#NFR16 Round One Recap

Wright Night at the WNFR

Courtesy PRCA 

Courtesy PRCA 

LAS VEGAS – Ryder Wright didn’t waste any time making an impact at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.

The 18-year-old from Milford, Utah, took the Round 1 saddle bronc riding win with an 87.5-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Times Up to earn a check worth $26,231, and move from 14th to sixth in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings.

When told he had just won that amount of money, Wright was a bit stunned. 

“I hadn’t thought about (what to spend the money on),” Wright said. “I’ll buy lots of toys, I guess.”

It was a family affair in the event Thursday night, as Ryder’s father, two-time World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright, placed second. Ryder’s uncle Jake Wright was third, and Ryder’s older brother Rusty placed fifth. That’s four of the night’s six checks written out to Wrights.

“I think (my family) will say, ‘Good job,’ hopefully. I’m on cloud nine,” Ryder said.

“My thoughts are scattered – pulling into Vegas is like it’s another year, but crawling into the bucking chutes you can’t describe. You wanted to do it your whole life, and it’s here, and it’s about having fun.”

Ryder’s score tied for the second-highest ever in the first round of saddle bronc riding at the WNFR. It tied Jeffery Willert’s 87.5 from 2005, while the best first-round score ever was Bryce Miller’s 89 in 2008.

Ryder Wright was brimming with confidence, and says the big first night sets the pace for the upcoming nine.

“Damn right it does – I hope the next nine nights are just like that,” he said. “It’s freaking awesome – a dream come true.”

Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler are the first all-Canadian team roping team to qualify for the WNFR, and they made everybody north of the border proud with their first run together in the Thomas & Mack Center.

Simpson, of Ponoka, Alberta, and Buhler, of Arrowwood, Alberta, clocked a 4.4-second run, which was two-tenths of a second better than the rest of the field.

“This feels amazing,” Simpson said. “To come here and represent our country and have the support we do back home and here, there are so many of our fans and family who came here to support us. To be in the record books as the first Canadian team is awesome, and to throw in a win in the first round is every little boy’s dream who grows up team roping. He wants to win a round, and a gold buckle.”

Simpson moved up six spots to eighth in the world standings among headers, while Buhler shot up seven spots to fifth in the world standings on the heeling side.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Buhler said. “We have people texting and sending messages and stuff, and it feels good to have all of them behind us and to do good.

“The cattle were pretty big and strong, and I think this was the stronger pen, so the degree of difficulty was maybe tougher. With a field of ropers like this, I didn’t think this would happen.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same for two-time defending World Champion Bull Rider Sage Kimzey.

He started his quest for a third consecutive gold buckle with an 86.5-point trip on Frontier Rodeo’s Aftershock, earning the fifth round win of his career, and first since 2014.

“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and the best mental state,” Kimzey said. “I’m firing on all cylinders, and I’ve never felt this way at the Finals. I put in the work and the time, and that’s going to show in the arena. I went the extra mile with my preparation – working on balance and flexibility in the gym every day. I got on practice bulls, and I’m feeling sharp this year.”

Kimzey expanded his lead in the world standings over second-place Joe Frost to nearly $75,000.

“I have the best job in the world, for sure,” Kimzey said. “And coming to this rodeo is just icing on the cake. Coming here to shoot at $26,000 a night is pretty special. I’m going to buy a new RV and some land.” 

Tanner Aus got married Oct. 15, and on night one of the WNFR he put $26,231 into the bank account for himself and wife Lonissa.

The Granite Falls, Minn., native rode for 85.5 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s RodeoHouston Control Freak.

“She’s been wanting a new car, but I think we’re going to put that money into savings,” Aus said of the large check.

The win moved him up two spots to second place in the world standings.

“I’ve been thinking about this first round for about two months now. I’ve been on a few horses since the end of the (regular) season, but all of the preparation went into this first ride, and the next nine nights. It feels great to get that first one out of the way, and you want to jump out and have a great start. Tim (O’Connell) is riding great, and every dollar is important.”

Tyler Waguespack and Clayton Hass are traveling partners, meaning they do a lot of different things together. That includes splitting the first-round victory at the WNFR.

Waguespack, of Gonzales, La., and Hass, a native of Terrell, Texas, both stopped the clock in 3.8 seconds to each earn $23,481. Both also rode 2016 PRCA/AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year Cadillac.

Waguespack moved to the top spot in the world, and Hass was close behind, trailing his buddy by a little more than $3,000.

“It’s excellent to get it started off right,” Waguespack said. “We both came in here with a lot of confidence. Clayton, Ty Erickson and myself travel together all year, and all three of us wanted to win. We have a lot of confidence, and we’re just going to keep pulling for each other and doing our best.”

It was the third WNFR round win of Hass’ career, as he also won Rounds 3 and 6 last year. Waguespack collected his second career-round win, with his first coming in Round 7 last year.

“We are prepared mentally every day we run a steer,” Hass said. “I know this rodeo pays a ton, but you have to run these steers just like it’s another day at any other rodeo. The best competitors in the world are right here, and if we make mistakes they are going to get us.”

Shane Hanchey, the 2013 world champion tie-down roper, showed why he and brother Jason’s horse Reata are still as dangerous a duo as there is in the sport.

Hanchey recorded a time of 7.1 seconds to edge Marty Yates by a tenth of a second for the Round 1 win.

“Riding Reata made all the difference in the world,” Hanchey said. “That horse has won so many titles, and in this arena I have the confidence on him that I probably will never have on another horse. 

“I just have a calm feeling when I’m backing in the box on him here. It’s something I look forward to; to be able to ride him in this building with that kind of confidence and the money we can run at now is pretty awesome.”

Hanchey has been riding Reata since 2004, including the 2013 world-title season. 

It was the sixth round win of Hanchey’s career, and the second time he took a victory lap in the first round – the last time he won the first round, he went on to win the world.

“I’m excited about tonight, but there are still nine more rounds and I’m still going to take things one round at a time and one calf at a time,” he said. “I knew I had a pretty decent calf tonight, I just didn’t know how fast I could be on him.” 

Barrel racer Pamela Capper teamed up with her horse Jesse to not only win the round, but make a little history as well.

Capper’s winning time of 13.75 seconds tied the record for the fastest first-round barrel racing run in WNFR history. Mary Walker and her great horse Latte were 13.75 at the 2012 WNFR.

“My plan was to do the same thing I do at every other rodeo,” Capper said. “I really wasn’t nervous at all. I knew my horse knew her job, so I just had to concentrate on doing mine correctly. I just needed to keep my hands correct and let her do her thing. She just gravitates to the barrel – she handled it all terrific.”


Canadians Make History at WNFR

LAS VEGAS, NEV - December 1, 2016


Levi Simpson / Jeremy Buhler - Round 1 Team Roping Champions
* PRCA photo by Dan Hubbell

Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler had already written a page in Canadian rodeo history when the pair became the first all-Canadian team to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the team roping. But they might have written an even cooler story when the duo blistered a 4.4 second run to win the opening round and collect the go-round winner’s cheques of $26,230 each. Simpson, the Ponoka (via Claresholm) header and Buhler from Arrowwood, showed almost no sign of first-time jitters as they backed into the box at the hallowed Thomas and Mack Arena for the first time.

“To tell you the truth,” Buhler commented after the run, “the money wasn’t on my mind at all. It was just awesome. I’ve run that steer in my head ten million times. It was nice to run him in real life tonight. And the way it went, it couldn’t get any better.”

His partner was equally thrilled, “When we were on stage getting our back numbers, it kind of hit me right there,” Simpson admitted. “Well, maybe we could be back here getting a buckle. But to have it happen in round one is pretty exciting.”

Both cowboys were especially appreciative of the support they have received from the Canadian rodeo community. "You have a whole country standing behind you, Buhler noted. "The messages, the calls, everything we got from our families, friends, acquaintances… it felt awesome knowing that there’s that many people pulling for you."

Unfortunately, Kolton Schmidt of Barrhead, Alberta and his Texas partner, Shay Carroll took a no time as, like Simpson and Buhler, Schmidt made his debut appearance at the WNFR.

Jake Vold was the first of the eight man strong Canadian contingent to display his wares at Thursday night’s first round of the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Ponoka native posted an 81 score on Sankey and Robinson’s Sozo to earn a 5/6/6 split and $3666. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well for Inglis, Manitoba’s Orin Larsen as he and Frontier Rodeo’s Night Watch combined for only 66.5, not the start the number two man in the world coming into the NFR was looking for. 

Recently married Tanner Aus, the Minnesota bareback rider, won the opening round with an 85.5 score to collect $26,230

The saddle bronc riding was the other event that featured Canadian contestants and like the team roping there were three Canucks three in all. Clay Elliot had a tough start to his ten days in Las Vegas as he was bucked off a nasty bronc from Dakota Rodeo called Bridal Shower. Jake Watson, the BC man who just made the WNFR roster in 15th spot, spurred out a 77.5 on Bar T Rodeo’s Heart of Gold. That left it up to Zeke Thurston on Sweet Maria from Pete Carr Rodeo and Thurston, at his second consecutive Finals managed an 80.5 to finish just out of the money in a round that saw the amazing Wright family finish one-two-three. It was 18 year old Ryder, (Dad) Cody and (Uncle) Jake with 87.5, 86.5 and 85.5 respectively. First man out, Alan Boore, of Ardell, Utah, was 4th in the round with an 85 on a Canadian bronc, C5 Rodeo’s Black Hills.

Other winners included travelling partners Clayton Hass and Tyler Waguespack in the steer wrestling, each with 3.8 seconds on the clock; two time Canadian champion tie-down roper and 2013 World titleist, Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, Louisiana with a 7.1 second run; Cheney, Washington’s Pamela Capper with a an arena record-tying 13.75 in the barrel race and in the bull riding, two time World Champion, Sage Kimsey did what Sage Kimsey does, posting a sensational 86.5 on Frontier Rodeo’s Aftershock to win the round. A couple of Canadian bulls made their presence felt. Outlaw Buckers' Chip Shot carried Brennon Eldred to an 83 points and a third place cheque. And Kesler Championship Rodeo's Flight Plan bucked off Garrett Tribble.

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About the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) with headquarters in Airdrie, Alberta is the sanctioning body for professional rodeo in Canada. The CPRA approves over 50 events annually with a total payout exceeding $5.1 million. Join us for our premiere event - the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) - in early November each year in Edmonton, Alberta at Northlands Coliseum. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @prorodeocanada, like Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Facebook, or online at RodeoCanada.com. 
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