LAS VEGAS – One round after losing his world lead, Ty Erickson got back on track Thursday night at the National Finals Rodeo, while Lisa Lockhart suffered another blow.
Erickson put up a 4.0-second run in Round 8 of the steer wrestling competition, good for fifth place and $6,769. More importantly, it kept the Helena cowboy fifth in the NFR average race with just two rounds to go.
Clayton Hass and K.C. Jones took third and fourth, respectively, in Round 8 to technically up their world leads over Erickson, but neither is in position to earn any money in the average race. Hass leads the standings with $184,296. Jones is second at $174,062, while Erickson jumped up to third with $164,087 on the year.
Dakota Eldridge overtook Wheatland, Wyoming’s Seth Brockman for the average lead with a 3.6-second run in Round 8, while Brockman could only post a 5.7. Eldridge’s average total is 36.3 seconds on eight head. Brockman is now at 37.4 on eight.
If the rodeo ended Thursday night, Eldridge would would have claimed the title thanks to the $67,269 check awarded to the average winner. Hunter Cure, who is currently fourth in the world and the average, would finish second, while Erickson would finish third.
The top eight average placers win money.
News was not as good for Lisa Lockhart in the barrel racing competition.
The Circle cowgirl knocked over a barrel for the second straight night, taking her from fourth to seventh in the average race. Sarah Rose McDonald didn’t win a go-round check in Round 8 either, but stayed in third in the average which would represent about a $22,000 jump over Lockhart should things stay the same. McDonald leads Lockhart by just $214 in the world standings currently.
Callie duPerier, who came into the NFR leading the world, earned $8,884 for splitting fourth and fifth in Round 8, and also kept hold of the average lead. If the rodeo ended today, she would win the gold buckle thanks to that $67,269 payout.
Elsewhere, Seth Hardwick earned $20,731 Thursday for a second-place 80.5-point ride in the bareback competition. Hardwick jumped Kaycee Feild to second in the average race. That would be a $54,577 bonus on top of an already fantastic year from the Laramie, Wyoming cowboy who spent much of his childhood in Montana.
Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill again failed to cash in Round 8 of team roping. Corkill only hooked one leg, a five-second penalty that took them out of the money.
Edgar bull rider Parker Breding got back in the winning column Thursday night, scoring 77.5 points aboard Celebration. That’s $6,769 added to his yearly total, which still has him at third in the world. Sage Steele Kimzey and Cody Teel continue to battle for the gold buckle well ahead in first and second.
Trevor Brazile just keeps outdoing himself at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.
Brazile earned his 23rd gold buckle in Round 6 two nights ago when he clinched the world all-around title by winning the tie-down roping title with a 6.6-second run.
Tonight, he one-upped himself with a 6.5 to tie the arena record and nearly take the lead in the tie-down roping world standings. He trails brother-in-law Tuf Cooper by just $537, and trails only Caleb Smidt in the WNFR average race.
“That’s big,” Brazile said of tying the arena record. “I feel like I’ve made some great team roping runs here, and never had an arena record before (in that event). To think of all the guys who have got it on right here in this arena, to be able to say arena record, that’s special.”
The 6.5 tied Cody Ohl’s time from Round 10 of the 2003 WNFR. The previous Round 8 record was 6.7 by Ryan Jarrett in 2013.
If the rodeo ended right now, Brazile would win his fourth tie-down roping world title – and first since 2010 – which would make him a 24-time world champion. This was Brazile’s 63rd National Finals go-round win, in all events combined.
“I made up three seconds in the average, but I could’ve just as easily made up 2.8 seconds with two wraps (instead of one),” he said. “It’s just one of those things where we’re in Vegas and that’s (taking risks) part of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the blackjack table or the Thomas & Mack on the dirt, you have to know when to gamble.”
When Steven Peebles saw the draw for Round 8 of the WNFR he was like a kid on Christmas morning. The 26-year-old bareback rider had a date with Frontier Rodeo’s Full Baggage, and he took full advantage, vaulting himself into serious contention for the gold buckle with an 89.5-point trip.
“If I could’ve picked any horse in the pen tonight, that was the one I wanted,” the Redmond, Ore., cowboy said. “He’s not a counterfeit horse, and he’s not going to duck and dive or cheat you. He’s just a straight bucking horse who’s big and strong, and if you ride right, you’re going to be a bunch of points. Going for a world title like I am, that’s the one I was hoping for, and luckily I got him.”
It was Peebles’ fourth round win in eight nights in Las Vegas, and it brought him within $10,000 of world standings leader Kaycee Feild. Peebles also regained the lead in the RAM Top Gun standings, and now leads bull rider Cody Teel by more than $21,000. After Feild failed to earn a check tonight and fell from second to third in the average, Peebles – No. 1 in the average – is now in the driver’s seat to dethrone the four-time defending world champ. If the rodeo ended right now, Peebles would take home the hardware. However, he won’t let his mind wander to what that first gold buckle would feel like on his belt.
“I keep telling myself over and over when those thoughts start getting into my head that we still have a lot of rodeo left and a lot of money to be won,” Peebles said. “I have to just keep riding normal and not get over-excited. Two nights ago I noticed myself starting to get worked up, and doing things I didn’t want to do. So I went out there tonight and made sure I didn’t have a single butterfly and got on completely calm.”
Rusty Wright is making his family proud, and doing all he can to make a late push toward a world championship in the saddle bronc riding. The 20-year-old won his second go-round buckle in a row – and third in five nights – with an 87-point ride on Powder River Rodeo’s Lipstick N Whiskey.
“I knew it was a great horse,” Rusty said. “My dad (two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright) was 89 on him in Plains, Mont., this year. He told me to stay back and lift on my rein, and to stick to the basics. I knew he was going to be a bucker. I knew I needed to perform.”
Wright performed well enough to move into the world standings lead, edging Cody DeMoss by nearly $4,000 at the top.
With many family members in attendance, including grandparents Bill and Evelyn, Rusty has been tough as nails in the arena, even if he gets a bit nervous when he receives his go-round buckles.
“Grandma loves being here – she goes to all the autograph signings and the buckle presentation at the South Point,” Rusty said. “I’m more nervous on stage there than I am during the bronc riding. My grandpa Bill works the ‘out’ gate in the arena, where guys walk out; he’s done that for a lot of years.”
While Wright and DeMoss are 1-2 in the world standings, Jacobs Crawley still remains the favorite to collect the gold buckle. Crawley is just $6,000 behind Wright, and leads the WNFR average by four points over Wade Sundell. With two more solid rides, Crawley may walk out with his first gold buckle.
Luke Branquinho performed like the champion rodeo fans are used to seeing tonight, winning the steer wrestling with a time of 3.5 seconds. Unfortunately, it may be too little, too late for a gold buckle. The five-time defending world champ now sits sixth in the world standings, but is 13th in the WNFR average race after a slow start in Las Vegas.
“I’ve had chances,” Branquinho said. “I’ve been signing autographs and people keep coming and saying to me that I’ve been drawing bad, but I haven’t drawn one that I shouldn’t have been good on. I should have placed on 90 percent of the steers I’ve drawn thus far this week. I just didn’t do my job – whether it was not getting a start or not making a good run.”
He certainly did his job in Round 8, edging Dakota Eldridge by a tenth of a second. For Branquinho, it was his second victory lap of the rodeo, as he split the Round 2 title. Branquinho, who’s riding Eldridge’s horse, Rusty, extended his Wrangler NFR steer wrestling all-time round wins record to 24. While it isn’t likely for him to win his sixth gold buckle, he’s not ruling anything out.
“You never know, some guys might fall out of the average, and I might move up some spots,” he said. “But right now, it’s go-rounds like it always is for me.”
Eldridge was the big winner in the grand scheme of things tonight, moving to fifth in the world and first in the WNFR average. If the rodeo ended right now, he’d be the world champion. However, as it stands after eight rounds, Clayton Hass still holds the world standings lead.
Team ropers Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn won their first round of this WNFR when they clocked a 3.6-second run, and in the process threw their hat into the ring for the world championship chase. The win moved the pair into third in the WNFR average, and gave both a chance at the gold buckle.
“I feel like we’ve roped every steer for what we drew here this week and if it worked out, great – if it didn’t, we just tried again next time,” Brown said. “I feel like we’ve done a decent job on every steer we’ve had so far. We really weren’t going for the round tonight. This steer was just that good. Our goal all week has been to catch 10 steers.”
Brown is now sixth in the world heading standings and VonAhn is fourth among heelers.
“I’m a lucky son of a gun,” VonAhn said. “My headers have always roped good here. This is not an easy spot to head good, and Luke’s turned every steer for money. He’s done a great job all week. Our horses (Brown’s riding Rockstar, and VonAhn’s on Hawk) are working great here.”
Derrick Begay and Clay O’Brien Cooper remain the world standings leaders, but a very compelling story has begun to emerge in the team roping. If the rodeo ended tonight, JoJo LeMond and Junior Nogueira – on the strength of leading the WNFR average – would be the world champions, despite never roping together before this WNFR. Nogueira’s partner, Jake Barnes, was injured the week before the WNFR and couldn’t compete, which moved LeMond into the field.
Bull rider Joe Frost won his second round of the WNFR with an 85.5-point ride on Beutler & Sons’ Nod Big’s 90 Proof – he also won Round 4.
“I felt in control, and there was no way I was going to hit the ground tonight,” Frost said. “I was excited to get that bull, and I was going to ride him. I’d seen him a lot, and knew Sage (Kimzey) had a lot of luck with him. If you draw into Beutler’s pen, that’s a great one to have.”
Cody Teel continued his surge toward world standings leader Kimzey, earning his seventh check in eight nights with a fourth-place finish tonight.
Teel remains No. 1 in the WNFR average race, and trails Kimzey by $33,000 in the world standings. While Kimzey still controls his own destiny, Teel could steal the gold buckle the last two nights.
Barrel racer Michele McLeod won her second round of the WNFR with a 13.72-second run tonight.
McLeod didn’t start the season on her current horse, Slick, who has been key to McLeod placing in five of eight rounds. Early in the rodeo season, Michele’s daughter, Katelyn, was riding Slick. Katelyn finished third in the barrel racing rookie standings.
“Actually, it was Katelyn that brought up the idea,” McLeod said. “She’s the one who said I needed to take him so I could make it here again. I am very lucky that both of my daughters love barrel racing as much as me. We spend many hours every day riding together, and this summer it was Katelyn and I together on the road. It was a ball. I am blessed to have this life.”
While McLeod took the victory lap, Callie duPerier had the biggest night in the world standings. With her split of fourth place, duPerier remained first in the average and is about $11,000 behind leader Sarah Rose McDonald. If the rodeo ended tonight, duPerier would be the world champ.
The 57th annual Wrangler NFR continues Friday with the ninth round at the Thomas & Mack Center. Action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (Charter 634, DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 8-11.