By Ted Harbin/for the Chisholm Trail RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
DUNCAN, Okla. – Steer wrestler Kyle Irwin has had a season to remember in ProRodeo.
On Oct. 18, he added a strong statement to his 2014 campaign, winning the final round of the Chisholm Trail RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo and securing the coveted average championship. Now he’ll add that perfect exclamation point in seven weeks with his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“Last year when I knew I’d made the RAM National Circuit Finals, that just kind of kicked it all off,” said Irwin, 24, of Robertsdale, Ala. “Once I got to the RAM Circuit Finals, I told myself that if I do good, I’ll rodeo the rest of the year; if not, I’m just going to work this year.”
That self-proclamation came this past April, and he lived up to his promise. Irwin won the steer wrestling championship, pocketing about $10,000 and adding a $20,000 voucher toward the purchase of a Ram pickup. He’s been rodeoing ever since.
On his final run of the circuit season, Irwin turfed his steer in 4.0 seconds to win the round. His three-run cumulative time of 14.0 seconds was half a second better than the average runner-up, Jeff Miller of Blue Mound, Kan. The only thing that he missed was the year-end championship.
But he didn’t miss it by much. In a sport where dollars equal championship points, Stockton Graves of Alva, Okla., won the year-end title by just $76 over Irwin. By being the circuit champions, they will represent the region at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which will take place next spring in Kissimmee, Fla.
“It’s super important,” Irwin said. “I knew I had to be fast tonight. The guys that were in the running for the title all bulldog great. I just needed to do my part and not mess up. This is a pretty big accomplishment; this is my fourth time making it to the Prairie Circuit finals. Last year I made the national circuit finals because Stockton won the average and the year-end and I got to go because I was second. This year I got there on my own.”
It’s really no coincidence that Graves and Irwin qualified together. Irwin competes in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region because he was part of the rodeo program at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and Graves is the rodeo coach.
“It was an exciting race and came down to the last day, and that makes it a lot of fun,” said Graves, a seven-time NFR qualifier. “I just feel fortunate to place in the average so I can go to Florida.”
That’s just another prize at the end of the rainbow for the Prairie Circuit champions.
The other champions at this $112,880 rodeo were bareback rider Caine Riddle (233 points on three head), team ropers Coleman Proctor and Billie Saebens (17.9 seconds on three head), saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby (226 points on three head), tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett (24.3 seconds on three head), bull rider Chris McCombs (151 points on two head), steer roper Brodie Poppino (42.8 seconds on three head) and barrel racer Mary Burger (48.10 seconds on three runs).
Courtesy of PRCA