Kasel Exits Ouncie Mitchell Memorial Invitational with Event Title, Perspective

By: James Youness

FORT WORTH, Texas – Going 2-for-2 Saturday night before an energetic, maximum-capacity crowd in Fort Worth, Texas, Dalton Kasel captured the Ouncie Mitchell Memorial Invitational victory, kicking off the 2023 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour with a bang.

But it wasn’t his two high-scored rides that were the highlight of his night.

That came after the contest had concluded when interacting with the Mitchell family.

“I ended up giving the buckle back to his family,” Kasel said. “It seemed like the right thing to do at the moment. It’s the very first one of many that we’re going to have, and they deserve it. I wanted them to have it.”

It was a great performance throughout the night for the 23-year-old, and the special moments continued to unfold on the dirt following the riding action.

Regularly seen running around, smiling and doing all the fun things 4-year-olds do, even A’nyla, Ouncie Mitchell’s daughter, seemed to understand the significance of taking some time to visit with Kasel.

“I made a connection with his little girl,” Kasel said. “I have a little girl too, and it puts things into perspective.”

Hugging the rider and jumping back into the arms of loved ones, it’s safe to say a bond was created. And for Kasel, just the start he was looking for.

“It’s a great way to start the season out, feeling good,” Kasel said following his victory. “I took a couple of weeks off (after) the Teams deal, so these are the first bulls I’ve gotten on, and I’m feeling very solid and excited to see what the rest of the season holds.”

Exiting the event ranked No. 1 in the tour’s standings, Kasel combined a pair of spicy rides to earn the event title Saturday.

Matched with Crossover in Round 1, the Muleshoe, Texas, native bested the bovine athlete en route to securing a 91-point score, logging the first qualified ride and setting the bar with what would be the highest score of the event.

Around halfway into Kasel’s second outing, Austin Gamblers teammate and Ouncie’s cousin Ezekiel Mitchell launched his hat over the chutes, confident Kasel would bring it home. And he did.

“I threw that thing about five seconds in. I could tell you had it locked up, and you brought it home,” Mitchell said to Kasel.

Continuing the momentum, Kasel recorded a title-clinching 89-point ride aboard J&M’s Yukon, besting Alvaro Alvarez Aguilar for top honors.

“It was a huge blessing to be able to win this event,” Kasel said. “Zeke and Ouncie, they’ve done a whole lot for this industry, for the PBR, and I think they’ve set a great example. It’s an absolute honor to win this event.”

Following the event, Mitchell and Kasel were engaged in conversation in the locker room when Mitchell reached into his bag and pulled out a red “In Loving Memory of Ouncie Mitchell” shirt.

“I owed you one, for the buckle,” Mitchell said as he threw Kasel the shirt and shook hands with the winning rider.

Mitchell advanced to the championship round after succeeding on his re-ride bull earlier in the night but couldn’t seal the deal on an emotional evening. All things considered, he was happy for his Gamblers teammate.

“It was cool just to see the outreach, the love that was shared by our rodeo community, our rodeo family, the Austin Gamblers, including our general manager JJ Gottsch, then Dalton to win it…“ Mitchell said.

Kasel will look to stay hot next weekend as he heads to Tucson, Arizona, to compete on the Unleash The Beast Tour, as it kicks off with the PBR Monster Energy Invitational Friday, Nov. 26 at 8:45 p.m. EST.

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