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LAS VEGAS â€“ Very quietly, tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett has made a significant run at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Over the first three nights of competition, the Comanche, Okla., cowboy has placed in two go-rounds and earned $20,733. Better yet, heâ€™s moved up from 13th to 10th in the world standings, and there are seven rounds remaining in ProRodeoâ€™s grand finale.
On Saturday night, Jarrett posted his fastest run of the rodeo, roping and tying his calf in 7.5 seconds. It earned him a fourth-place check worth $7,813. Heâ€™ll need to continue his streak if he hopes to continue up the world standings â€“ in rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event who finish the NFR with the most season earnings will be crowned world champions.
Jarrett knows that feeling well. In his first venture to the Nevada desert for rodeoâ€™s super bowl, the Georgia-raised cowboy won the tie-down roping average championship and parlayed that into the all-around gold buckle, the most coveted trophy in the game.
LAS VEGAS â€“ The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is a showcase that draws tens of thousands of rodeo fans daily to the Nevada desert during its 10-day run in the City of Lights.
Each go-round features a sell-out performance, with more than 17,000 fans cheering on ProRodeoâ€™s brightest stars in one of the most electric arenas in sport. Itâ€™s a showcase, and the roar of the crowd can be deafening when they like what they see.
Saturday nightâ€™s feature was celebrated by some of the fastest times in the game, notably in steer wrestling, where all six placers finished runs in less than 4 seconds.
â€śYou could really sense that the place had electricity,â€ť said Hunter Cure, a Holliday, Texas, bulldogger who was one of four cowboys to grapple their steers to the ground in 3.8 seconds. â€śOur job, though, is you need to block that out as much as you can.â€ť
Cure did. He joined Wade Sumpter, Jule Hazen and Casey Martin in finishing second in the third go-round; each cowboy earned $9,615 for their work. For Cure, now in his second trip to the NFR, he has earned $20,733 over three nights in Las Vegas.
â€śItâ€™s almost as much as I made at 2009â€™s Wrangler National Finals,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m extremely excited about the fact that weâ€™re just this far along in the money this early in the week.â€ť
He should be.
â€śI think that was, top to bottom, the best set of cattle that are here,â€ť said Cure, who attended Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, and Texas Tech University on rodeo scholarships. â€śI figured the winning time might even be faster than 3.6 (seconds).â€ť
In fact, the quartet of bulldoggers had the fastest time of the go-round until the 14th cowboy to run, four-time world champion Luke Branquinho, snagged the victory. Fellow Texan Matt Reeves scored a 3.9 to round out the top 6.
â€śI think it makes it exciting not only for the fans, but also the cowboys, because you know you canâ€™t make a mistake, and it needs to be a flawless run,â€ť Cure said.
Flawless came with the assistance of hazer Riley Duvall and Cureâ€™s horse, Charlie.
â€śRiley got that steer perfectly hazed right down the middle,â€ť Cure said. â€śThat gave my horse a great look at one, and it allowed me to get my feet in the right place to make that kind of run.â€ť
With that formula in place, Cure has seven more nights to cash in all his chips in Vegas.
LAS VEGAS â€“ In his second qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, saddle bronc rider Tyler Corrington is having a lot of fun.
His amusement increased Saturday night on the back of Carr Pro Rodeoâ€™s Cool Runnings, an 11-year-old black gelding that matched moves with Corrington for 85.5 points, a score worthy of second place in the third go-round. That paid the Minnesota cowboy $14,724 and gave him some much needed momentum heading into the final seven nights of ProRodeoâ€™s grand finale.
â€śThat was a really fun horse,â€ť said Corrington, who last competed in Las Vegas in 2011. â€śIt feels great to get a check somewhat early and try to keep it rolling.
â€śI havenâ€™t seen that horse much. He mainly stays in Texas with Pete Carr, but he was aweseom. He was really fun.â€ť
Bronc busters live to ride great horses, and it paid off quite well for Corrington on Saturday. Based on the 100-point scale, half the score is attributed to the horseâ€™s bucking style, and half is awarded to how well the cowboy rides through the animalâ€™s bucking motion. The best bronc riders in the world have the rhythm and timing to match moves with their partners while spurring the horse.
Corrington had an outstanding 2013 campaign, finishing the regular season fourth place in the world standings. He also qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which took place in early November. But success can be fleeting, so the third-round performance was key for the Minnesota cowboyâ€™s demeanor.
â€śIâ€™m feeling confident, but I was a little shaky after having a bad Canadian Finals,â€ť Corrington said.
He has dropped to fifth in the world standings, but he remains in contention for that coveted gold buckle that is awarded to the world champion. Now Corrington has seven more nights to make it happen.
â€śIâ€™m not even going to think about it right now,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m just going to have fun and let the chips fall where they may.â€ť
When a cowboy rides broncs for a living, thatâ€™s a winning approach.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Chet Johnson likes his role as a veteran saddle bronc rider at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He also likes the fact that heâ€™s earned money in the first three rounds of the 2013 championship. On Saturdayâ€™s third night of competition, the Douglas, Wyo., bronc buster matched moves with J Bar J Rodeoâ€™s Sweatinâ€™ Bullets for 77.5 points to finish sixth and collect a check worth $3,005.
â€śIâ€™m way more comfortable this year than Iâ€™ve ever been here,â€ť said Johnson, now in his fourth NFR qualification. â€śI have way more experience than the first three times I was here. Iâ€™m one of the older guys, too, so Iâ€™m not as intimidated.
â€śWhen I first came here (in 2005), the veterans were Billy Etbauer, Dan Mortensen, Glen Oâ€™Neal and Rod Hay. They were my heroes, and I was riding against them. There was an intimidation factor there. Now Iâ€™ve been rodeoing with these guys my entire career. A lot of them are just new guys; they still ride really good, but itâ€™s just different.â€ť
Over three nights in the City of Lights, Johnson has pocketed more than $7,000. This is the place where big money can be made, with go-round winners earning $18,630 each night of the 10-round championship, but the Wyoming cowboy likes that heâ€™s earned something in the opening few nights.
Most importantly, his cumulative score of 229.5 points through three rides is third best.
â€śI honestly didnâ€™t think I was going to place in that round,â€ť he said Saturday. â€śA lot of the horses didnâ€™t have their day. You get out of rhythm, and I think horses do, too. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the weather, but it seems like a lot of them are worse in the chute, and theyâ€™re just not having their day.
â€śI thought it would take 82 or 83 points to place tonight. The horses just havenâ€™t been doing what theyâ€™re supposed to be doing. Like everything, you donâ€™t know what all is affecting them.â€ť
Only the top 6 scores earn money each night, and Johnsonâ€™s was one of two money-makers who didnâ€™t surpass the 80-point marking. Based on the 100-point scale, half the score comes from the ride, half comes from the animal.
â€śEverything Iâ€™ve been on, the horses just donâ€™t have the action, so youâ€™ve got to do it all yourself,â€ť Johnson said. â€śI canâ€™t complain; Iâ€™m still getting checks.â€ť
That, especially in Las Vegas, is a good thing.