Sterling 'Gator' Lambert. PRCA Photo by Ric Andersen
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – For the last several years, steer wrestler Sterling Lambert has been a standout California Circuit cowboy.
Lambert, whose nickname is “Gator,” had his talent on full display on the circuit system’s biggest stage Thursday.
The Fallon, Nev., native took the first-round lead with a 4.6-second run at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo at the Silver Spurs Arena.
“I was riding (six-time Linderman Award winner) Kyle Whitaker’s horse for the first time (Thursday night) and he’s a really nice horse and I was just really trying to get a good start,” said Lambert, 29. “I just wanted to do my job and bulldog, and it worked out well. Kyle (Whitaker) also did a really good job hazing.”
This was Lambert’s third consecutive trip to the RNCFR, and he didn’t have much time to think about his run Thursday, as he was the first cowboy out.
“It seems like the last three years I’ve been here at the RNCFR I’ve been one of the first two or three guys to go in the first round,” Lambert said. “But, this is the first time I’ve ever had a good start here, so this is awesome. Hopefully I will be able to keep things rolling.”
Lambert did come to Kissimmee with plenty of momentum. He was seventh in the April 4 WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings. Lambert, who joined the PRCA in 2007, had a career-best finish of 37th in the 2013 world standings with $31,511.
“I’m really excited to be back here at the RNCFR,” Lambert said. “This is awesome. I have not done real well here in the past, and I would love to win a lot of money this time.”
Lambert will not compete again in the RNCFR until Saturday night, but he doesn’t have any big plans from now until then.
“I’m going to hang out and help my buddies out (Friday night), and then I will try and do the same thing again on Saturday night,” Lambert said. “I’m not going to back off too much because steer wrestling gets pretty bad if you miss a barrier and you end up late.”
While Lambert has RNCFR experience, the same can’t be said for team ropers – header Billy Bob Brown and heeler Garrett Jess – who were making their RNCFR debut.
However, the Columbia River Circuit year-end champions didn’t look like RNCFR rookies as they took the first-round lead with a 6.3-second time.
“I just went up there and caught him, and Garrett heeled and got a good finish and we made a good run, and this sets us up for the long haul,” said Brown. “That’s what we are here for, to get in the final four. We have a lot of confidence here lately and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Brown and Jess are in their second year roping together, and Jess acknowledged they tried to stay calm on this big stage.
“We’ve been to a lot of rodeos and roped a lot of steers for a lot of money, and we just tried to stick to our game plan,” Jess said.
Brown was quick to credit his 8-year-old horse, Harry, for his success.
“He’s a game changer for us,” Brown said. “He’s just an amazing athlete and is really fast. He’s one of a kind and I’m blessed to have that horse.”
For good reason. Brown has been riding that horse for three years and it has won him a slew of honors. He was the 2014 PRCA/Resistol All-Around Rookie of the Year and also won National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association team roping championships with heeler Logan Medlin his junior and senior years at Tarleton State University (Stephenville, Texas). He also was the all-around national champion at the CNFR as a junior.
In addition to Lambert, and Brown and Jess, other first-round leaders Thursday were bareback riders R.C. Landingham (83.5 points on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Logan’s Crossing) and Chase Erickson (83.5 points on United Pro Rodeo’s Little Dougy), saddle bronc rider Allen Boore (82 points on Harry Vold’s Mountain Climber), tie-down roper Cole Bailey (8.7 seconds), barrel racer Sarah Kieckhefer (15.90 seconds) and bull rider Cody Rostockyj (80.5 points on Sutton Rodeos’ Tea Time). The first round concludes Friday night at the 7:30 (ET) performance.
The tournament-style RNCFR format determines the national circuit champions in each event. All 24 qualifiers from the 12 circuits compete in the two preliminary rounds of the rodeo. The top eight contestants from each event advance to the semifinal, with all previous scores and times thrown out. The top four move on to the final round, a sudden-death competition that determines the national circuit champion in each event.
The Wrangler Network will be live streaming all the action from the RNCFR. The coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. (ET) April 8-9, at 1:30 p.m. April 9 and at 2:30 p.m. (ET) April 10. Log on to www.wranglernetwork.com to watch.
Bull rider Gowdy wins RNCFR first round
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – No one has ever questioned the ability of bull riders to compete through pain.
Jake Gowdy was another example of that on Friday at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo at the Silver Spurs Arena.
With a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that will require surgery, Gowdy wasn’t making any excuses, just winning the first round with an 81-point ride on Painted Pony Championship Rodeo’s Gentleman Jack.
“That was my first time getting on that bull,” said Gowdy, 19. “I had no clue what he was going to do. I just rode him jump for jump and he turned back to the left and he was a real big, strong bull.”
Gowdy acknowledged not having a game plan might have worked in his favor.
“If I would have thought he was going left and he went right, he would have set a trap on me,” Gowdy said. “I don’t want to set a trap with a bull. I just want to ride them jump for jump.”
Gowdy is making his RNCFR debut, thanks to winning the Prairie Circuit year-end title. However, his status for traveling to compete in Kissimmee was definitely in doubt when he injured his knee following a ride in late January.
“I will have surgery on my knee on April 20, and I was holding off on the surgery until after the RNCFR,” said Gowdy, who is from Bristow, Okla. “Since my injury, I have only been on two practice bulls at my house before I came here (to Kissimmee). I’ve just been doing physical therapy and trying to get my leg built up, but the pain is like a knife stabbing you.”
For his victorious ride, Gowdy collected a $6,182 check.
“It feels really good to win this kind of money, and that helps make the pain go away,” said Gowdy, who expects to be out for five months after his upcoming surgery. “Winning this rodeo is what I’m going for.”
In the team roping, header Jake Orman and heeler Tyler Domingue took center stage. The duo first met at Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, and have been best friends for the last six years.
They qualified out of the Texas Circuit to make their RNCFR debut, and they made the most of their opportunity.
“I just tried to score good and catch and let my heeler make up the time, which he did,” said Orman, 24. “I had a good steer and I was just trying to make the catch and it all worked out. This is awesome.”
Orman is originally from West Point, Miss., but has lived in Texas since he went to college there and he now lives in Huntsville.
Orman and Domingue did rope together last season, but Domingue wasn’t roping on the PRCA circuit this season. Thus, he was thrilled to partner back up with Orman in Kissimmee – and win.
“This year I just stayed home, and I have not competed at any pro rodeos,” said Domingue, who is from De Kalb, Texas. “I’ve been just riding horses and trying to stay sharp at home. It was nice to get this big check. I’ve thought about coming back out (on the circuit), but team roping is all about partnership and if you don’t have a partner to go with, it is really not worth it. Jake and I talked about roping again (after this), and we will see what happens.”
In addition to Gowdy, Orman and Domingue, other first-round winners were co-champion bareback riders R.C. Landingham (83.5 points on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Logan’s Crossing), Chase Erickson (83.5 points on United Pro Rodeo’s Little Dougy) and Mason Clements (83.5 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos Miss Dunny), steer wrestler Sterling Lambert (4.6 seconds), saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley (84 points on Sutton Rodeo’s Prom Night), tie-down roper Sterling Smith (7.8 seconds), and barrel racer Sherry Cervi (15.58 seconds).
The second round begins at 1:30 p.m. (ET) tomorrow and concludes Saturday night with a 7:30 (ET) performance. The RNCFR will crown its 2016 national champions in the final performance at 2:30 (ET) Sunday.
“Every rodeo like this, where it is a finals and the top horses and top guys, it is exciting to do well,” Crawley said. “It’s kind of the same atmosphere as the NFR; different color bucking chutes is the only difference, really. You have to have the same mentality that you would anywhere else, otherwise you might be cleaning dirt out of your teeth.”
The tournament-style RNCFR format determines the national circuit champions in each event. All 24 qualifiers from the 12 circuits compete in the two preliminary rounds of the rodeo. The top eight contestants from each event advance to the semifinal, with all previous scores and times thrown out. The top four move on to the final round, and a sudden-death competition that determines the national circuit champion in each event.
Kissimmee, Fla., April 7-10
Bareback riding: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Chase Erickson, on United Pro Rodeo's Little Dougy, and R.C. Landingham, on Big Rafter Rodeo's Logan's Crossing, 83.5 points each; 3. Jake Brown, 80; 4. (tie) Caine Riddle and Casey Breuer, 79.5 each; 6. David Peebles, 78.
Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Sterling Lambert, 4.6 seconds; 2. (tie) Cody Pratt and Jule Hazen, 4.9 each; 4. Shayde Etherton, 5.3; 5. Josh Boka, 5.6; 6. Kamry Dymmek, 6.0.
Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Billy Bob Brown/Garrett Jess, 6.3 seconds; 2. J.B. Lord/Levi Lord, 6.5; 3. Andrew Ward/Tyler Worley, 6.6; 4. Tyler Wade/Kinney Harrell, 6.9; 5. Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 7.1; 6. Jade Stoddard/Ike Folsom, 8.6.
Saddle bronc riding: First round leaders: 1. Allen Boore, 82 points on Harry Vold Rodeo's Mountain Climber; 2. Sam Spreadborough, 80.5; 3. Keith Brauer Jr., 80; 4. Curtis Garton, 79; 5. Jesse James Kirby, 77.5; 6. Justin Lawrence, 76.
Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Cole Bailey, 8.7 seconds; 2. Taylor Santos, 8.9; 3. Timber Moore, 9.8; 4. Brice Ingo, 10.0; 5. Clint Kindred, 11.0; 6. Bart Brunson, 11.1.
Barrel racing: First round leaders: 1. Sarah Kieckhefer, 15.90 seconds; 2. Kelly Tovar, 15.92; 3. (tie) Kristine Knauf and Mary Burger, 16.00 each; 5. Callahan Crossley, 16.06; 6. Jennifer Mosley, 16.13.
Bull riding: First round leaders: 1. Cody Rostockyj, 80.5 points on Sutton Rodeos' Tea Time; 2. Lon Danley, 75.5; no other qualified rides.
Total payoff: $704,353. Stock contractors: Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo, Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, United Pro Rodeo, Brookman-Hyland Rodeo, Big Rafter Rodeo, Klein Brothers Pro Rodeo, Harry Vold Rodeo, Korkow Rodeos, Hi Lo ProRodeo, Rafter H Rodeo Livestock, Silver Spurs Club, Sutton Rodeos, Three Hills Rodeo, Silver Creek Rodeo, Pickett Rodeo and Stace Smith Pro Rodeos.