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Benton chalks up win No. 3 at 2017 WNFR

LAS VEGAS – Trey Benton III continues to be the talk of the bull riding competition.

Benton became the first competitor across any event to win three rounds at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER in 2017 after scoring 92.5 points on Rocky Mountain Rodeo’s Bomb Pop at the Thomas & Mack Center on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

The win gives him $115,346 won at the 2017 WNFR, the second most of any competitor.

He’s first in the bull riding average with 442.5 points on five head and third in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings with $236,747.

Benton trails three-time defending World Champion Sage Kimzey, who placed second on Tuesday and has $340,229.

“I have a plan in my head, and I hope to go out there and show it,” Benton said. “I’m planning on winning every round the rest of the way, and if I do that, my plan will work. I know what needs to be done.”

Benton also won Rounds 1 and 4. He has covered every bull except the one he faced in the fifth round. He has also placed third in one round and fourth in the other. 

Benton had not ridden Bomb Pop, but was familiar with the bull. He watched good friend Cody Teel ride the bull for 89 points at Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days in July.

“Cody and I were actually up in the same set that day in Cheyenne, so I pulled his bull rope and watched the ride up close,” Benton said. “I remember that ride like it was yesterday, and it was awesome. Cody rode the mess out of that bull, and seeing my buddy get on him that day really helped me be prepared for my ride tonight.”

Ryder Wright notches second round win in saddle bronc riding

At age 19, Ryder Wright will be back plenty of times to the WNFR. And at the pace he’s on, he likely to set plenty of records.

Wright won the saddle bronc riding for the second time at the 2017 WNFR with a score of 89 points on The Cervi Brothers Rodeo’s 2 Cookies, giving him his seventh career round win in 16 rounds at the WNFR, a winning percentage of 43.8 percent.

“Just lucky I guess, I draw pretty good and I don’t know that I’ve ever drawn bad here,” Wright said. “I try to just do my own thing and let the other riders do theirs.”

The win gives Wright his second round win in his last three rides and puts him over the $100,000 mark for the 2017 Finals. It also has him in second place in the world standings.

“It definitely helps and gets you fired up and there’s no way to explain the feeling,” Wright said. “There’s nothing better than winning at the Thomas and Mack. I’ve wanted to ride at this rodeo my whole life, and to be here and fortunate to draw good horses and ride good is just awesome.”

Wright got the win on a re-ride. Waiting to get on 2 Cookies, he used his time to prepare mentally.

“You don’t want to think about it too much and psych yourself out,” Wright said. “I wanted to keep my cool and I had every move and jump figured out before I nodded my head.”

Jacobs Crawley continues to reign at the top of the world standings, perched atop the chart with $220,158. Wright is behind by less than $20,000.

Yates making run at average with back-to-back round wins

Marty Yates is making a run. 

A night after winning in 7.0 seconds, Yates was even better, winning the tie-down roping by tying a Round 6 record in 6.9 seconds.

After coming into this year’s WNFR in seventh place in the world standings, Yates has climbed to third place with $83,192 won at the Finals for a total of $180,366.

“When I found out the calf I had tonight, I knew it was going to be good,” Yates said. “I just stuck to my game plan and I didn’t back off and kept going forward. I got an amazing start. Sometimes when you’re here and you come through that barrier you don’t know whether you are for sure out or not and that’s when you make the fastest runs. Everything came together tonight, and it felt awesome. I knew if I just did my job, I was going to win the round.”

Yates tied the round record he set in 2014 with Matt Shiozawa that same year. 

“When you make those kinds of runs, everything has to go perfect and it did just that tonight. I don’t care if you’re 6.5 or 6.9, everything has to go perfect,” the Texas cowboy said. “When you’re out here doing good, there’s not a better feeling in the world, and I’m just looking forward to the remaining rounds and hoping that everything goes my way.” 

Tuf Cooper is still at the top of the tie-down roping standings with $226,675.

Vezain, Biglow split bareback riding win

It was a pair of firsts for co-winners J.R. Vezain and Clayton Biglow in the bareback riding competition.

Vezain scored 88 points on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet Belle, while Biglow scored 88 on Frontier Rodeo’s Night Fist.

For Vezain, it was just his second win in five trips to the WNFR. But it was his first victory lap he’d ever taken, since his first win came in the 10th round of the 2012 WNFR.

“I’ve been here five times and I’ve only won one round so far in five years,” Vezain said. “And the round I did win was the 10th round, and the average winner gets to take the victory lap that time. So, I had never gotten to take the victory lap yet. It’s amazing, it’s awesome.”

Biglow, who entered the WNFR in third place in the world standings, had yet to place through the first five rounds. 

“No, I wasn’t upset with my riding,” Biglow said. “I just couldn’t get the ball rolling. I was never upset with myself and you never want to do that because you start fighting with your head, and that’s bad to do here. I just put all the nights behind me and come in with a fresh mind like it’s the first round. Do your job.”

Tim O’Connell, the world standings leader, is atop the competition with $271,570.

Horse change helps Roche win steer wrestling

The first five rounds hadn’t gone according to plan for steer wrestler Baylor Roche.
But Roche changed that script by switching horses to ride Maverick, resulting in winning Round 6 in 3.6 seconds on Tuesday night.

“This week had been slow,” said Roche, who is in fifth place in the world standings. “Now by getting this win, there’s some pressure off me. I’ve been here three times and I don’t feel like I’ve done what I was supposed to do. So, this feels good to get something rolling and I still have four rounds left. I’m just going to keep the pressure up and try and win all the remaining rounds.”

Roche changed horses and it seemed to pay dividends immediately.

“I was riding Tom Lewis’ horse, Maverick,” Roche said. “This is Maverick’s first time to the Thomas & Mack and he sure shined. I was riding Hunter Cure’s horse, Charlie, and that’s an amazing horse and he just wasn’t working for me here, so I just needed to try something else.” 

Tanner Milan rode Maverick to wins in Rounds 2 and 5 this year.

World standings leader Ty Erickson took second place on Tuesday to pad his lead and up his season earnings to $230,267.

Split for first in team roping with Minor/Minor, Snow/Thorp

Team ropers Riley Minor and Brady Minor tied with Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp to stop the clock in 3.7 seconds and tie for the second-fastest Round 6 time ever.

For the Minors, it’s another consistent performance. They’ve caught all six steers through the first six rounds to sit second in the race for the average title. They are sixth in the world standings in their respective events.

“It’s a longshot, but we have to win the go-rounds for a chance at the end, but we’re here to win as much money as possible, and there are still quite a few rounds,” heeler Brady Minor said. “The average plays a part, but there’s big money at the end if we can knock a few more down.”

Header Riley Minor isn’t trying to push too hard.

“I’m trying to be smart and take a good shot,” Riley Minor said. “Horses feel pretty good, and when it gets fast, sometimes you try to go too fast and make mistakes, so I try to tell myself to just slow down and be fast.”

For Snow and Thorp, the win marked their first placing of the WNFR.

“It feels good to win some money, and especially to win the round,” said Snow, the header. “It feels pretty awesome.”

Heeler Thorp said they are staying on task.

“We had a couple fluke deals that happened the first few rounds,” Thorp said. “We had to try to look over it. I mean, as frustrating as it was, we just want to stick to the game plan. It made us loosen up a little bit because we had nothing to lose.”

Erich Rogers leads the team roping heading standings with $190,744, while Cory Petska leads the team roping heeling standings with $190,744. They tied with Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira and the team of Garrett Rogers and Jake Minor for a three-way split of fifth and six place.

Kinsel gains more ground in world title chase

In six rounds, barrel racer Hailey Kinsel has yet to finish worse than fourth. 

On Tuesday, Kinsel notched her second round win of the Finals, finishing in 13.49 seconds and adding to her already impressive total of the 2017 WNFR.

“There are a lot of good runs out there,” Kinsel said. “I didn’t have a lot of expectation coming into the NFR and our game plan is to take one run at a time. This is just like 10 separate rodeos for me.”

Kinsel has won two of the last four rounds, placed third three times and took fourth in Round 4. She has won $120,423, putting her on top of the RAM Top Gun Award standings. She’s also second in the world standings with $219,130.

“I don’t keep track of numbers at all,” Kinsel said. “As far as I’m concerned, those last six runs haven’t happened, and I just have four more runs left to go this week.”

Tiany Schuster continues to lead the world standings with $281,108. 

Brazile remains in lead for all-around buckle 

Trevor Brazile continues to lead all cowboys in the race for the all-around title. 

Brazile is on top with $313,837, while his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper, is second with $266,253.
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