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LAS VEGAS â€“ Heading into Thursday night, tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett wasnâ€™t too excited about his performance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Itâ€™s funny how quickly things change.
Jarrett posted a 6.7-second run to win the eighth go-round, pocketing another $18,630 â€“ his biggest paycheck in Las Vegas so far. In fact, the time set a new NFR record for Round 8, bettering a 6.9 that was established 12 years ago by eight-time world champion Fred Whitfield.
â€śI knew that calf was off the pace, so I gave her a little bit more of a head start than I had been, and it worked out great,â€ť said Jarrett, who pushed his NFR earnings to $56,040. â€śThe last three rounds ainâ€™t been great, but tonightâ€™s kinda made up for it.â€ť
Yes, it did. Jarrett has moved from 13th to fifth in the tie-down roping world standings, having earned nearly $119,000.
â€śUntil 2010, I never won a round in calf roping here,â€ť said Jarrett, the 2005 all-around world champion from Comanche, Okla.
The reason for that? Jarrett has focused his attention on placing in the go-rounds and collecting cash. He earned a share of the fourth-round title, then won it outright Thursday.
â€śI donâ€™t make it to the South Point a whole lot,â€ť he said, referring to the nightly Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Buckle Presentation that takes place nightly at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa.
He may be making more. Jarrett is 10th in the average with an eight-round cumulative time of 87.2 seconds. He knows the best way for him to make more money over the final two nights of the 2013 season is to place high in the rounds.
â€śI just worry about what I can do and just focus on that,â€ť Jarrett said. â€śI thought I was doing all right the first five rounds, and I won pretty decent, and then it just went downhill. Maybe the next two rounds will be as good as the eighth round.â€ť
LAS VEGAS â€“ When Hunter Cure first watched his horse in action, Charlie was a hazing horse.
Cure purchased the 14-year-old gelding earlier this year and transitioned him to the other side of the timed-event chute, where, now as a steer wrestling mount, Charlie has guided Cure to $63,201 in just eight nights in Las Vegas.
â€śWhen I turned that horse around (in the chute), he hit the corner and was locked in,â€ť said Cure, who won the eighth go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Thursday with a 3.8-second run. â€śI knew â€¦ he was going to leave flat and give me across the line in a good spot.â€ť
Charlie did his job well.
â€śI knew that was a good steer, but I had to get a (good) start,â€ť Cure said. â€śMy horse is getting better (in the timed-event chute) as the week has gone on. He stood sharp tonight and let me get the start, and (the steer) was good after that.â€ť
Thursdayâ€™s run marked Cureâ€™s second go-round victory this week. He also won Mondayâ€™s fifth round, which featured the same pen of steers, considered the â€śstrongâ€ť pen by the bulldoggers.
â€śIt not only helps us financially, but mentally as well,â€ť said Cure, who moved to fourth in the world standings with $128,208 â€“ heâ€™s only about $14,000 behind the leader, Reeves.
Cure, who also qualified for the NFR in 2009, is fourth in the average race with an eight-run cumulative time of 45.5 seconds, while Reeves sits seventh â€“ he fell in the aggregate standings after suffering a no time Thursday.
â€śHaving two go-round wins (after) not having won hardly any money in â€™09, itâ€™s certainly a confidence-builder,â€ť he said. â€śI want to continue pushing for the next two rounds and see how well it turns out.â€ť
What is different from four seasons ago?
â€śI feel like Iâ€™m physically a little bit stronger by working out,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™m more mentally prepared coming into this one. I knew what to expect. The mistakes I mightâ€™ve made in preparation the first time, I didnâ€™t want to make those again. I feel like this is the fruit for the labor.â€ť
Cureâ€™s work has paid off, but so has the effort produced by his hazer, Riley Duvall, who is compensated for his work by receiving a percentage of the bulldoggerâ€™s earnings. At this yearâ€™s NFR, Duvall has scored $7,900 from Cure.
â€śHeâ€™s earned every penny of it,â€ť cure said. â€śIâ€™ll get him paid before he leaves here. Iâ€™m so thankful for it.â€ť
1. Cody Teel on JK Rodeo’s Pale Face, 78.5 points, $18,630; 2. Josh Koschel, 70, $14,724; 3. Parker Breding, 68, $11,118; no other qualified rides.
1. Sherry Cervi, 13.71 seconds, $18,630; 2. Jane Melby, 13.77, $14,724; 3. Shada Brazile, 13.80, $11,118; 4. Michele McLeod, 13.84, $7,813; 5. Christy Loflin, 13.89, $4,808; 6. Kaley Bass, 14.01, $3,005.
1. Ryan Jarrett, 6.7 seconds, $18,630; 2. (tie) Tuf Cooper and Cody Ohl, 6.9, $12,291 each; 4. Trevor Brazile, 7.0, $7,813; 5. Tyson Durfey, 7.3, $4,808; 6. (tie) Shane Slack and Timber Moore, 7.8, $1,502 each.
1. Colby Lovell/Martin Lucero, 4.2 seconds, $18,630; 2. Trevor Brazile/Patrick Smith, 4.5, $14,724; 3. Kaleb Driggers/Travis Graves, 4.9, $11,118; 4. Luke Brown/Kollin VonAhn, 5.3, $7,813; 5. Drew Horner/Buddy Hawkins II, 5.7, $4,808; 6. (tie) Justin Davis/ Clay O’Brien Cooper and Derrick Begay/Cesar de la Cruz, 9.1, $1,502 each.
1. Hunter Cure, 3.8 seconds, $18,630; 2. Matt Reeves, 4.2, $14,724; 3. (tie) Trevor Knowles and Stan Branco, 4.3, $9,465; 5. K.C. Jones, 4.5, $4,808; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.6, $3,005.
1. Kaycee Field on Andrews Rodeo’s Cool Water, 83.5, $18,630; 2. Steven Peebles, 82.5, $14,724; 3. J.R. Vezain, 79, $11,118; 4. Bobby Mote, 78.5, $7,813; 5. Wes Stevenson, 74.5, $4,808; 6. Will Lowe, 74, $3,005.
Steer wrestler Riley Duvall comes from a long line of great bulldoggers and hazers. His great uncle, Roy Duvall, is a three-time world champion who owns the most NFR qualifications in the discipline. His dad is Sam, his uncle is Spud and his cousin is Tom, and all three have played their game at the NFR.
Sam, Spud and Grandpa Bill Duvall also have been known as tremendous horsemen and hazers, and Riley is following suit. At this yearâ€™s NFR, Riley Duvall is serving as hazer for three cowboys: Bray Armes, Hunter Cure and Matt Reeves.
On Wednesday night, Reeves won the round, and Armes placed second. They then paid Duvall $4,169 for his percentage of their winnings.
Through seven nights in Las Vegas, Duvall has added nearly $15,000 to his bank account. All three of his bulldoggers say Duvall is a major piece of their success, and in watching him work Wednesday, you can see why heâ€™s here. Heâ€™s at the top of his game.
LAS VEGAS â€“ The nastiest group of saddle broncs at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo werenâ€™t that tough for Cort Scheer.
On Wednesday night, Scheer rode four horses in order to post an 80.5 score during the seventh go-round, collecting a check worth $11,118 to make it all worth it. He now has earned nearly $37,000 at the NFR with three rounds remaining.
So what happened?
Scheer, 27, of Elsmere, Neb., was originally matched with Rosser Rodeoâ€™s Hat Stomper in what cowboys call the eliminator pen â€“ they are the hardest-to-ride horses bucking at the NFR. Hat Stomper, though, didnâ€™t have his kind of day, so Scheer was awarded a re-ride since the horse didnâ€™t allow the cowboy the opportunity to score well.
That same thing happened again â€¦ two more times. About 20 minutes after the close of the round Wednesday, Scheer climbed over the golden chutes inside the Thomas & Mack Center on C5 Rodeoâ€™s Biff, and the duo danced across the arena dirt for the third-place score. It was a big move for Scheer, who placed for just the third time.
Whatâ€™s most important is that Scheer is one of just two cowboys to have ridden all seven horses, matching Texan Jacobs Crawley. Still, Scheer is No. 1 in the all-important average race with a cumulative total score of 548 points, seven ahead of Crawley. The NFR average title is the second most coveted championship to win in rodeo, just behind the world championâ€™s gold buckle.
Itâ€™s also valued at $47,776, so thatâ€™s big, too. The Nebraska cowboy is seventh in the world standings, having earned $126,690 through the combined earnings of the regular season and the NFR. He trails world standings leader Jake Wright by $30,215. While the top prize in the average would enable Scheer to pass Wright, the Utah cowboy is third in the average, which, if he stays in that position, would pay $30,649.
So Scheer needs a little help if he is to claim his first world title. Heâ€™d like to collect his fair share of the $60,096 go-round purse each of the three nights and cash in with the big average check.
Thatâ€™s his focus for the final three rounds of this NFR. Itâ€™ll be worth the ride.
LAS VEGAS â€“ Tyler Willis took a deep breath, then excelled. It was a sigh of relief.
On Wednesday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the Wheatland, Wyo., bull rider marked his first qualified ride of this yearâ€™s championship, scoring 74.5 points on Rafter G Rodeoâ€™s Barabbas to finish fifth in the seventh round. He pocketed $4,808.
â€śI felt a lot better going in last night than when I started,â€ť said Willis, now in his second qualification to ProRodeoâ€™s championship. â€śMy finals wasnâ€™t going the way I planned, so I just started from scratch.â€ť
The NFR features only the top 15 cowboys in each event, and Willis earned the right to be in the City of Lights because of how well he competed through the regular season. He earned better than $75,000 heading into the 10-day championship, so he knows what it takes to stay on the backs of the nastiest bucking beasts in the business.
So when he failed to do so for the qualifying eight second through the first few nights of the NFR, Willisâ€™ confidence was shaken. He had to reach down into his gut, and reflect on the season, to gain that swagger back.
â€śItâ€™s just remembering what got you here,â€ť he said. â€śAlso the other guys in the locker room were trying to be so supportive. Everybody wants everybody else to do good, so you just keep trying and doing what you did all year long to get here.â€ť
Riding bucking bulls is tough in the first place, but Willis admitted that he was trying a little too hard. In an athletic competition, especially a championship like this, the mental game can help or hurt. So what was the main difference to Wednesday night?
â€śThe main thing is not thinking about it,â€ť said Willis, who says his sponsorship agreement with Wyoming Tourism and Cowboy Outfitters USA is what helped him succeed throughout the year. â€śI was trying too hard, and my muscles were too stiff. Last night, I was riding more like I need to ride.
â€śThe biggest mistake is over-thinking things. It can be pretty simple, but you can make it pretty hard on yourself, too.â€ť
Now that heâ€™s found the formula that works, the Wyoming cowboy hopes to follow that same approach heading into the final few nights of the NFR.
â€śIâ€™m down to three rounds, so itâ€™s just one bull at a time,â€ť he said. â€śIt doesnâ€™t matter what bull I get on. Iâ€™m just going to go at it like I did last night and see how it works.
â€śI donâ€™t have anything to lose, and thatâ€™s fine with me. Iâ€™ll just try to win.â€ť
LAS VEGAS â€“ How tough is it to rope steers in Las Vegas?
Through seven go-rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, only one team has caught all seven steers. Only two other teams have caught six.
For Jim Ross Cooper of Monument, N.M., and his heading partner, Brandon Beers, itâ€™s the nature of the beast. Theyâ€™ve scored times in five rounds so far, including a 7.3-second run on Wednesday nightâ€™s seventh round. It was good enough for sixth place and worth $3,005. In all, each roper has pocketed $17,839.
Why is it so danged tough? The NFR is ProRodeoâ€™s premier championship, and it features only the top 15 contestants in each discipline from the 2013 regular season. But the competition is set up as a challenge, so even the best in the business will be tested each round for 10 nights each December.
The arena in the Thomas & Mack Center is roughly the size of a hockey rink, so there isnâ€™t much space to maneuver two horses and a steer. Three head of livestock going as fast as they can makes for some quick times, but also some fast moves to make it work.
Still, Beers and Cooper â€“ sons of world champions â€“ have a solid footing heading into the final three nights of the competition. They are sixth in the average race with a seven-run cumulative time of 40.8 seconds. Beers is sixth in the heading world standings with a little more than $115,000, while Cooper sits fourth in heeling at $123,023.
Can they make a run at this yearâ€™s team roping gold buckles? They have three nights to make it happen, and in Las Vegas, anything can happen.