LAS VEGAS – Jake Wright is gaining ground quickly as he tries to stake a claim as the best saddle bronc rider in his renowned family. And, by the way, that would make him the best in the world.
Wright won Round 4 Sunday at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in front of 17,425 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was his second victory of the rodeo, which has bumped him from seventh to second in the world standings.
Interestingly, he’s traded places with his twin brother, Jesse – who entered the WNFR in second place, but has fallen to seventh. Leading the world standings is the elder Wright brother, two-time World Champion Cody, who took the title in 2008 and 2010.
Jesse Wright is the defending world champ, but Jake has never reached the top of the world standings. He’s close now, trailing Cody by just $9,659.
“A lot can happen here and there’s a lot of money to be won each night,” Jake Wright said. “I’m just happy to be here at the NFR, and I’m going to come out the next six nights and pretend like I’m in 15th place and spur like a mad man.”
Jake Wright has won the most of the saddle bronc riders through four rounds, with $37,260, which is $2,905 ahead of Wade Sundell, who won Round 3 and was second in Round 4.
Cody Wright has endured a slow start to his 11th Finals, as he was bucked off Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m not worried about Cody; he’ll get it together,” Jake Wright said. “He’s had a couple of bad rounds before and come back. He’ll have the eye of the tiger tomorrow and be fine.”
Jake Wright was three points better than Sundell, as he rode Brookman-Hyland Rodeo’s Kid Rock for 86 points.
“He got a lot of air and felt good,” Wright said of Kid Rock. “He was kicking hard and when he’d jump in the air, he’d try to drop out and throw me off the front. But I set my feet and kept rocking back, and he felt awesome. He dang near fell down coming out of the chute and I think when he got up, he was mad because he really got after it.”
The 24-year-old Wright said he could hear the big crowd cheering during his spectacular ride.
“On about the third jump when he went really high, I could hear the crowd roaring and it sent chills down my back and made me want to ride even harder,” Wright said. “I usually don’t hear anything when I’m riding, but tonight there was no way I could miss it. It was an awesome feeling, and I’m jacked up for tomorrow night now.”
Two-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Dean Gorsuch broke the Round 4 record in steer wrestling with a lightning-quick 3.1-second run. The 34-year-old Nebraskan was one-tenth faster than the time Mike Smith posted in 1990, as the longest-standing round record at the WNFR finally fell.
“I wasn’t worried about a record run; I was just trying to win something,” said Gorsuch, who jumped to seventh in the average and fifth in the world standings.
He was just one-tenth of a second off the WNFR record of 3.0 seconds, held jointly by Steve Duhon (1986) and Bryan Fields (2001).
“I know what the record is, but you never think you are going to break the record,” said Gorsuch, who won world championships in 2006 and 2010. “You just try to be as fast as you can. You can’t set those runs up, they just have to happen. If you’re trying to be 2.9, you’re going to be 29.9.
“I want to go at it (the record) every night and I’ve tried to, (but) I’ve been trying to be too aggressive at the wrong times. I tried to calm down tonight and let things happen.”
Gorsuch feels like he could win again.
“I felt like I did what I was supposed to do and this was a big confidence booster,” he said.
Three-time World Champion Bull Rider J.W. Harris rarely lacks for confidence, and came through with his first round win of 2013 to vault into the average lead, four points ahead of Shane Proctor, who has two round wins.
“It always feels good to win, whether you’re trying to push the lead or trying to catch someone,” he said. “That $18,000 will spend good and it’ll sure help, but I just have to keep riding and making more money.”
Harris, riding last, rode Medicine Show of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo for 88.5 points. That pushed Trevor Kastner and Chandler Bownds, with their scores of 87.5 points, into a tie for second place in the round.
Harris, the 27-year-old from Mullin, Texas, has earned $171,549 in 2013 and owns a comfortable lead of $51,430 over Tyler Smith in the world standings. Is Harris, who was determined to recapture the world title, starting to think about where to put another gold buckle?
“It’s still early, and tomorrow will be the halfway point, but I just have to keep building on it,” he said. “I haven’t looked at the world standings or watched any replays of any of the rides so far. I’ve just been going home and going to bed, and trying to stay rested. This place will get you worn down if you let it.”
Cody Ohl knows that better than most. The 40-year-old tie-down roper, in his 19th Finals, looked to have his second straight round win before Ryan Jarrett equaled his time of 6.9 seconds. That was one-tenth better than Trevor Brazile, who is poised to claim his record-setting 19th world championship; he has a good chance to clinch the all-around title in Round 5.
Ohl, who has five tie-down roping world titles plus an all-around crown, has moved within $11,826 of tie-down roping world standings leader Tuf Cooper.
“I had a calf that I thought I could be right there with,” Ohl said, “and sure enough, the game plan was dead on again. We’re going for first every night.”
Jarrett, who won the all-around world championship in 2005 – the last time 10-time all-around champ Brazile failed to win – is in his eighth WNFR. He has five round wins, and four of them have been shared.
“I don’t have many go-round buckles from this rodeo, by any means, but it has always been good to me,” Jarrett said. “I’m just going to go at them the rest of the week and hope for the best.”
Winning the team roping by a huge margin were partners Nick Sartain, who won the world title in 2009, and Rich Skelton, who claimed eight straight championships with Speed Williams from 1997-2004. Sartain and Skelton were clocked in 4.2 seconds, with Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves a distant second in 4.9 seconds.
Sartain and Skelton also lead the average, with a time of 19.4 seconds on four head.
“We’re here to have fun and make some money,” Skelton said. “He’s won a championship and I’ve won mine. I started out to get one and wound up getting eight. If I don’t ever get another one, it doesn’t bother me. We’re here to have fun and rope and make some money.”
Skelton said winning at the Finals never gets old.
“It’s a thrill,” he said. “People think when you start getting 40 to 45 years old, you’re done. I think today I probably rope as good as I ever have. I watched some of the films before I came out here from earlier in my career, and I’ve changed my style to keep up with the times. I feel I rope as good today as ever.”
Sartain said partnering with a legend has been all he could expect, and more.
“You think it would be a little bit of pressure, but it’s really not,” he said. “Rich and I are good friends. If he and I weren’t as good of friends before we started, it probably would’ve been more pressure, but he’s not going to get mad at me if I miss and I wasn’t worried about that (the pressure). Our partnership is good both ways, in and out of the arena. It’s awesome, and we’ve had a great year.”
Bareback rider Jessy Davis earned a trip back to the winner’s circle for the first time in seven years when he rode Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Raggidy Ann for 86 points. It was the third time the 32-year-old had been the horse, and the wait was well worth it.
“I was saying, ‘Finally!’ I’ve placed in a lot of rounds and been second, so this feels great to win again,” Davis said with a big smile.
“I was on her when she was young, back in 2006 and ’07. She’s grown up a lot since then; she’s big and strong now. She’s pretty electric. She was really moving forward, so I had to gas it to keep up with her. She did her part, for sure. I was pretty tickled when I found out I had her.”
This is Davis’ fifth WNFR, and he entered the rodeo in 11th place. He’s earned $32,752 in four rounds and has climbed to sixth in the world. He finished sixth in the world standings in 2006, fourth the next year and was eighth in 2012.
“My goal is to win the average,” he said. “That’s always what I come in here trying to do. I just try to stay consistent and steady, and see what happens.”
So far, so good, for the Utah cowboy who now lives in Power, Mont., and was married to Cassidy Jo Brunner on Nov. 16.
Making a quick return to the winner’s circle was barrel racer Taylor Jacob. The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s Rookie of the Year earned her second straight round win in 13.46 seconds, just short of the arena record of 13.46 seconds, set by Carlee Pierce in 2011.
Jacob’s two wins came after Sherry Cervi won the first two rounds.
“I would be perfectly happy with this being the Sherry-Taylor Show,” Jacob said with a smile. “She can win two and then I’ll win another two.”
Jacob was first out in the barrel race, and chose not to watch as 14 other women chased her fast time.
“I just went into the tent and took care of my horse, so I didn’t have to get nervous about it,” she said. “I knew if I won, someone would come get me to get on the victory lap horse.”
Jacob dedicated her two wins to a pair of family members, and hopes to add to the list.
“Well, yesterday was my granny’s birthday, so that win was for her,” said the outgoing 23-year-old Texan. “Today my older brother got here, so this one is for him. There are other family and friends coming in throughout the rest of the week, (such as) my younger brother in a couple of days and my cousins the day after that. It would be great if I can get a win each time someone new arrives.”
Cervi leads the Ram Truck Top Gun Award standings with $54,688, with tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, who was sixth in Round 4, next with $44,171. Harris is third with $41,166, followed by tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett with $37,410. Tied for fourth with $37,260 are Jacob, Proctor, Jake Wright and bareback rider Steven Peebles, who won Rounds 3 and 4.
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas – Round 4
Bareback riding: 1. Jessy Davis, Power, Mont., 86 points on Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Raggidy Ann, $18,630; 2. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., 84.5, $14,724; 3. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 84.0, $11,118; 4. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 81.5, $7,813; 5. (tie) Austin Foss, Terrebonne, Ore., and Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, 81, $3,906 each; 7. J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., 80.5; 8. Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D., 79; 9. Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., 77; 10. Jared Smith, Cross Plains, Texas, 76; 11. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 75.5; 12. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 75; 13. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 73; 14. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 70; 15. Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., NS
Steer wrestling: 1. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 3.1 seconds, $18,630; 2. Bray Armes, Ponder, Texas, 3.5, $14,724; 3. K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, 3.6, $11,118; 4. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 3.8, $7,813; 5. Jule Hazen, Ashland, Kan., 4.0, $4,808; 6. Jason Miller, Lance Creek, Wyo., 4.1, $3,005; 7. Dakota Eldridge, Elko, Nev., 4.5; 8. Straws Milan, Cochrane, Alberta, 4.6; 9. Tyler Pearson, Louisville, Miss., 4.8; 10. Stan Branco, Chowchilla, Calif., 5.2; 11. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 5.4; 12. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 5.7; 13. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 5.9; 14. Hunter Cure, Holliday, Texas, 12.3; 15. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., NT.
Team roping: 1. Nick Sartain, Dover, Okla./Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, 4.2 seconds, $18,630 each; 2. Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 4.9, $14,724; 3. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 5.2, $11,118; 4. Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Mo., 5.4, $7,813; 5. Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Kollin VonAhn, Blanchard, Okla., 5.6, $4,808; 6. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 6.1, $3,005; 7. Brandon Beers, Powell Butte, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 6.3; 8. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 9.9; 9. Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., 10.9; 10. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 14.2; 11. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas; Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz.; Drew Horner, Plano, Texas/Buddy Hawkins II, Columbus, Kan.; Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Texas; and Justin Van Davis, Madisonville, Texas/Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., NT.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, 86 points on Brookman-Hyland Rodeo’s Kid Rock, $18,630; 2. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 83.0, $14,724; 3. Tyler Corrington, Hastings, Minn., 82.5, $11,118; 4. Sterling Crawley, Stephenville, Texas, 78.5, $7,813; 5. Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., 78.0, $4,808; 6. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 76.5, $3,005; 7. Jacobs Crawley, Stephenville, Texas, 76; 8. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 74.5; 9. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, Texas, and Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., 71.5 each; 11. Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., 67; 12. (tie) Cody Wright, Milford, Utah; Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D.; Chet Johnson, Sheridan, Wyo.; and Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, NS.
Tie-down roping: 1. (tie) Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, and Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., 6.9 seconds, $16,677 each; 3. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 7.0, $11,118; 4. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 8.2, $7,813; 5. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 8.5, $4,808; 6. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 8.6, $3,005; 7. Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas, 8.7; 8. Shane Slack, Idabel, Okla., 9.1; 9. (tie) Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, and Timber Moore, Aubrey, Texas, 9.6 each; 11. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 10.0; 12. Randall Carlisle, Baton Rouge, La., 11.9; 13. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 12.5; 14. Stetson Vest, Childress, Texas, 14.5; 15. Sterling Smith, Stephenville, Texas, 17.5.
Barrel racing: 1. Taylor Jacob, Carmine, Texas, 13.49 seconds, $18,630; 2. Kaley Bass, Kissimmee, Fla., 13.77, $14,724; 3. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 13.81, $11,118; 4. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 13.82, $7,813; 5. Sabrina Ketcham, Yeso, N.M., 13.86, $4,808; 6. Shada Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 13.88, $3,005; 7. Michele McLeod, Whitesboro, Texas, 13.89; 8. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.05; 9. Jane Melby, Burneyville, Okla., 14.08; 10. Christy Loflin, Franktown, Colo., 14.09; 11. Jean Winters, Texline, Texas, 14.20; 12. Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 18.78; 13. Fallon Taylor, Whitesboro, Texas, 19.07; 14. Sydni Blanchard, Albuquerque, N.M., 19.28; 15. Trula Churchill, Valentine, Neb., 23.91.
Bull riding: 1. J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 88.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Medicine Show, $18,630; 2. (tie) Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla., and Chandler Bownds, Lubbock, Texas, 87.5, $12,921 each; 4. (tie) Tyler Smith, Fruita, Colo., and Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, 86, $6,310 each; 6. Cody Campbell, Summerville, Ore., 85, $3,005; 7. Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas, 81; 8. Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash., 80.5; 9. Parker Breding, Edgar, Mont., 79; 10. (tie) Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas; Cole Echols, Elm Grove, La.; Elliot Jacoby, Fredricksburg, Texas; Josh Koschel, Nunn, Colo.; Cooper Davis, Jasper, Texas, and Tyler Willis, Wheatland, Wyo., NS.