Irwin Anxious for Return to Finals

KENNEWICK, WASH. – Kyle Irwin got a taste of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last year for the first time, and he’s determined to have a second helping this December.

The 25-year-old steer wrestler from Robertsdale, Ala. – who was representing Team Pendleton Whisky – took another step toward reaching that goal Tuesday night when he won the bulldogging at the Kennewick Wrangler Champions Challenge, presented by Justin Boots.

Irwin’s time of 4.2 seconds edged Ty Erickson and earned him a check for $5,440.

“I needed that,” he said. “I knew it would help me out a bunch. I try not to look at the standings too much, but I knew how much I’d won. I’d like to get in my safe spot at about $65,000 and I’d feel good about getting back to Las Vegas.”

Irwin was 14th in Monday’s Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings. The win in Kennewick moved him up five spots to ninth with $59,382.

Erickson, who took second for Team Wrangler, moved past Hunter Cure and Luke Branquinho to take over first place in the world standings with $71,306.

Irwin finished second in the world last year to Branquinho, who won his fifth gold buckle. Irwin earned $147,875 in 2014 and qualified for his first Wrangler NFR. He was fourth in the average race at the Finals while winning $87,963.

“I got a taste of it last year, and the money at the Finals will be even bigger this year,” he said. “Everybody who has the heart of a champion will bust their butt to get there. The Finals is where you can make some serious money.”

This was Irwin’s first win at a Wrangler Champions Challenge event; he was second at the WCC rodeos in Logandale, Nev., and Redding, Calif., earlier this year.

“It felt good to win this one,” he said. “In these deals, you only have to beat five guys to get a check, but it’s 10 pretty good guys.”

Other winners at the $123,600 rodeo were bareback riders Kaycee Feild (82 points on Big Bend Rodeo’s Cougar Mountain) of Wrangler and Clint Cannon (82 points on Flying 5 Rodeo’s Rio’s Edge) of ProRodeo Gear, team ropers Derrick Begay and Travis Woodard (4.2 seconds) of Experience Kissimmee, saddle bronc rider Isaac Diaz (83 points on Big Bend Rodeo’s Jamboree) of ProRodeo Gear, tie-down ropers Tuf Cooper (6.9 seconds) of Justin Boots and Adam Gray (6.9 seconds) of Wrangler, barrel racer Mary Walker (17.47 seconds) of Justin Boots and bull rider Chandler Bownds (89 points on Flying 5 Rodeo’s Celebration) of RAM.

It was Bownds’ second consecutive win at a Champions Challenge event. He won the bull riding Aug. 16 at the Cody (Wyo.) WCC.

Read more about the Kennewick Wrangler Champions Challenge in the Sept. 11 ProRodeo Sports News.

Courtesy of PRCA