn, he knew he could be in the money.

“Tyler Pearson had that steer in the second round and won the round (with a 3.8-second time),” Waguespack said. “I was very pleased with the draw. That steer I didn’t think was going to leave as sharp as the rest of them in the herd, and it is impressive on Scooter’s part because we have been taking really, really sharp starts all week long. He (Scooter) let me back off it just enough to get a decent start on that steer and make a great run on him.”

Shane O’Connell wins first Wrangler NFR go-round

Shane O’Connell knew not to get discouraged through the first seven rounds of his debut trip to the Wrangler NFR.

He knew he was doing what he needed to do. Eventually it would pay off. 

That pay off came Thursday night, as O’Connell rode Powder River Rodeo’s Black Leg for 89 points and the Round 8 victory.

“I’ve been wanting that real bad,” said O’Connell, 23. “I’ve been making great rides all week, and to finally get into some good money it goes to show that if you keep persevering and keep doing things the same it’s going to pay off in the end. You just got to keep riding and keep doing your best.”

O’Connell placed in the money twice and finished seventh – one spot out of the money – three times. He had faith his skills would eventually lead him to the South Point for the buckle presentation.

“I’d get a little frustrated, but then I just had to tell myself that I’m here for a reason and that I belong here, and that if I keep riding the way I am, they’re going to pay me,” said the South Dakota cowboy. “I’ve ridden pretty good the whole time. I finished seventh three times, one place out of the money. Those were all great rides. I mean, 84.5, 85.5, 86.5 didn’t even get me money at some perfs this weekend. That shows the caliber of guys who are in there.”

The win has O’Connell in 11th place in the world standings with $133,951. Caleb Bennett continues to lead the bareback riding world standings with $240,390. Tim O’Connell, the two-time, defending champion – and no relation to Shane – is second, $13,243 behind.

New partners Buckaloo/Tryan stop clock in 3.6 seconds

Back in September, team roping header Bubba Buckaloo and team roping heeler Chase Tryan met up at the Justin Finale at the PRCA | Wrangler ProRodeo Tour in Puyallup, Wash.

With Buckaloo and Tryan in good position at the time to qualify for the Wrangler NFR but their respective partners not, both ropers talked about what might happen if they qualified but their partners didn’t.

They decided they’d rope together.

On Thursday, that newly formed partnership looked like old teammates, as Buckaloo and Tryan clocked a 3.6-second run to win Round 8 with the fastest time of the 2018 Finals.

The win was the first of their career at the Finals for both ropers.

“It means everything,” said Tryan, who is fourth in the heeling world standings with $154,367. “We’ve been working at this forever. It’s feels so good.”

Tryan roped with header Brenton Hall this season, while Buckaloo headed for Tyler Worley.

Buckaloo is enjoying his first trip to Vegas for the Finals, especially after Thursday night.

“It started out really good, and then I went on a cold streak for the third, fourth and fifth rounds,” said Buckaloo, who is third in the team roping heading standings with $174,951. “Then we got money in Round 6 and I got my confidence back. I just felt like tonight we had the best steer and we made a good run.”

The duo have jelled pretty quickly, considering Round 8 was their eighth performance together.

“We’d practiced together and both of us have the same type of goals, the same game plan every night,” Tryan said.

Their confidence is up, and part of that came from some advice via Buckaloo’s dad.

“After I missed the first one, it got to me a little more, and then I missed the third one,” Buckaloo said. “I called my dad and he said, ‘You know what, you shouldn’t worry about it. You’re there for a reason. You’re one of the best.’ That was the biggest motivation for me.’”

Team roping header Clay Smith and partner heeler Paul Eaves continue to lead the world standings for their respective events. They split second on the evening, which helped them extend their lead. Each of them has $212,921 on the year.

Ryan Jarrett heating up in tie-down roping

A slow start for tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett has turned into a hot roll.

Jarrett notched the Round 8 win in 7.3 seconds, his second win in the last four rounds. For him, the momentum is building.

“This feels good for sure that things are going my way a little better,” said Jarrett, 34. (He turns 35 Dec. 28.)

Riding Snoopy, Jarrett cashed in for $26,231. It helped him climb to fifth in the world standings with $163,847. Jarrett has won $86,295, most among tie-down ropers.

Snoopy, 8, is right at home competing in the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I brought him last year to the NFR,” said Jarrett, of Comanche, Okla. “All this year he’s been my No. 1 horse and my No. 2 – he got lots of runs. I was probably a little too hard on him at times, but he’s been good. Sometimes I think he could be better, but he probably says the same about me. It doesn’t bother him one bit to be in this building.”

Tuf Cooper and Tyson Durfey split for second in the round in 7.4 seconds each. They are first and second, respectively, in the tie-down roping world standings. Cooper leads the way with $191,941, while Durfey is second at $180,941.

Jarrett is hoping to gain some more ground.

“I want to cash more checks for sure, that’s all we’re after,” Jarrett said.

Bettis notches first Finals win

Barrel racer Taci Bettis has her first go-round win of her Wrangler NFR career.

Bettis and her horse Bogie is a Smash, “Smash,” raced to stop the clock in 13.57 seconds for the win.

“Man, this is good,” Bettis said. “This is my second time out here, so this is 18 times down the alley and still that feeling is so surreal. To finally get a round win is icing on the cake for me.”

Bettis struggled through the first four rounds, hitting barrels on three of those four runs. The last four rounds she’s cashed checks, amounting her second Wrangler NFR trip to $62,885.

“My hauling partner (Tammy Fischer) told me to clear my head and quit over-thinking it,” Bettis said. “I kind of schooled on my horse a little bit and got him feeling right. I got my mind right. After hitting those barrels like that, it kind of knocked me down. So, I’ve been trying to get my mental game back up. So, tonight I finally pulled one out.”

Bettis also had a little fun practice a day earlier.

“A couple of days ago at the convention center, we were riding the little bike horses and I practiced a victory lap, and I said, ‘I’m going to do it,’” she joked. “Finally, I get to do it and I get goosebumps.”

After winning back-to-back rounds, world standings leader Hailey Kinsel did not place in Round 8. But she still has a comfortable lead with $313,046 won. Her lead exceeds $100,000.

Brooks, Rusty Wright tie in saddle bronc riding

Before the Wrangler NFR, Finals newcomer Chase Brooks had never made a 90-point ride. Now, he’s got two.

Meanwhile, Rusty Wright’s 90-point ride has him creeping up on his brother and defending Saddle Bronc Riding World Champion Ryder Wright in the hunt for the 2018 saddle bronc riding gold buckle.

Brooks and Wright tied with 90-point rides Thursday to split the Round 8 win. Brooks made his ride on Dakota Rodeo’s Bartender, while Rusty Wright made his on Rosser Rodeo’s Floodtide.

“I couldn’t even imagine something this cool,” said Brooks, 24. “These are the only two 90-point rides I’ve ever had, and it’s crazy to do it two nights in a row. You can’t put into words what a 90 feels like.”

Rusty Wright won Round 8 in 2015.

“I didn’t think about it since I try to win every round,” he said. “Next year, when I get to Round 8, I’ll feel like I have an advantage since I’ve won two of them.”

Both of them knew they had strong horses that could perform.

“I drew awesome tonight,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen him quite a few times before and he is showy – I can vouch for that, he is a ton of fun.”

Rusty Wright was equally excited.

“Boy, I drew an awesome horse,” said Rusty Wright, who is competing with broken ribs. “I honestly think that’s one of the best horses going down the road. I actually did an interview a week before the Finals and I said I wanted Floodtide.”

Ryder Wright is still in the lead with $243,194 but won no money Thursday. Rusty Wright is second, $10,375 behind.

Dougherty, Frost split bull riding; climb in average

Chase Dougherty and Joe Frost have their sights set on winning the bull riding average. Their chances got better after Round 8.

Dougherty and Frost tied with 89.5-point rides to split the win Thursday.

Dougherty made his ride on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Dirty Dan, while Frost was on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Lumberjack.

“I got my hand stuck and scared myself into staying on,” joked Dougherty after winning his second consecutive round. “I had no choice but to hang on and ride. It doesn’t matter what I get on, I got here for a reason, and there’s no reason not to ride what’s under me.”

Frost had three rides a day earlier, his first ride and two re-rides.

“I got banged up last night on three rides,” Frost said. “Bull riding’s about not letting it affect you. We had our best pen out today, so I had to focus on the task at hand. Nobody wants to be 58 points at the NFR, but that would have won me $10,000 (in Round 7), but you have to try to improve when you can and take advantage of re-rides when you get them.”

Entering Round 8, Frost was second in the average and Dougherty was third. After their rides, Frost is first and Dougherty is second.

“It’s great, but as far as bull riding goes, anyone with two bulls still has a shot at the average,” Frost said. “Like Chase was saying last night, there’s no way to safety up and hold onto your spot in the average.”

Dougherty is also gunning for that average win, which pays out $67,269.

“That was my goal, to win the average,” said Dougherty, in his first trip to the Finals. “I wanted to get the average and ride at least half the bulls I got on. It’s falling together now.”

Sage Kimzey continues to lead the bull riding world standings with $358,853.

Cooper cuts Brazile’s lead in all-around

Brothers-in-law Tuf Cooper and Trevor Brazile are involved in a back-and-forth battle for the all-around gold buckle.

Brazile, who owns a PRCA-record 23 world titles including 13 all-around championships, is still atop the all-around standings with $298,026.

But Cooper tied for second in tie-down roping in Round 8 and closed the gap to $996.

Tie-down roper and team roper Rhen Richard trails Brazile by $94,379.

Kinsel, Moore waging tight Top Gun Award race

Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel continues to lead the Top Gun Award race with $120,212, though the margin is incredibly slim.

The award is given to the Finals competitor who wins the most money at the Wrangler NFR in one event.

Fellow barrel racer Amberleigh Moore cut that lead to $212 after cashing a $15,654 check on Thursday.

Just behind them is steer wrestler Tyler Waguespack, who won Round 8. Waguespack is up to $113,160 in Top Gun money.



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