by Ed Godfrey The Oklahoman
The International Finals Rodeo opens Friday night in Oklahoma City with four performances scheduled over three days at State Fair Arena.
The IFR is the championship rodeo of the International Professional Rodeo Association, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City.
The IPRA is the rodeo industry's second-largest professional organization, behind the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association, which holds the National Finals Rodeo.
The IPRA sanctions more than 300 rodeos each year in the United States and Canada. The the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls in the season standings in each event qualify to the IFR.
The race for the all-around title this season is a battle of cowboys from different countries. Justin Thigpen, a tie-down roper and steer wrestler from Waycross, Ga., leads the all-around standings heading into the IFR with just short of $54,000 earned during the season.
Chasing him is Canadian roper and steer wrestler Cody Mousseau, who has won more than $46,000, and Australian Ty Parkinson, a bull rider and roper who has earned more than $41,000.
Lurking in fourth is 23-time IPRA world champion bronc rider Shawn Minor of Camden, Ohio. Minor is a former Southwestern Oklahoma State University cowboy who has won nine consecutive all-around titles and 10 overall.
But Minor has work to do in the IFR if he is going to make it 10 consecutive all-around crowns as he trails Thigpen by more than $20,000. This is the first time in 10 years that Minor hasn't been in first place in the all-around standings entering the IFR.
Contestants from 17 states plus Canada and Australia are competing in the 46th IFR. Oklahoma has the most representatives by far with 31 contestants. North Carolina is second with 15.