LAS VEGAS – Through the first four rounds of the Wrangler NFR, steer wrestler Kyle Irwin couldn’t get on track.
That changed in Round 5 for the Robertsdale, Ala., cowboy.
Irwin clocked a 3.7-second time to win the round and earn $26,231 before 16,827 spectators at the Thomas & Mack Center.
This is Irwin’s fifth career trip to the Wrangler NFR (2014-15, 2017-18) and his fifth round win.
“Oh, it’s a huge relief,” Irwin said about his latest round win. “We do this to win gold buckles and averages, but I came here to win as much money as I could because that’s how I make a living for my family. So, $26,000 and change is great, and I just hope to build off this momentum. It’s a wonderful group of guys you’re going up against who are so talented, so you’ve got to max it out every night.”
Irwin is ninth in the world standings with $123,934. His only trip to the pay window before Monday was a sixth-place check in Round 2.
“Yeah, just a little bit,” Irwin said about his frustration level. “I came in (Monday night) with the game plan that, if it didn’t go well, I’ve got to change something because I don’t like sitting in the mud any longer than the next guy. I knew we had a good steer and a game plan, and it worked. So if I can just keep doing that, I’ll be happy.”
Irwin knew he couldn’t waste the opportunity he had with his draw.
“I had the steer Tyler Waguespack was 3.6 (seconds) and won the second round on, so we knew he was good,” Irwin said. “Dakota Eldridge made an outstanding run two guys before me (4.0 seconds), and that just fired me up. I like to see that it makes it fun and gets your heart beating and blood pumping. That’s what we wanted.”
Ty Erickson remains the leader in the steer wrestling PRCA | RAM World Standings with $174,273.
Tie-down roper gets first career Wrangler NFR round win
Tie-down roper Ty Harris is making his Wrangler NFR debut, and the experience became more memorable for him Monday night.
The San Angelo, Texas, cowboy won his first career Wrangler NFR round when he stopped the clock in 7.4 seconds in Round 5.
“I’m really excited,” Harris said. “This whole week has been something you can’t really prepare for or expect. I knew it was going to be crazy here, with the highs and lows, it’s just such a gamble but I’m just excited to be here. It’s a pretty exciting night.
“That first round, there’s nothing you can really do to prepare for it. I’m just trying to figure out the setup and atmosphere here, but it’s really good.”
Harris said he received a pep talk from his father, Walt, following Round 4 that lifted his spirits.
“My dad has given me really encouraging words,” Harris said. “I was pretty down after (Sunday night) and after some of my performances this week. He doesn’t talk much but when he does say something it means something. It really helped me tonight and meant a lot.”
Harris also switched to a different horse in Round 5.
“Walter Johnson owns Iron, the horse I rode tonight, and he was a big part in me making it here and really helped me to get the round win,” Harris said. “I want to say thanks to him. Thanks to Justin Maass for really helping me and setting me up. My family has been everything to me. My grandma is struggling with cancer, she got to make it out here, and I’m just really excited to be able to do good when she’s here. It’s a blessing. It’s going fast but I’m just trying to enjoy the process and enjoy the moment.”
Harris has earned $49,558 at the Wrangler NFR and is seventh in the world standings. Shane Hanchey is leading the world standings with $201,043.
“It means a ton (to get this win), and this was my first one to (successfully) ride at the NFR and I feel like I’m good now,” Harris said. “(ProRodeo Hall of Famer) Joe Beaver talked to me this morning and said to ‘shake the mojo off.’”
Clayton Biglow snares Round 5 bareback riding win
Bareback rider Clayton Biglow came into the 2019 Wrangler NFR as the season leader, and he’s doing everything he can to win his first gold buckle.
Round 5 helped his cause.
The Clements, Calif., cowboy had a 92.5-point ride on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Scarlett Belle to win the round and the $26,231 first-place check.
“That horse was outstanding,” said Biglow, 24. “I knew she was going to do that. She’s always good. That was the first time I have been on her. I’ve seen here everywhere, and I was happy to have her.”
Biglow remains in the lead in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $245,683.
“My approach (for the final five rounds) is the same thing every time,” said Biglow, who was one of four cowboys who had 90-point rides in Round 5. “I just need to do my job and do the best I can with what you got and let the rest work itself out. There’s nothing you can do here that you didn’t do during the regular season.”
A year ago in Round 5 of the Wrangler NFR, Biglow set the round record with a 93-point ride on C5 Rodeo’s Virgil.
Biglow is making his fourth appearance in a row at the Wrangler NFR, and he’s having a hard time believing how far he’s come.
“It was just four years ago when I was looking up to all these guys, and now that I’m in the midst with them, it is a dream come true just in itself,” Biglow said. “I don’t consider myself one of the best. I still look up to all those guys back there as heroes.”
Daylon Swearingen’s 92-point ride garners win
Bull rider Daylon Swearingen’s first career round win at the Wrangler NFR was one for the record books.
The Rochelle, Ga., cowboy had a 92-point trip on Big Stone Rodeo Inc.’s War Cry to win the round – and break the Round 5 record. The record was 91.5 points by Ryan Brown in 2003.
“I’m just blessed to get it done,” Swearingen said. “I just had to change something and tucked my jeans into my boots, and I put a Bible verse in my hat that says, “Shake It Off” that quotes Philippians 3:13-14. Normally I don’t tuck my jeans into my boots, and sometimes you need to do something different for a mental thing. I feel like I ride better when I cut loose and just keep moving around in there.”
After failing to make the 8-second whistle in Rounds 1 through 4, Swearingen’s mindset changed when he saw War Cry next to his name.
“Normally I look at the draw when it comes out, but I was in a bad mood this morning, so I waited and saw I got War Cry,” he said. “I knew Boudreaux (Campbell) was 90 on him before in Ellensburg (Wash.) so I was super pumped.”
Sage Kimzey, the reigning five-time world champion, is leading the bull riding standings with $314,598.
Team ropers Masters/Harrison make it back-to-back victories
Team roping partners Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison have found their groove.
The team won its second round in a row, the latest coming in Round 5 with a 4.2-second run. They won Round 4 with a 3.7-second run.
“I am more pumped than last night,” said Harrison, who now has two career Wrangler NFR round wins. “It seems like we made some good runs, but we did last year too, but they did better than us. This year we are making the same runs and it’s sticking.”
By virtue of earning $69,321 each at the Wrangler NFR, Masters and Harrison have moved up to second in their respective world standings. They are second in the Wrangler NFR average with a 33.0-second time on five head.
“It’s such a long week and the first five fly by and the last five take forever,” said Masters, a two-time team roping header world champion (in 2007 and 2012). “I know it can be a long week or go decent.
“Any time you place in the top five you can still keep chipping away and win some money. We rodeo all year, so it is so much fun to win that much money in two rounds.”
Harrison is thrilled how things are unfolding.
“It’s been pretty cool and really fun, and Chad is sticking great,” Harrison said. “Going from 24 (rounds) without day money and then two in a row, the only way it gets better is if we keep blasting them and get to the top (of the world standings).”
Partners – header Clay Smith ($213,820) and heeler Jade Corkill ($171,946) – are leading the world standings.
Saddle bronc rider Jake Watson’s 92-point ride wins Round 5
Jake Watson had only one check at the Wrangler NFR and that came when he split for fifth in Round 3.
He added a much bigger payday when he won Round 5 with a 92-point ride on the Cervi Brothers Rodeo’s RodeoHouston’s Womanizer. That was one point off the Round 5 saddle bronc riding Wrangler NFR record of 93 points set by Billy Etbauer in 2003.
“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet, and my adrenaline hasn’t calmed down quite yet,” Watson said. “It feels pretty dang good though. I knew a lot about it (the horse). I’ve seen all my friends get on it a lot of times, and I’ve been waiting a lot of years to get on it. I’m glad I had him here. It was everything I expected and more. He’s definitely one of my favorites now.”
Watson changed his fortunes, which saw him get three no-scores in the first four rounds.
“I try to go with the mentality that I did all the hard work in the regular season, and I’ve just got to enjoy it, no matter what happens here,” Watson said. “I just had a slow start. I can’t really explain it, but hopefully that part of it’s over now and I can keep making money every night.”
Zeke Thurston is leading the saddle bronc riding world standings with $251,258.
Dona Kay Rule wins second round of 2019 Finals
Barrel racer Dona Kay Rule is competing in her first Wrangler NFR, and she’s leaving a lasting impression.
Rule won the second round with a 13.69-second run and added a Round 5 victory with her 13.56-second run, the fastest of the rodeo so far.
Rule is riding High Valor, 10, the winner of the 2019 Purina Horse of the Year presented by AQHA Award.
“I had a little bit of a tough time (Sunday night),” Rule said. “I tipped the second barrel and just left the first barrel bad, and there’s no time to fix it. So, I tried to set him up as good as I could for barrel one tonight and felt like he really, really went in there. Being first on the ground and not having to go behind 15 of the toughest horses there are and have them power the dirt out is a good deal.”
Recording the fastest run through five rounds was a bonus.
“Unbelievable,” she said about the time. “You’re so incredibly proud of all the girls who do that, and Valor did it. So, I’m sure tickled.”
Rule had high hopes for the Wrangler NFR. She has earned $78,115 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“I always thought he’d do well and do well in the average, but I had no idea he would excel like this,” she said. “I knew he could, but you don’t count on it. You hope for it.”
Emily Miller is leading the world standings with $196,991.
Courtesy of PRCA