Eight cowboys make WNFR cut in last weekend

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Pressure was a good friend to a handful of PRCA cowboys during the final week (Sept. 21-27) of the 2015 regular season.

Tie-down roper Shane Hanchey, steer wrestler Blake Knowles, bull riders Reid Barker and Kody DeShon, team roping brothers Riley Minor and Brady Minor and saddle bronc rider Tyrel Larsen all came through in the clutch to jump into the top 15 in the standings and punch their tickets to the prestigious Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas. Steer roper J. Tom Fisher joined his brother, Vin, in the field for the Nov. 6-7 Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kan.

“This is relieving to say the least,” said Hanchey, the 2013 world champion. “It was a stressful summer. I had only won like $1,000 until April, and it felt like the whole year I was trying to catch back up to everybody. I wasn’t in the top 15 all year until the last day of the season.”

In the Sept. 21 Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, Hanchey was 19th, but he was able to move up to 15th thanks to winning $6,041 the final week.

All of Hanchey’s winnings came at the Justin Boots Championships Sept. 25 in Omaha, Neb., when his 7.3-second run was good enough to split the first-round win with Trevor Brazile. He posted a 7.6 in the finals to finish second behind Cade Swor.

“It was awesome,” Hanchey said. “I’ve been telling people all year that the great quarterbacks win in the fourth quarter and I believe that with the ropers, too. The great ropers win when it counts the most. I just kept telling myself I have to be there in (Vegas). My family didn’t believe I made the NFR until they saw the updated standings.”

Hanchey is making his sixth trip to the WNFR, all in the last six years.

Knowles, meanwhile, is headed to Vegas for the third time – with his other trips coming in 2009 and 2011, when he also qualified on the final weekend. Knowles won $2,066 during the final week to make it happen this time.

He finished fourth at the Sheriff’s PRCA Rodeo in San Bernardino, Calif., Sept. 27 and collected a $921 check, which was the difference-maker for him. Knowles edged 16th-place Bray Armes by $166 and 17th-place Olin Hannum by $998. Knowles was 16th in the Sept. 21 standings.

“The end goal was to make it to the NFR, so this is very exciting,” Knowles said. “I knew I was going to have to finish at least fourth or better in San Bernardino. I have way too much experience with being on the bubble in my career, so I probably wasn’t as nervous as I could have been, and I was able to finish fourth.”

Barker secured his second consecutive trip to Las Vegas with a memorable effort at the Xtreme Bulls Division 2 event in New Braunfels, Texas, Sept. 27.

Barker, who began the week 17th in the standings, won the first round, finals and average to leave town with $3,710 and a reservation for Vegas.

“This year didn’t come as easy for me as it did last year,” said Barker, who finished 14th in the 2015 world standings after his inaugural trip to the WNFR. “I had to work my butt off to reach this goal and it’s pretty amazing.”