It's halftime at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) and in several events, the score is a virtual tie. A pair of former champions ran out to the lead after taking go round wins during Round 5, Tough Enough to Wear Pink night at the rodeo. Bobby Mote is seeking his fifth title in bareback riding and Cody Ohl is looking for gold buckle number seven: he has five in the tie down roping and one All Around.
Mote had to work for his win; after scoring just 66.5 points on Night Bells, he was awarded a re-ride. He had to wait through the team roping and steer wrestling to get his chance but he made the most of it. His score of 87.5 points was good enough to tie with Casey Colletti for the win. Colletti rode Top Flight from Pickett Pro Rodeo while Mote's re-ride was PTSD Power Play from Andrews Rodeo.
Colletti is riding hurt after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee two rounds back.
"It feels about 75 percent better tonight, but it still hurts," Colletti said. "I've been icing it and having laser therapy and Justin Sportsmedicine Team is taping it every night. I hurt it in Round 3 on Full Baggage, right at the buzzer when it got twisted. In Round 4 I had to get on two. The first one posted me on the gate and hit my knee. I got a re-ride and got bucked off right before the buzzer."
"This was huge for me," Colletti said of the round win. "I've had a rough week. The horses I've drawn aren't having their best days. And last night I had the no-score, which is disheartening because there's so much money if you win the average. Now I just have to go round to round and see how I do."
"Even though you have a bad day, it's still great to be here. It gets damn tough when you're fighting an injury and your horses don't do as well as you want, but it can all change in eight seconds like it did for me tonight."
For Mote, PTSD Power Play was a rematch.
"I won on him at the [Wrangler] Champions Challenge in Amarillo [Sept. 18]," said Mote of the horse. "So I was pretty excited to draw him for the re-ride. He's a horse with excellent timing. He jumps high, kicks great and is real showy. He stayed in one spot for a couple of seconds, which was great. I was glad to get a second chance (on the re-ride)."
"I feel like I've been riding good and doing my job. I was fighting the flu the first three days; I've had that since about Thanksgiving," Mote said. He came to Vegas with the lead in the standings but lost it during Round 2. "I finally felt good the last two days. It's nice to get a little momentum now. A lot can change in the second half [of the rodeo] with a lot of money to win."
"We were at the South Point earlier today and [my 10-year old daughter] Laura told them we'd be here twice today [for the buckle presentation,]" Mote continued. "The lady didn't catch what she meant, but I sure did. She was just right up front about me winning tonight."
Mote now leads defending champion Kaycee Feild by just over $4,000; Feild is second in the average behind WNFR rookie Austin Foss while Mote is sixth.Will Lowe came to Vegas ranked third and kept his chances alive with another round check; he trails Mote by about $15,000 and is fifth in the average.
Meanwhile, Cody Ohl did just what Cody Ohl does. He won another go round at the WNFR. He now has 50 total round wins, including three from the National Finals Steer Roping. His 7.3 seconds edged Trevor Brazile and Brazile's brother-in-law Clif Cooper by one tenth for a third straight round win.
"I stubbed my toe in the second round and I knew it was the right start and it just didn't work," Ohl said of a broken barrier. "I have taken the same start three more times and won first with it. I got the start figured out and I'm just giong to keep coming with it."
Ohl moved ahead of standings leader Tuf Cooper for the first time this season; his lead is $6,805 after earning $53,936 during the first five rounds of the WNFR. Cooper continued to struggle and has earned just $6,911. Ohl also moved ahead of Cooper in the average.
"It always goes like this for me and the ninth round has cost me two or three times in the last few years," Ohl said. "I haven't got started as strong right now as I have and I was still having to press come the ninth round instead of being a little more confident and being able to take another swing. Hopefully if we get to the ninth round this year I've found my groove and I can prepare and set my run up a little more."
Another cowboy making a huge run at the World Championship is saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell. Sundell has been involved in several exciting finishes over the last few years, most memorably battling to the tenth round with Cody Wright in 2010.
In Round 5, Sundell took a ride on Lunatic Fringe from the Burch Rodeo Company for 87.5 points. The big splashy paint has a great night and Sundell enjoyed his sixth trip aboard him.
"When I found out I had drawn that horse I was wound up tighter than an eight-day clock," Sundell said. "I wanted him because last year in the 10th round I missed him out and didn't get a score on him, and I darn sure wasn't going to let that happen again. That's a great horse and I'm always happy to have him."
"I feel good and I feel like it doesn't matter what they run underneath me at this point; I feel like I can win on anything I draw," Sundell said of his hot streak. He's won nearly $53,000 so far. "Lunatic Fringe kicks so hard and is so flashy and showy and gives you the opportunity to do what you need to do to win. It's one of the greatest horses there is, and everybody loves to have a horse like that. I was so excited I threw my hat, and I'm still excited enough to throw it again."
Sundell moved to third in the standings, about $13,000 behind Wright. More importantly, he is fourth in the average while Wright is 15th after bucking off several nights. Cort Scheer still leads the average and is sixth in the world.
"You know it's there and it's always in your grasp if you ride well enough and keep capitalizing each round," Sundell said of the title race. He came to Vegas ranked ninth, lower than his usual position. "I've always wanted to win the TV pen, and it finally worked out tonight. that makes a guy feel pretty good about himself."
Another race that is getting full is in the steer wrestling. Leaders Casey Martin and Trevor Knowles failed to place once again and, though they did not lose their positions in the standings, the rest of the field continues to gather them up.
In Round 5 it was Hunter Cure taking his first every victory lap here at the Thomas & Mack. He stopped the clock at 4.1 seconds as the first guy to compete and had to sweat out the rest of the field.
"It seemed like an eternity there," he said. "It seemed like the bulldoggers would never stop coming. I felt like my steer didn't run hard as some and I thought there was certainly a chance to place, but winning the round was really not in my thoughts. This feels good."
Cure moved to fourth in the standings, just about $22,000 behind Martin. Seven cowboys are within $34,000 of the lead, or the equivalent of a couple of round wins. Jule Hazen is one of those seven and is leading the average. If it holds up, that would be a $47,776 paycheck after the 10th round. Cure is eighth in the average with Martin sixth and Knowles ninth.
"After being 12 seconds on my fourth steer, I have to go and be aggressive the rest of the week to play a little catch-up in the average," said Cure. "I feel like the majority of these cattle all handle really, really flat with their nose, and the guy who was able to get their head the best on a slower type of cow would be the winner tonight."
In the Women's Pro Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racing and in the bull riding, the champions are starting to slide away from the herd just a bit. Three-time WPRA champ Sherry Cervi took a check for the fifth straight round, splitting third three ways while J.W. Harris rode another bull, stretching his lead in the average to 10 points ahead of Shane Proctor.
The go round belonged to Lisa Lockhart and her great horse Louie in the barrels, however. They rounded the cloverleaf in 13.72 seconds, just one one-hundredth better than reigning champion Mary Walker. Lockhart, who generally earns close to $100K during the WNFR had only won $11,000 prior to the win.
"Well, the first performance I felt good, and even the second performance didn't worry me," she said. "But, I have to admit that following Saturday and Sunday I was a little disappointed. I began to ask myself what I needed to do differently. I studied my runs to see if I thought I needed to make some adjustments but I couldn't find any real problems. Last year I started out slowly too so I finally decided that I just needed to persevere and things would turn around. And now they have."
Lockhart is second behind Cervi in the average, one of four barrel racers who have not suffered a penalty for knocking over a barrel. For the first time this week, Cervi lead shrank following a round as Walker picked up second place money but the lead is still $44,000.
Trey Benton III won the night in the bull riding. His 90.5 point ride on Gin & Juice from Andrews Rodeo was a point better than Tyler Smith's ride on Wish This from Growney Brothers. It was Benton's first career round win here in his second trip.
"Honestly, words can't describe it," said Benton. "I had a bad year here last year, and I started off this time just as bad, so I feel like a heavy weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can go back to riding the way I know I can."
"The only other guy to ride him [Gin & Juice] was my good friend Reid Barker, so I knew he was a tough bull," said Benton. "But I'm not a guy who looks at stats; a bull can have a good day or a bad day just like we can, so I don't think there a need to go look at what a bull has done in the past. I just show up and ride them."
"He's moving the whole time," he said of his draw. "Most bulls spin or move, but he spins and moves at the same time, which make it difficult. Now that I've ridden a bull like that, I'm ready to roll and I feel like the rodeo has now begun for me."
Benton is competing with a rod in a leg that he broke at Puyallup back in September.
"It's hurting pretty bad, and I haven't been able to move real well or run since my surgery. It's been three months since I broke my femur and it's about halfway healed. It bothers me during the day, but hey, it's just one of those deals as a cowboy. You have to step up and get through it."
By far the roughest event of the night was the team roping. Charly Crawford and Ryan Motes won the night with a 5.8 second run. Motes has made a tradition of dying his goatee pink for TETWP night here at the WNFR and, after winning this round a year ago, decided it was good luck.
"I joked about doing it last year and about an hour before the rodeo, my mom showed up with the dye," he laughs. "After winning it last year, I figured I better stick with it."
This was Motes' first time to win a go round without sharing it with another team.
"This is cool. Every other time I've been here I've split 'em. The one run I thought we'd get beat up on . . . they left us alone tonight for some strange reason. I have no idea why. The steers are big, the horns are big and their feet are wide, so the degree of difficulty is pretty high."
Crawford, who earlier this WNFR shared in his first career round win at the Finals, summed the run up with less euphemism.
"It was straight running horrible," he laughed of his loop, which he had to fish onto the horns. "I don't know what was going on, it's pretty cold back there, you're ropes are cold. That wasn't a hard shot for me . . . some nights it's just contagious." By the time Crawford backed in the box, a 6.1 posted by world leaders Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill was sitting first with only four times on the books.
"The team roping was hard tonight, and it shouldn't have been," said Crawford. "Ryan pulled off a great shot and cleaned up the mess I made. We'll take it."
Tryan and Corkill have extended their lead for the titles; they are about $23,000 and $17,000 ahead of Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves, respectively. The average lead went to Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn after Round 5 when both the Minor brothers and Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton failed to stop the clock.
Round 6 begins at 6:45 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday night, December 10. It is Rookie Night with all of this year’s PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year Award winners being honored in the arena – Caleb Smidt (all-around and tie-down roping), Tim O’Connell (bareback riding), Jason Thomas (steer wrestling), Chace Thompson (team roping heading), Will Woodfin (team roping heeling), Ty Kirkland (saddle bronc riding), Brodie Poppino (steer roping) and Taylor Jacob (WPRA barrel racing). The bull riding rookie race between Cooper Davis and Elliot Jacoby will be decided over the last five days of the Wrangler NFR; Davis currently leads Jacoby by $17,969.
Round 1 recap
Round 2 recap
Round 3 recap
Round 4 recap
Other Round 5 Notes:
Bull rider Steve Woolsey scared the crowd when he bucked off underneath his bull, Strike Back. The bull appeared to step on the Utah cowboy's head, leaving him unconscious in the arena. He was carried out on a backboard but regained awareness in the Justin Sportsmedicine room and was not transported to the hospital. His father reported that he had a "bump on the head" but the Sportsmedicine report shows a concussion and abrasions on his shoulder. Officially, he is listed as questionable for tonight but Woolsey says he's riding.
Shada and Trevor Brazile both placed in Round 4, marking the first time since 2006 that a husband-wife team earned checks in the same round. That year it was Brittany Pozzi-Pharr and then-husband Doug Pharr. When the duo repeated the feat last night, it was the first time a married couple had won checks in consecutive rounds here, following Molly and Turtle Powell back in 2004.
Speaking of Brazile, he came close to clinching his record breaking 19th PRCA World Championship in Round 5 but fell $136 short. The only way he won't clinch his 11th All Around title in Round 6 is if he fails to draw a check in either the tie down or team roping while closest rival Jade Corkill wins the go with partner Clay Tryan.
Ram Truck Top Gun Award: Sherry Cervi still leads the standings for the award given to the high money winner in a single event here in Vegas. She has placed in all five rounds and earned $62,600.16. Cervi was the high money winner at the WNFR back in 2009, the year before Ram Trucks began the Top Gun award. Her closest competitor is tie down roper Cody Ohl; with three back-to-back-to-back round wins, the Texan has earned $53,936 while Wade Sundell is just behind him at $52,985.