February may be the shortest month on the calendar but for the cowboys and cowgirls of professional rodeo, it can often be one of the most lucrative. The month closes with a bang each year with the conclusion of three of the winter's largest events--the San Angelo (TX) Rodeo, the San Antonio (TX) Stock Show and Rodeo and La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (the Tucson Rodeo)--within 24 hours of each other.
In 2013 San Angelo's final round came during a Saturday matinee, February 23 with San Antonio's championships that night. The Tucson Rodeo closed out the weekend with a Sunday, February 24 matinee finals. Competitors scrambled from one event to the next, hoping to take a piece of the nearly $2 million in total purse offered by the big three.
With so much money at stake, it's no surprise that the new world standings following this weekend showed changes to the leaders in five categories.
No doubt the biggest mover was Colorado bull rider Josh Koschel. Along with the three rodeos, bull riders also have the chance to compete at the Xtreme Bulls event in San Antonio, which happens Saturday afternoon, February 23 prior to the finals of the rodeo. The richest event on the Xbulls schedule with $100,000 in prize money, the San Antonio event annually draws the best riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Koschel double-dipped during a very special Saturday. Riding both his bulls during the Xtreme event, Koschel earned $24,440 for winning the event with a score of 169.5 points. It was the cowboy's first Xtreme event win.
"There have been seasons that I didn't make this much money," Koschel told prorodeo.com. "It was my dream coming in here to win both the Xtreme Bulls and the rodeo but I don't know if I ever thought it would really happen."
Just hours after the Xteme win, Koschel was one of just two cowboys to make eight seconds during the Championships of the San Antonio rodeo, stuffing another $16,867 in his Wranglers for his 84 point ride on D&H Cattle's Moebandy.com.
With a weekend worth $41,306, Koschel shot to the lead of the PRCA bull riding standings. The previous week's leader, fellow Colorado cowboy Tyler Smith, had a good week as well, taking the Championship in Tucson but his $6,550 was only good enough to hold to fifth in the standings released February 25.
Elsewhere, team ropers Erich Rogers and Cory Petska made a big move with a nearly $16,000 weekend. The Arizona ropers took third in San Antonio and added some cash from Tucson to move from outside the top 20 all the way to second in the team roping standings.
Texas roper Landon McClaugherty held onto the top spot for headers after picking up $15,618 with his partner Tommy Zuniga; the pair finished second in San Antonio and also placed in San Angelo. Zuniga took the lead in the heeling standings, replacing former leader Kory Koontz.
There was also a shake-up in the tie down roping standings where Sterling Smith shot to the top of the leader board after earning $5,445 in San Angelo and $13.755 in San Antonio along with the Reserve title. Smith is having the best season of his career with well over $30,000 already to the good.
For two-time and reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Kaycee Field, it didn't take long to get back to the top. Field was ranked fourth prior to the conclusion of the big three but the Utah cowboy proved once again just how good he is, winning first in San Angelo and splitting the final round victory in San Antonio. Though the title at the latter went to J.R. Verzain on the tie breaker, Field still earned nearly $26,000 at the two rodeos. He has now earned more than any other event leader other than Koschel.
In the All Around race, Trevor Brazile took the top spot this week away from upcoming roper Rhen Richard. Richard led last week and had a solid week, earning $6,000 and the All Around title in San Angelo. While Brazile didn't win the All Around for any of the big three rodeos, he still earned enough to push past Richard by just under $3,000.
There were no leader changes in the steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding or Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racing but things did get interesting. Louisiana cowboy Casey Martin held off the defending World Champion Luke Branquinho to hold onto the lead in the steer wrestling. Martin earned almost $12,000 in Texas while Branquinho took nearly $15,000 after splitting the final round win in San Antonio. Like Field, Branquinho lost the title on the tie breaker but moved from sixth to second in the standings behind Martin.
Two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright continues to lead his event despite not earning any huge checks over the weekend. Wright earned a little in Tucson and San Antonio to hold his lead going into March.
In the barrel racing, another reigning champion made a strong move to repeat in 2013. Mary Walker dominated the final rounds in San Angelo, setting two new arena records en route to the championship there. She earned $14,593 in West Texas and added almost $4,000 from San Antonio to move within $150 of leader Jane Melby.