Wrangler NFR Round 1 News and Notes

by | Dec 01, 2016

Road to Vegas is the opening act and the national anthem will be performed by country music star Mark Wills. Pendleton Whisky is the performance sponsor.

Tonight’s Wrangler NFR presented by Polaris RANGER will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DISH Network channel 158 and DirecTV channel 221) from 7-10 p.m. (PT) with Jeff Medders and Butch Knowles announcing, Joe Beaver and Don Gay providing commentary, Suzanne Alexander hosting the pre-show and Kadee Coffman as the sideline reporter. All 10 performances of the 2016 Wrangler NFR will be available live with a video-on-demand option via pay-per-view through exclusively in Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Australia. ProRodeo Live is airing coverage on a network of radio stations, including Rural Radio, and also online at with Steve Kenyon as the lead announcer.

Entering the 2016 Wrangler NFR presented by Polaris RANGER there are 24 PRCA cowboys who have won $2 million or more in their careers, and there are two guys in this year’s WNFR who could move up sharply on the all-time list. Both are named Cody, and both are saddle bronc riders. Cody Wright needs $87,626 to move from 15th on the all-time list to 11th, surpassing Will Lowe. He could surpass Luke Branquinho in 14th place on the first night (he trails Branquinho by just $16,426, so a first- or second-place finish would do it). If Wright were to take away as much as $134,625 at the end of the 10 days he would move into the Top 10 on the all-time list, bumping Dan Mortensen. The second Cody in the equation is Cody DeMoss, who is currently 23rd on the all-time earnings list with $2,084,208 and with $100,000 he would move all the way to 19th, bumping Mike Beers, Roy Cooper, Clay Tryan and Kory Koontz. He could move ahead of both Beers and Cooper on the first night by finishing third or better.

There are 142 Cowboy Millionaires entering the rodeo and these seven have a chance to join them by the end of the rodeo:

Name Earnings Needs
Dugan Kelly $981,809 $18,191
Shane Proctor $942,255 $57,745
Riley Minor $930,455 $69,545
Russell Cardoza $916,900 $83,100
Kaleb Driggers $890,899 $109,101
Erich Rogers $842,873 $157,127
Sage Kimzey $838,730 $161,270

Keep in mind that Kimzey has averaged $159,022 in his first two WNFRs and is aiming to become the youngest cowboy millionaire in history, supplanting Tuf Cooper. Kimzey will end this WNFR at 22 years, 3 months, 2 weeks. Cooper reached $1 million 22 days after his 23rd birthday.

The PRCA annual awards banquet took place before a crowd of more than 1,000 people at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa’s Grand Ballroom last night, and the third time was a charm for Sandy Gwatney, as she was awarded Secretary of the Year. Gwatney has been working as a rodeo secretary since 1999 and used to haze for her husband, John. As time went on, their horses were unable to keep up with the demands of rodeo – but Gwatney’s enthusiasm never slowed down. “We needed to stay in the game, and I just love what I do,” Gwatney said. “The cowboys are family, and to work for them is truly a blessing – to be in the community and family that you love.” For a full list of winners, visit

Cody Teel, the 2012 PRCA bull riding world champion, has already had an eventful time in Las Vegas. He and his wife Kaitlin were married on Nov. 30 at the Wynn Hotel in front of family and friends. Teel enters the WNFR in sixth place in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings with $102,194.

In first round of the Wrangler NFR, Tim O’Connell, the regular-season standings leader will try to get his third-consecutive trip to the WNFR going on the right foot when he faces Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Sacred Nation. A year ago, O’Connell won Round 1 with an 84.5-point ride on D&H Cattle’s Dilly Bar. In saddle bronc riding, one matchup to watch is Sterling Crawley facing off with Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic Fringe. Lunatic Fringe is from the same bloodline as Gray Wolf, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Aug. 6. Gray Wolf never went to the NFR, but he was among the best sires owned by the legendary Tooke family. Of the 15 saddle bronc riders in the field, Cody DeMoss (2007) and Jake Wright (2013) are the only two riders with first-round WNFR wins. Sterling’s brother, reigning World Champion Jacobs Crawley, draws Big Rafter Rodeo’s Pearl. The same horse CoBurn Bradshaw won the All American ProRodeo Finals on with an 88-point ride in the finals at the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas, Oct. 15. Bull rider Garrett Smith, who is making his first appearance at the WNFR, will get a great test in Round 1 as he takes on Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Crystal Deal. Crystal Deal was the 2015 Pendleton Whisky Let ’er Buck Bucking Stock Bull of the Year, and was also the voted the top bull of the 2013 WNFR. Sage Kimzey, the two-time reigning world champion bull rider, takes on Frontier Rodeo’s After Shock in Round 1.

Record times and scores for the first round of the WNFR:
Bareback riding: 89 points, Kaycee Feild, 2011; Wes Stevenson, 2006
Steer wrestling: 3.1 seconds, Trevor Knowles, 2013
Team roping: 4.0 seconds, Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 2014
Saddle bronc riding: 89 points, Bryce Miller, 2008
Tie-down roping: 6.8 seconds, Trevor Brazile, 2015
Barrel racing: 13.75 seconds, Mary Walker, 2012
Bull riding: 94 points, Donnie Gay, 1974; Blue Stone, 2001

Courtesy of PRCA