KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Joey Sonnier III is proving he belongs among the world’s top saddle bronc riders.
After about a decade out of rodeo, the Louisiana cowboy and Southeastern Circuit year-end champ has also added RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo average winner to his résumé.
Sonnier finished with 167 points on two head to advance to the NCFR semifinals, which take place Sunday.
Sonnier tied for second in the first round, then came back Saturday afternoon to tie for third, putting him atop the average.
“Man, it’s pretty cool,” said Sonnier, 38. “From not rodeoing for 10 years to being able to come here and get to ride these horses, I’m blessed. I’ve been working hard since before the circuit finals. I decided, toward the end of last year, that I was going to do the best I could this year.”
Sonnier, who makes saddles when he’s not rodeoing, has won $13,172 at the NCFR and has the chance to win more with the semifinals on Sunday and possibly the finals later that day.
“I just got off the phone with my wife, and she said how nervous she was,” Sonnier said. “It’s been a great week so far. There’s no pressure on me right now.”
Sonnier and his family ventured to Kissimmee early in the week to head to Disney World. Then the family got to watch him compete before heading back to Louisiana on Saturday morning so their daughter could make her first Communion.
“It was a great little family vacation,” said Sonnier, who had $17,995 won before the NCFR. “They don’t get to come very much.”
Sonnier entered the NCFR in 15th place in the 2018 PRCA World Standings. The money should push him further up the standings and deeper into the mix to try and qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.
“A lot of people have mixed emotions on if this should count or not (toward the world standings),” Sonnier said. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t. These are the best guys in the world here.”
Breding breaks 90 points to win second round
Parker Breding loves the NCFR. That’s evident in his two NCFR bull riding titles, won in 2014 and 2016.
Breding showed that love again with a 90.5-point ride on Hi Lo ProRodeo’s 20 to Life to win the second round of the 2018 NCFR and finish third in the average, which means he will be back for more Sunday afternoon.
“The best thing about this rodeo is it’s kind of a vacation, naturally,” said Breding, who won one NCFR title in Guthrie, Okla., and his most recent one in Kissimmee, Fla. “For us to come down here after being gone all month, the past three months, going to rodeos down south, to be able to come down here and relax a little bit, that really helps me. … I think the atmosphere gets me going.”
Breding, who has earned $9,666 at this year’s NCFR, entered the rodeo fifth in the world standings with $52,241. His last trip to the NFR came in 2015, and he’s making a big push to get back.
“It’s been rough sitting at home the past two years watching it (NFR) on TV,” the 25-year-old Montanan said. “But I’ve been letting that fuel my fire. I know I’m ready to be back there, and it’s looking like if I keep doing what I’m doing I’ll be there for sure.”
O’Connell wins Round 2, average for big money
Two-time defending World Champion Bareback Rider Tim O’Connell nearly doubled his 2018 earnings in just two days’ work at the NCFR. And he still has Sunday’s semifinals and possibly the finals to go.
After taking second in the first round, O’Connell came back Saturday night and won the second round with 87.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Night Bells in the first ride of the evening. Those two rides and the average victory earned him $17,246.
“I’m tuned in right now,” said O’Connell, who entered the NCFR 13th in the world standings with $22,001. “I’m super happy to be down here. … I feel like I’m laser-locked in right now.”
Other average winners were steer wrestler Billy Bugenig (7.5 seconds on two head); team ropers Thad Ward and Olin Pulham (12.6 seconds on two head); tie-down roper Seth Hall (16.9 seconds on two head); barrel racer Shelly Anzick (31.08 seconds on two runs); and bull rider Sage Kimzey (176 points on two head).
The semifinals, which include the Top 8 competitors/teams from each event, will take place Sunday at 2:30 p.m. (ET). The Top 4 then advance to the finals, right after the semis. Here is the list of those who qualified for the semifinals:
Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, Iowa
Clayton Biglow, Clements, Calif.
Shane O’Connell, Rapid City, S.D.
Mason Clements, Springville, Utah
Jake Brown, Cleveland, Texas
Wyatt Denny, Minden, Nev.
Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb.
J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo.
Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif.
Kyle Irwin, Robertsdale, Ala.
Jacob Talley, Keatchie, La.
Beau Clark, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Chason Floyd, Buffalo, S.D.
Bridger Chambers, Stevensville, Mont.
Blake Mindemann, Blanchard, Okla.
Sean Santucci, Prineville, Ore.
Jacob Shofner, Huntsville, Texas
Thad Ward, Howell, Utah/Olin Pulham, Payson, Utah
Logan Olson, Flandreau, S.D./Matt Kasner, Cody, Neb.
Andrew Ward, Edmond, Okla./Reagan Ward, Edmond, Okla.
Clay Smith, Broken Bow, Okla./Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Mo.
Ty Blasingame, Ramah, Colo./Trey Yates, Pueblo, Colo.
Jesse Stipes, Salina, Okla./Jake Smith, Broken Bow, Okla.
Marcus Theriot, Poplarville, Miss./Clint Summers, Lake City, Fla.
Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Joey Sonnier III, New Iberia, La.
Jacobs Crawley, Boerne, Texas
Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa
Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M.
Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, Texas
J.J. Elshere, Hereford, S.D.
Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyo.
Ray Hostetler, Rochelle, Ga.
Seth Hall, Albuquerque, N.M.
Tyson Durfey, Weatherford, Texas
Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas
Sterling Smith, Stephenville, Texas
Trey Young, Dupree, S.D.
Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho
Ryle Smith, Oakdale, Calif.
Riley Pruitt, Gering, Neb.
Shelly Anzick, Shepherd, Mont.
Teri Bangart, Olympia, Wash.
Taci Bettis, Round Top, Texas
Jessica Routier, Buffalo, S.D.
Alexis Baratka, Phillips, Wis.
Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Victoria, Texas
Nikki Hansen, Dickinson, N.D.
Kathy Petska, Turlock, Calif.
Sage Kimzey, Strong City, Okla.
Aaron Williams, Pismo Beach, Calif.
Parker Breding, Edgar, Mont.
Brady Portenier, Caldwell, Idaho
Chase Dougherty, Canby, Ore.
Lon Danley, Tularosa, N.M.
Daylon Swearingen, Rochelle, Ga.
Jeff Bertus, Avon, S.D.
Courtesy of PRCA