A mere $725 separates the top two steer wrestlers in the race for the 2020 PRCA | Resistol Rookie of the Year award. The team roping heading rookie race is just as tight with a $787 gap between the top two cowboys.
North Dakota’s Riley Reiss leads the steer wrestling rookie standings with $17,640, while Louisiana’s Gabe Soileau (pronounced like “swallow”) has $16,915 as of Sept. 15.
On the team roping heading side, Texas cowboy Tanner Tomlinson leads the rookies with $19,718, while Oklahoma’s Britt Smith is close behind at $18,931.
Although the four rookies aren’t qualified for the ProRodeo Tour Finale, they have plenty of opportunities left to win over the last two weeks of the season. As for the other rookie races, the leaders in each category have a lead that’s essentially unbreakable before the season ends Sept. 30.
Reiss got a healthy boost just before the COVID-19 shutdown by winning Rodeo Grand Island (Neb.) in mid-March, one of the last ProRodeo events to be held until the gears started turning again in May.
“It (COVID-19) doesn’t really change it, everyone had the same season, so nobody had an advantage or disadvantage,” said Reiss, 20. “Everyone was at the same rodeos with the same shot at them.”
Soileau, 22, started competing aggressively after graduating from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La., with an agriculture business degree in May.
“Coming out here, nobody knows who you are, and it (winning the rookie title) gets your name out and gets you known on the road,” Soileau said. “That’s an important deal.”
Tomlinson also won the June 13 Coleman rodeo alongside his partner Brady Norman. Two months later they won the Wyoming State Fair & Rodeo in Douglas, Aug. 14.
“This year started out rough and didn’t go well, but now I’m getting the ball rolling and getting a feel for everything,” said Tomlinson, 20. “It’s been good though, and the last couple of weeks have been really good.”
Meanwhile, Smith scored his first outright win of the 2020 season at the Elk City (Okla.) Rodeo of Champions with his partner and older brother Jake, Sept. 6.
Britt and Jake have big boots to fill as the younger brothers of reigning two-time World Champion Team Roping Header Clay Smith (2018-19).
“At the start of this year, the main focus was to make the NFR, but that’s not happening,” Britt said. “Everyone sets goals, and for sure I’d like to win the rookie title, and I want to get into the big rodeos for next year, too.”
For more on the 2020 rookie race, check out the Sept. 18 edition of ProRodeo Sports News.
Courtesy of PRCA