Vin Fisher Jr. claims NCFSR championship

          TORRINGTON, Wyo. – Vin Fisher Jr. didn’t start the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping the way he wanted, but the two-day event at the Goshen County Fairgrounds certainly ended the way he dreamed.

          In the four-man final round, he was out first and posted a solid time of 10.7 seconds. That put the Texas Circuit cowboy in good position, but also a tenuous one.

          “I thought I could win fourth or I could win first,” he said. “I knew three of the best ropers in the world were behind me. I was very fortunate it held up.”

          For various reasons, Jess Tierney of the Badlands Circuit, Rocky Patterson of the Prairie Circuit and Brent Lewis of the Turquoise Circuit all had no-times in the sudden death final round.

          Fisher was ecstatic to be crowned the NCFSR champion.

          “This one means a lot to me,” said the 35-year-old cowboy from Andrews, Texas. “I’ve been here to Torrington every year since they started this event in 2010 – except last year when we couldn’t get to our (Texas) Circuit Finals (Rodeo) because of an ice storm.

          “I was second here in the sudden death format in 2010. I won the average that year, the semifinals and was second in the four-man. I won about $10,000.”

          He earned $7,819 this year – not bad for two days of work.

          After his first run, it would’ve been hard for even Fisher to believe he would end up the champion. He broke the barrier in Round 1 on Friday and posted a time of 25 seconds, which put him behind the eight-ball, he figured.

          “I knew I had to tie the next five to have a chance to make the semifinals,” he said. “I didn’t leave much room for error.”

          Fisher was one of three ropers to tie all six of their steers, which left him second in the average (99.3 seconds on six) behind Tierney (98.7 on six). Tierney earned $2,843 as the average champion while Fisher pocketed $2,132 for finishing second. Howdy McGinn of the Columbia River Circuit was third in the average (102.9 seconds on six), and he earned $1,421.

          The other five semifinalists were Scott Snedecor (62.1 seconds on five head) of the Texas Circuit, Ora Taton (63.4 on five) of the Badlands Circuit, Troy Tillard (65.6 on five) of the Mountain States Circuit, Patterson (65.8 on five) and Lewis (68.3 on five).

          Lewis was out first and won the semifinal round with a time of 9.6 seconds, good for a $2,843 check. Patterson followed that run with a time of 10.2 seconds and he finished second to earn $2,133. Tierney was third in 10.3 and won $1,422. Fisher took fourth in 11.4 seconds – just one-tenth of a second ahead of fellow Texas Circuit roper Scott Snedecor – to earn $711.

          All four ropers who reached the four-man final earned more than $5,000 at the NCFSR. Lewis took home $5,687 while Patterson earned $5,608 and Tierney won $5,213.

          “This is a great event,” Fisher said. “It’s one of the most hospitable rodeos we go to all year. The steers were great, the roping was great, and the ground was great. They want you to be here and they treat you like it. They like steer roping here.

          “And,” he added, “when you get to rope in a heated building when it’s 30 degrees outside and snowing – that’s great.”

          Fisher had high praise for his horse, Two Spot, a 16-year-old he bought last November.

          “This is the first place I brought him, and he was great,” Fisher said. “When I wanted to tie one down, he let me do it. When I wanted to go fast, he let me do it.”

          Fisher’s name joins previous winners of the event: Ralph Williams (Prairie Circuit, 2010), Trent Mills (Mountain States Circuit, 2011), Patterson (Prairie Circuit, 2012), J.P. Wickett (Prairie Circuit, 2013), Roger Branch (Prairie Circuit, 2014) and Jason Evans (Texas Circuit, 2015).

          Voted top horse at the NCFSR for the second straight year was Tillard’s horse, Rowdy.

          “He did better than me,” said Tillard, who led the average after the first day’s four rounds. “I’m not surprised for him. They were a lot of good horses here, but he gave me a chance to win.”

          In the end, it was Fisher who was smiling.

National Circuit Finals Steer Roping

Torrington, Wyo., April 29-30

Steer roping: First round: 1. Chance Kelton, 10.3 seconds, $1,580; 2. Brodie Poppino, 10.6, $1,185; 3. Troy Tillard, 11.1, $790; 4. Jay Pixley, 11.9, $395. Second round: 1. Scott Snedecor, 10.5 seconds, $1,580; 2. Vin Fisher Jr., 11.4, $1,185; 3. Troy Tillard, 11.7, $790; 4. Jay Pixley, 12.2, $395. Third round: 1. Rocky Patterson, 10.4 seconds, $1,580; 2. Ralph Williams, 10.9, $1,185; 3. Casey Tillard, 11.5, $790; 4. Troy Tillard, 11.6, $395. Fourth round: 1. Travis Mills, 9.4 seconds, $1,580; 2. Trent Mills, 10.1, $1,185; 3. (tie) JB Whatley and J.P. Wickett, 10.3, $592 each. Fifth round: 1. Chance Kelton, 10.5 seconds, $1,580; 2. Brian Garr, 10.7, $1,185; 3. Ora Taton, 11.1, $790; 4. Brodie Poppino, 12.3, $395. Sixth round: 1. J. Tom Fisher, 9.5 seconds, $1,580; 2. Ora Taton, 9.9, $1,185; 3. (tie) Jason Evans and Ralph Williams, 10.2, $592 each. Average leaders: 1. Jess Tierney, 98.7 seconds on six head, $2,843; 2. Vin Fisher Jr., 99.3; 3. Howdy McGinn, 102.9, $1,422; 4. Scott Snedecor, 162.1, $711. Semifinals: 1. Brent Lewis, 9.6 seconds, $2,843; 2. Rocky Patterson, 10.2, $2,133; 3. Jess Tierney, 10.3, $1,422; 4. Vin Fisher Jr., 11.4, $711. Finals: 1. Vin Fisher Jr., 10.7 seconds, $3,791; 2. Brent Lewis, NT, $2,843; 3. Rocky Patterson, NT, $1,896; 4. Jess Tierney, NT, $945.

Total payoff: $40,281. Rodeo secretary: Eva Chadwick. Officials: Jim Whiting, Cliff Overstreet and Chuck Hoss. Timers: Bonnie Cusimano and Martha Martin. Announcer: T.C. Long. Chute boss: Seth Schafer. Photographers: Fred McClanahan Jr and Ty Stockton. Music director: Derek Barton

Read more about the NCFSR in the May 22 ProRodeo Sports News.

Consistent Troy Tillard enjoys big first day at NCFSR


          TORRINGTON, Wyo. – Troy Tillard feels right at home at the Goshen County Fairgrounds, home of the National Circuit Finals Steer Roping. He was certainly comfortable during Friday’s opening performance of the two-day event while placing in three of four rounds to grab a big lead in the average.

          “It’s been good to me here,” said Tillard, who represents the Mountain States Circuit. “It’s close to home.”

          The Tillard family lives near Douglas, Wyo., about 100 miles from Torrington, site of the NCFSR since its inception in 2010. The Tillards own ranches in excess of 100,000 acres.

          His grandfather, Bud, and his mom, Debbie, watched him place third in Rounds 1 and 2, and fourth in the Round 3. His wife, Heidi, and sons, Ryder, 10, and Talon, 6, were also on hand to witness his success. His father, Tim, was back at the ranch.

          “He was shearing sheep,” Troy Tillard said. He said the family owns about 10,000 sheep.

          He didn’t feel a bit guilty about competing, though.

          “You can’t miss a roping like this,” he said.

          His cousin, Casey Tillard, placed third in Round 3.

          “Casey’s my cousin, but we’re like brothers,” he said. “We practice together a lot and we work hard at it.”

          A lot of work remains to determine the champion at the 2016 NCFSR. Saturday’s final performance will feature Rounds 5 and 6, with the top eight contestants moving into a semifinals round. The top four from the semifinals will advance to the four-man final, with the fastest time from that round being declared the champion.

          Tillard’s time of 49.4 seconds on four head is well ahead of the Columbia River Circuit’s Howdy McGinn (62.1 seconds on four head). Jess Tierney (72.4 seconds) of the Badlands Circuit and Vin Fisher Jr. (73.1) of the Texas Circuit are the only other contestants to tie four steers. Sixteen cowboys have tied three steers, with Scott Snedecor (36.1 seconds) of the Texas Circuit and Brent Lewis (36.5) of the Turquoise Circuit leading that pack.

          “I’ve been around this deal long enough to know this can change in a hurry,” Tillard said. “I just want to focus on one steer at a time and try to make the top eight.”

          Tillard earned $1,975 for the day’s work, the most of any of the 35 contestants.

          “I had a good day, and a guy is happy with that,” he said. “But there’s a long way to go.”

          Round winners earned $1,580. Chance Kelton of the Turquoise Circuit won Round 1 in 10.3 seconds. Snedecor took Round 2 in 10.5 seconds. Rocky Patterson of the Prairie Circuit won Round 3 in 10.4 and Travis Mills of the Mountain States Circuit won Round 4 with the day’s fastest time of 9.4 seconds.

          Money won at this event will begin to count toward the world standings next year. Tillard sits 10th in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings.

          “I had a good winter and I’ve got some money won,” Tillard said, “so I’m going to go a lot and take advantage of this horse.”

          His horse, Rowdy, was the top horse at this event last year and was voted the 2015 AQHA Steer Roping Horse of the Year. Tillard has qualified for the National Finals Steer Roping the last two years, and also back in 2004. It’s no coincidence that he bought Rowdy a little more than three years ago.

          “He’s the best I’ve ever had – hands down,” Tillard said. “He really makes it easy for me; all I have to do is back in and rope. Our timing is good and we know each other inside and out. It didn’t take long for that to happen. I knew he was something special the first time I ran a steer on him.”

          Tillard made the four-man final round last year, and in 2013. He’d like to do that again, then take his best shot at winning the championship.

          Previous winners of this event were Ralph Williams (Prairie Circuit, 2010), Trent Mills (Mountain States Circuit, 2011), Patterson (Prairie Circuit, 2012), J.P. Wickett (Prairie Circuit, 2013), Roger Branch (Prairie Circuit, 2014) and Jason Evans (Texas Circuit, 2015).

          Tillard refused to think about adding his name to that list.

          “It’s a great event,” he said. “I’m just proud to be part of it.”

Read more about the NCFSR in the May 20 ProRodeo Sports News.