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Luke Branquinho 2014 Steer Wrestling World ChampionLuke Branquinho

2014 Steer Wrestling World Champion

From shoulder rehab straight to fifth world title

Winning a fifth steer wrestling gold buckle was not among Luke Branquinho’s expectations at the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Branquinho didn’t quite know what to expect from himself in Las Vegas because he arrived at the Wrangler NFR after sitting out 20 weeks of rodeo competition while recovering from surgery to repair the latissimus dorsi muscle under his right arm, which he had injured the previous July at California Rodeo Salinas.

“I was in a sling for about eight weeks after the surgery, but the main thing was I was on the elliptical (machine), making sure I didn’t gain a lot of weight,” Branquinho said. “I also was on a healthy eating plan. I dropped 15 to 20 pounds and that was before I really even started going to therapy, and then I built some of that muscle back.”

When Branquinho returned to the Thomas & Mack Center for his 14th Wrangler NFR, he sat eighth in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings. But once the competition began, Branquinho looked better than ever; he placed in the first five rounds and climbed steadily to the top of the standings to win the gold buckle with $202,380.

“To be able to win this one is pretty meaningful to me,” Branquinho said. “Every time you have to have surgery on a tendon, there’s a chance you may not come back. But I took the risk, and my therapist at home and the doctor that put me back together said everything healed up and looked great.”

Winning gold buckles is nothing new for Branquinho. The Los Alamos, Calif., cowboy also won the world in 2004, 2008 and 2011-12. Branquinho came to the Wrangler NFR with $65,992 – a hefty $25,812 behind leader Trevor Knowles – but made up ground on his competitors with an outstanding performance in Vegas, leaving town in possession of the average title with a cumulative time of 41.6 seconds on 10 head and an event-best $136,388 in addition to his gold buckle.

Branquinho stopped the clock at 5.0 seconds in Round 10 to secure the 2014 average. “My logic is to run at the barrier every time,” Branquinho said. “Every night, I was trying to get good starts, because when you get to the back end of the arena, that’s when stuff starts to go badly.”

He had previously won Wrangler NFR average crowns in 2008 and 2011. With his 2014 title, he joins a select group of steer wrestlers – John W. Jones Sr. (four) and Tom Ferguson (three) – who have won at least three Wrangler NFR steer wrestling average titles.

And he’s nearing another record as well: Branquinho is only one world championship shy of tying ProRodeo Hall of Famer Homer Pettigrew’s steer wrestling record of six. Pettigrew won his steer wrestling gold buckles in 1940, 1942-45 and 1948.

[ Click here to view Luke Branquinho's full bio ]

– Tracy Renck, ProRodeo Sports News

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