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Driggers and Nogueira Lead Tour Finale Team Roping

By Matt Naber

PUYALLUP, Wash. – Fifty-four of the biggest ProRodeo competitions boiled down to the cream of the crop as the Top 24 cowboys in the ProRodeo Tour Standings are battling it out to win the ProRodeo Tour Finale in Puyallup, Wash.

Team roping heeler Junior Nogueira compared the Finale to competing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo due to the stiff competition and high payout.

He and partner Kaleb Driggers took the lead in team roping Sept. 6.

“All the good money is in the short round, and so now we need our thoughts to be clear for a shot in the short round,” Nogueira said.

Driggers and Nogueira won the first round with a 4.7-second run Thursday and returned with a 6.8-second run Friday. Claiming the lead in the average with 11.5 seconds on two head gave the duo another reason to celebrate, the first being Nogueira’s 29th birthday.

“We were fortunate enough with a good steer,” Driggers said. “Now we have a good idea of what we have to do and are feeling good.”

The other half of the Top 24 cowboys in the ProRodeo Tour standings will ride in back-to-back performances Saturday.

In the meantime, Driggers and Nogueira are optimistic that their time will remain in the top eight, which they’ll need to get to Sunday’s semifinals.

“We should hold on to make it back for Sunday,” Driggers said. “It’s a clean slate going into the top eight.”

Also 29, Driggers has qualified for the Wrangler NFR seven times (2011-14, 2016-18) and won more than $1.5 million in his ProRodeo career.

Nogueira is a five-time qualifier for the Wrangler NFR (2014-18) and became the first Brazilian to win a world title in PRCA history when he won the 2016 All-Around World Championship. He and Driggers are seeking their first team roping world titles.

As of Sept. 4, both cowboys ranked second in the PRCA | RAM World Standings for heading and heeling, respectively. Although they’ve each won $103,356 this season, Driggers is $35,209 away from first place among team roping headers while Nogueira is a mere $456 away from leading the team roping heeler standings.

“You just have to do the best you can, especially at the end of the year, so you can go into the Finals in a good spot,” Driggers said. “We’re second now, but it’s whoever has a better NFR.”

The duo has been inching their way up the world standings in recent weeks thanks to winning the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo on Aug. 4 and the Cache County Fair and Rodeo in Logan, Utah, Aug. 10.

“It’s been a great year,” Nogueira said, adding that he hopes to ride his new horse, Timon, at the 2019 Wrangler NFR in December.

With two cowboys and two horses making the runs, a change in mounts means changing half their lineup, and the revision is working well for Driggers and Nogueira.

“I got a new horse that’s working for me (named Whiskey) and Junior is riding Timon now, and it all just clicked,” Driggers said.

The ProRodeo Tour Finale continues with two performances Saturday afternoon before concluding Sunday with an eight-man round and the finals of a four-man round.

Courtesy of PRCA

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