By Ruth Nicolaus
St. Paul, Ore. – After the first night of the St. Paul (Ore.) Rodeo, an Alabama man is in the lead in the steer wrestling.
Kyle Irwin, Robertsdale, Ala., had a combined time of 8.6 seconds on two runs, 4.4 in the first round and 4.2 in the second, to lead the pack of 82 steer wrestlers.
The two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier (2014-2015) took advantage of a good situation. “I drew two really good steers today, that’s all I can say,” he said. “I scored good and made good runs with good opportunities. That’s the most important thing you have to do, especially this busy time of year.”
The horse Irwin rides was a big part of his success. He and fellow steer wrestler Tyler Pearson bought the twelve-year-old sorrel gelding in March of 2016, in an unusual way: sight unseen.
“He was a hard horse to buy,” Irwin said. “Not that we didn’t want him, but we didn’t see him before we bought him.” The horse, Scooter, was purchased from North Dakota cowboy Jason Reiss. “We’d heard about him from a few people, but he hadn’t been seen much. He had a pretty decent little price tag on him, but we’re really glad we did.”
Irwin, as well as Pearson, and two other steer wrestlers: Hunter Cure and Tyler Waguespack rode Scooter in St. Paul, and Robertson is in second place at the ProRodeo in Airdrie, Alberta, riding Scooter. “I feel like he’s changed my winning expectations a lot,” Irwin said.
Over the Fourth of July rodeo run, also called Cowboy Christmas for the number of high-paying rodeos during the week before and after the holiday, Irwin will travel with Pearson, his usual traveling partner, as well as Blaine Jones and Errol Flain. They left St. Paul, headed for rodeos in Livingston and Red Lodge, Mont., and Cody, Wyo., all on July 1.
As of Friday afternoon, Irwin was qualifying for the short round in Ponoka, where he’ll compete, while the rest of the truck heads to Oakley City, Utah. Irwin will fly to Prescott, Ariz., on July 4, where he’ll compete there, as well as Window Rock, Ariz. Then it’s Vernal, Utah, on the seventh, Estes Park, Colo., on the eighth, then on the eleventh he’ll head to the Calgary Stampede.
His wife, Randa, and five-month-old son, Tripp, will join him on the trip to Canada. Irwin keeps a picture of his smiling son on his cell phone. Tripp, the couple’s first child, has made a difference in his rodeo.
“I never thought I could love something that much,” Irwin said. “He makes me try hard. Every time I made a bad run, I used to throw my sucker in the dirt. But now I look at the picture on my phone, and I think, what does it matter?”
Irwin realizes there are five more rodeo performances in St. Paul, and a lot more steer wrestling, but his lead is good. “This St. Paul thing sure would be good,” he said. He’s ranked in the top 35 in the PRCA world standings, and a check from St. Paul would boost his earnings.
In the bull riding, three of nine bull riders made qualified rides, and Brennon Eldred, Sulphur, Okla., came out on top.
The 22-year-old cowboy rode the bull named Mortimer, owned by Big Stone, Moreno and Growney Rodeo Co., for 85 points to take the lead at the rodeo.
It was the third time he’s been on the bull in the last ten months, and all three times, he’s made the 8-second buzzer. “It’s nice getting on one you’ve already rode, and a good (bull) at that, at a rodeo like this,” Eldred said.
This is Eldred’s fourth trip to St. Paul; he was co-champion two years ago.
Eldred’s traveling partner, Douglas Duncan, scored 79 at the rodeo, and it’s an energy builder for them. “It fires the rig up and makes us want to ride that much more, especially when you see the first guy stay on. You don’t want to be the one in the rig who’s falling behind.”
“This is the start of our Fourth (of July) run, and hopefully we can finish how we started.”
Other high scores and fast times from Friday’s competition at the St. Paul Rodeo were bareback rider JR Vezain, Cowley, Wyo. (82 points), tie-down ropers Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas, and Cimarron Boardman, Stephenville, Texas (8.5 seconds each in the second round), saddle bronc rider Samuel Kelts, Millarville, Alberta (81.5 points), team ropers Kelsey Parchman, Cumberland City, Tenn., and Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont. (4.8 seconds in the second round), and barrel racer Amberleigh Moore, Keizer, Ore. (17.65 seconds).
Saturday’s rodeo is at 7:30 p.m., with performances following on July 2-4, at 7:30 p.m. each night and a 1:30 p.m. matinee on July 4. Tickets are still available and range in price from $18 to $30 and are available online at StPaulRodeo.com and at the ticket office at the rodeo grounds. For more information, visit the rodeo’s website or call the rodeo office at 800-237-5920.
Courtesy of PRCA