YAKIMA, Wash. — Sean Santucci went to this weekend’s RAM Columbia River Circuit Finals just looking to maybe win a little money and have some fun.
He entered the 2018 season expecting to stick around the circuit, fully planning to cut back to just rodeoing in the circuit.
Those plans quickly changed.
Santucci entered the rodeo in seventh place in the year-end standings.
The 30-year-old steer wrestler went out and won the RCRCF average in 12.6 seconds on three head. Santucci went into the rodeo plenty relaxed. And that paid dividends.
“This year’s probably been less pressure than any, because I kind of came off the road and quit trying to rodeo for a living and went to work,” Santucci said. “So I’ve just been able to enjoy rodeo again.”
Santucci took second in the first round and won the third round in 3.8 seconds. He went out fifth in that final round and then waited anxiously, watching fellow bulldoggers get their turns to top his 3.8. None did.
“I had to sit there and endure the rest of the guys going,” laughed Santucci, who took home $5,161. “There were two or three other guys that could’ve got me that I was emotionally watching carefully. It was exciting. Just like any competition. It’s fun to put yourself in position to win and see what happened.”
The win earned Santucci a qualification to the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., and the prospect of adding some money there. With that, Santucci’s circuit-only rodeoing plans flew out the proverbial window.
Because the money from the circuit finals and RNCFR count toward the world standings, Santucci is excited to get going on the rodeo trail. He’s also hoping that the rule continues.
“It’s just a neat fact that a guy not rodeoing full time has a chance early on,” said Santucci, who farms and ranches on his family ranch at Prineville, Ore. “It’s a great incentive for the circuit cowboy to get out of the circuit and go do some rodeoing and feel like he has a chance.”
Santucci rode his 16-year-old gelding, Chopper, who he bought more than four years ago.
“He’s been pretty key in my success,” Santucci said. “I’ve been in the top 20 on him. He’s definitely still has some good in him.”
Santucci made less than $10,000 in 2017. In 2016, he finished 53rd in the world. Earlier in his career, he’d finished inside the top 20, but never qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.
Those recent struggles are why he originally decided not to go hard this season.
“Last year, things weren’t going as well, and I was getting tired and worn out on travel and I was trying to raise a family at home,” Santucci said. “The lack of drive was part of the measurement of success.”
His wife, Brittany, and 2-year-old son, Syd, were on hand Sunday for the win. Afterward, Brittany was more than understanding that her husband will be going back on the rodeo road when it works into their schedule, including in April, when Brittany is due with their second child.
“She’s been a trooper all the way through quite a few years at rodeoing full time,” Santucci said. “She’s used to the schedule and can roll with the punches pretty well.”
Other winners at the $147,751 rodeo were all-around Russell Cardoza (team roping and steer roping); bareback rider Steven Peebles (230.5 points on three head); team ropers Brooks Dahozy/Brent Falon (24.1 seconds on three head); saddle bronc rider Layton Green (243 points on three head); tie-down roper Tyson Durfey (24.7 seconds on three head); barrel racer Callahan Crossley (37.10 seconds on three head); steer roper Tom Sorey (31.2 seconds on two head); and bull rider Chase Dougherty (165.5 points on two head).
Courtesy of PRCA