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Branco Wrests Lead in Hempstead

by Jim Bainbridge | Oct 02, 2015
By Ted Harbin/for the Waller County Fair & Rodeo committee

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Stan Branco makes no bones about his 2015 ProRodeo season.

“I just wasn’t bulldogging good enough,” said Branco, a 29-year-old steer wrestler from Chowchilla, Calif.

He kicked off his 2016 season on the right foot Oct. 1 with a 4.1-second run to take the early lead at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead.

“I rodeoed most of ’15 and came home early,” he said. “I wasn’t winning like I needed to. If I start off winning now, it’ll hopefully start the year off right and I won’t be home in December next year.”

Each regular season runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, and only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. It’s not only the cream of the crop in the sport, but it also features the biggest purse in rodeo.

“That’s where you make money,” said Branco, who earned a spot among the elite steer wrestlers at the NFR in 2013 and finished the season ninth in the final world standings. “It took a lot of money to make it to the NFR this year. The money is really spread out, and a lot of guys can dang sure bulldog.”

In fact, steer wrestling might be one of the toughest events in which to qualify for the finale, so getting an early start is key. Of course, competing in top form is also a must in the discipline, where proper technique often is matched with powerful men.

“Bulldogging used to be the place to get the aggression out,” he said. “I’m trying to get some of that back. I roped calves and team roped my whole life, and bulldogging is something more like football.”

Standing 6-foot-4, Branco weighs in at 260 pounds, and he looks like he could easily fit into an NFL lineup.

“The biggest thing for me before was the fight of it,” he said. “I need to get some of that back.”

It seems as though he’s well on his way.

Courtesy of PRCA