Bull rider Shane Proctor moved into contention for his second world championship while steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge took another step toward history during a thrilling second night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
A crowd of 17,788 at the Thomas & Mack Center watched Eldridge win the bulldogging event and move into fourth place in the world standings, a jump of 11 spots. He’s trying to follow in the footsteps of team roping heeler Allen Bach (1990) and bull rider Cody Hancock (2000), who are the only cowboys to win a world championship after entering the WNFR in 15th place.
“Hopefully, I can make it three to do that,” Eldridge said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. I came in 15th and I’m just 22 (years old), so I’m just going for it. I’ve got a chance now and I’m pretty confident.”
Proctor, the 2011 world champion, jumped from 10th place to third in the world bull riding standings by winning Rounds 1 and 2 (good for $18,630 each night). He trails world leader J.W. Harris by a little more than $25,077; the winner of the WNFR average in each event will earn $47,776.
“I feel like I did during the regular season of 2011,” Proctor said, “not at the NFR that year, because I didn’t have a great NFR. This is my third year at the NFR and these last two nights have been my two best rides here ever.
“I do feel like I’m riding at that same high level as when I won the world.”
Still, the 28-year-old knows a lot of action is ahead before gold buckles are handed out.
“The average is a long ways away, and we still have eight long nights ahead of us,” Proctor said. “I’m not going to even start thinking about anything but the bull I’m riding tomorrow, and I’m not even going to worry about him until I get to the arena tomorrow.”
Proctor has decided, however, just how he might spend some of the $37,260 he earned Thursday and Friday.
“My van just broke down again, so I’ll use some of the money to fix her up,” he said. “I’ve had her since my 2011 championship season and I love that van. Every time I see her I get excited, so I have to take care of her.”
Proctor had a measure of revenge when he lasted eight seconds on New Frontier Rodeo’s Squirrel Grove. He was bucked off by the bull’s sire, Grey Squirrel, also of New Frontier Rodeo, at last year’s WNFR.
“He actually made me look like a fool last year when he threw me off,” Proctor said. “I didn’t know anything about Squirrel Grove when I got on him tonight, but luckily it worked out. His dad really sucks back underneath himself and is a lot smaller; the son is a bit bigger and looks like his daddy, and he was a fun bull to get on.”
In the bareback riding, Steven Peebles figured he’d won the round after going for 88 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Craig at Midnight, but then had to sweat out a pair of re-rides for Ryan Gray and Kaycee Feild.
“I was worried about those guys,” Peebles said with a smile. “It feels great to win.”
Feild nearly beat Peebles – he scored 87.5 points on the re-ride – and passed Bobby Mote to take the bareback riding world standings lead by $14,119.
Peebles, who was PRCA/Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year five years ago, is in his fifth straight WNFR. He started the 10-day marathon in eighth place, but made an early statement.
“I was hoping to come in with a big bang and get up there with the leaders,” he said. “This is huge, and just what I needed.”
The 24-year-old won Round 9 a year ago at the WNFR and placed in four other rounds. He placed in three rounds in 2011, but missed half of the rodeo after breaking his leg.
“I’ve been hurt a lot when I’ve been here before,” he said, “but I’m healthy this year and it feels awesome. I’ve learned to try to treat this like any other rodeo, and it’s getting easier, but it’s still hard to do that. Sometimes you get to over-thinking and just have to remind yourself to do what you do every time.”
Peebles knew it was a good ride not long after it began. He had high praise for Craig at Midnight.
“I knew she was all there,” he said. “She was dang sure strong and I knew she was doing everything she could, so I just had to do my job. I’d never really heard of her, but she was good. They all are when you get here.”
Tie-down roper Randall Carlisle posted the fastest Round 2 time (6.8 seconds) in WNFR history, by three-tenths of a second. Rookie Caleb Smidt also beat the previous best Round 2 time with 7.0.
“I had a good calf and I’m just thankful to Jade Conner for letting me ride his horse (Uno),” Carlisle said. “And I’m thankful for (Round 1 winner and Sulphur, La., native) Shane Hanchey for standing in the box with me and keeping the go-rounds in Louisiana for the first two.”
Team roping header Charly Crawford took the first NFR victory lap of his seven years here, joining forces with partner Ryan Motes to share center stage with the team of Erich Rogers and Cory Petska.
“I’ve made 62 runs here, and this is my first round win,” Crawford said. “This was my first victory lap. I went as slow as I could, to just soak it all up. I’m 35 years old, and have roped the Cowboy Toy a million times and dreamt of a lap here. This is cool.”
Motes, who has never won a round outright, got off to his usual fast start.
“I’ve never made it past the first two rounds without winning (splitting, actually) a round,” Motes said. “Anytime you can win a round here is great. I’ve split a round here four times. I’ve never won one outright.”
Motes was riding the 2013 PRCA/AQHA Heel Horse of the Year Starbucks in his third Finals.
“I’ve made every run I’ve ever made in this arena on Starbucks,” he said. “We raised him and trained him. I love him as much as I love my family. My wife (Courtney) loves my horse as much as she loves me.”
Motes praised the steers in the team roping and said, “They’re big and strong, and they have big horns. They’re a lot different than the steers we’ve roped the last few years. They’re not quite as fast handling as the steers we’ve roped the last few years, so I expect the times to be a little longer.”
Rogers, in his third Finals, won a round for the third time. He said being aggressive is a key.
“Scared money don’t make money, they say,” Rogers said. “That’s my blackjack motto. If you’re scared to bet it, you ain’t going to make it. You have to go for it.”
Petska, in his 10th WNFR, praised his partner.
“Erich gives me great handles every time,” Petska said. “He knows what I need to catch, and makes it easy on me. I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
In the saddle bronc riding, the eliminator pen made its presence known as nine of the 15 riders were bucked off. Chad Ferley, the 2006 world champion, rode for 87.5 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Tip Off to edge Cort Scheer by a half-point. Jacobs Crawley earned third place and $11,118 with 77.5 points.
“Tip Off was out here last year, Cort Scheer and Wade Sundell both had him, and he didn’t get ridden either time,” Ferley said. “He’s a handful and he doesn’t do anything dirty, which is nice. I felt fortunate to draw one that just bucked real hard and let me do my job.
“It always makes you feel good to get some money won; I’ve been skunked here before, so after not making any money last night, I was sure happy to get this win. Getting a little momentum never hurts and once you get started, it makes the next round feel a little smoother and you aren’t worried about it as much.”
Barrel racer Sherry Cervi has more momentum than anyone but Proctor; like the bull rider, she won each of the first two rounds. Her run of 13.66 seconds edged defending World Champion Mary Walker’s 13.89 seconds.
“I really wanted to nail my first barrel,” said Cervi, who is chasing her fourth world championship. “We got so close that my knee touched it, but it was perfect.”
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas – Round 2:
Bareback riding: 1. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 88 points on Powder River Rodeo’s Craig At Midnight, $18,630; 2. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 87.5, $14,724; 3. Austin Foss, Terrebonne, Ore., 86, $11,118; 4. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 84.5, $7,813; 5. J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., 83.5, $4,808; 6. (tie) Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., and Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, 82, $1,502 each; 8. Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., 81.5; 9. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 81; 10. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 80; 11. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 79.5; 12. Bobby Mote, Stephenville, Texas, 78; 13. Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D., 75.5; 14. Jessy Davis, Power, Mont., 73.5; 15. Jared Smith, Cross Plains, Texas, 69.5.
Steer wrestling: 1. Dakota Eldridge, Elko, Nev., 4.2 seconds, $18,630; 2. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 4.4, $14,724; 3. Hunter Cure, Holliday, Texas, 4.5, $11,118; 4. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 4.9, $7,813; 5. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 5.0, $4,808; 6. Bray Armes, Ponder, Texas, 5.3, $3,005; 7. Jule Hazen, Ashland, Kan., 5.6; 8. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 6.2; 9. Straws Milan, Cochrane, Alberta, 8.6; 10. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 10.3; 11. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 10.6; 12. Tyler Pearson, Louisville, Miss., 13.1; 13. (tie) K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas; Jason Miller, Lance Creek, Wyo., and Stan Branco, Chowchilla, Calif., NT.
Team roping: 1. (tie) Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz., and Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Texas, 4.5 seconds, $16,677 each; 3. (tie) Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Kollin VonAhn, Blanchard, Okla., and Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 4.9, $9,465 each; 5. Nick Sartain, Dover, Okla./Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, 5.0, $4,808; 6. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 5.1, $3,005; 7. Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., 5.3; 8. Drew Horner, Plano, Texas/Buddy Hawkins II, Columbus, Kan., 12.1; 9. Brandon Beers, Powell Butte, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 12.8; 10. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 14.6; 11. Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Mo., 20.3; 12. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas; Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla.; Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz.; and Justin Van Davis, Madisonville, Texas/Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., NT.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 87.5 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Tip Off, $18,630; 2. Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., 87, $14,724; 3. Jacobs Crawley, Stephenville, Texas, 77.5, $11,118; 4. Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, Texas, 76.5, $7,813; 5. Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, 75.5, $4,808; 6. Chet Johnson, Sheridan, Wyo., 74, $3,005; 7. (tie) Cody Wright, Milford, Utah; Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah; Tyler Corrington, Hastings, Minn.; Jake Wright, Milford, Utah; Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D.; Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa; Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M.; Sterling Crawley, Stephenville, Texas; Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., NS.
Tie-down roping: 1. Randall Carlisle, Baton Rouge, La., 6.8 seconds, $18,630; 2. Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas, 7.0, $14,724; 3. Shane Slack, Idabel, Okla., 8.2, $11,118; 4. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 8.5, $7,813; 5. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, and Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 8.8, $3,906 each; 7. (tie) Sterling Smith, Stephenville, Texas, and Stetson Vest, Childress, Texas, 8.9 each; 9. Timber Moore, Aubrey, Texas, 9.0; 10. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 9.4; 11. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 10.0; 12. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 10.7; 13. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 17.5; 14. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 18.3; 15. Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., 18.8.
Barrel racing: 1. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 13.66 seconds, $18,630; 2. Michele McLeod, Whitesboro, Texas, 13.76, $14,724; 3. Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 13.89, $11,118; 4. Kaley Bass, Kissimmee, Fla., 13.90, $7,813; 5. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 13.94, $4,808; 6. Jane Melby, Burneyville, Okla., 13.96, $3,005; 7. Shada Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 14.02; 8. Sabrina Ketcham, Yeso, N.M., 14.16; 9. Sydni Blanchard, Albuquerque, N.M., 14.21; 10. Fallon Taylor, Whitesboro, Texas, 18.70; 11. Taylor Jacob, Carmine, Texas, 18.73; 12. Trula Churchill, Valentine, Neb., 18.87; 13. Jean Winters, Texline, Texas, 19.02; 14. Christy Loflin, Franktown, Colo., 19.08; 15. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 27.81.
Bull riding: 1. Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash., 89 points on New Frontier Rodeo’s Squirrel Grove, $18,630; 2. Tyler Smith, Fruita, Colo., 88, $14,724; 3. Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas, 85, $11,118; 4. (tie) J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas; Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla.; Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas; Chandler Bownds, Lubbock, Texas; Cody Campbell, Summerville, Ore.; Cole Echols, Elm Grove, La.; Elliot Jacoby, Fredricksburg, Texas; Josh Koschel, Nunn, Colo.; Parker Breding, Edgar, Mont.; Cooper Davis, Jasper, Texas; Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, and Tyler Willis, Wheatland, Wyo., NS.