Breuer, Struxness come out on top
Breuer notches first WNFR victory
In his third trip to the WNFR, Ty Breuer finally got his first round victory. He made it a memorable one, too.
Breuer won the bareback riding competition by tying the Round 4 record, scoring 90.5 points on Brookman Rodeo’s Risky Business.
Breuer also qualified for the WNFR in 2013 and 2016. But this was his first victory. His previous best was a tie for third last season.
“It means the world,” Breuer said. “My wife and I just had a little girl. It’s just been fun being here.”
Breuer had never been on Risky Business before. So, he called up someone who had to do a little research. It helped.
“I had heard about that horse a couple times this year and got to see it once,” said the 27-year-old from North Dakota. “I saw (Devan) Reilly get on him in the Pendleton (Ore., Round-Up) short round and I called him about it. He said, ‘It’s going to be fun and just let him roll.’”
Breuer did just that, tying him with Will Lowe for the Round 4 record, set in 2004.
“That’s just icing on the cake,” Breuer said. “My whole goal was to, ever since I got here, just to win a round. That’s just icing on the cake and just keep riding.”
In 2016, while on his way to winning the WNFR average and world title, Tim O’Connell placed in eight of the 10 rounds, missing out only in Rounds 6 and 9. Following a re-ride, O’Connell placed fifth and leads the world standings with $271,570, a lead of more than $100,000.
Struxness capitalizes with draw to win steer wrestling
When steer wrestler J.D. Struxness saw he’d drawn the same steer for Round 4 that Tyler Waguespack won with in Round 1, he knew he’d had have a good chance to at least place.
Struxness then went out and won the fourth round in 3.6 seconds.
“There’s a little bit of pressure there because they’ve done good with him and you don’t want to be the one who stubs his toe and doesn’t do good on him,” said Struxness, 23. It’s also a relief because you know they have been fast on that steer, so you know it can be done if you go make a good run.”
Last year at the WNFR – his first – Struxness won Rounds 4, 5 and 10, split the win in Round 3 and placed in six rounds.
“I’m riding a good horse, Peso,” Struxness said. “I rode him here last year, and he’s 14 years old. I just bought him last year and he works great out here. I had a good hazer over there, Jacob Shofner, and he does a good job keeping them where they need to be.”
Struxness is sitting in seventh place in the world standings with $120,203. He entered the WNFR in 13th place.
“In this building, it’s the same game plan every night,” he said. “You have to hit that start and make the best run you can with whatever steer you have. It’s a relief (to win a round) because everybody is waiting to bust that ice and win that round, so to be able to do it in the fourth round feels good, and hopefully this will set me up the rest of the week.”
Benton wins in bull riding
Trey Benton III continues to be one of the hottest competitors at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER.
On Sunday, Dec. 10, he made it count in a way no other cowboy has.
The bull rider from Rock Island, Texas, was one of just three to ride to the whistle, doing it to the tune of 87.5 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Mo Money at the Thomas & Mack Center.
And because fewer than six riders placed, the three bull riders split the ground money, with all of it counting toward the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings.
Benton cashed in for $33,564, the most money anyone has won at a Finals rodeo where it all counted toward the standings.
He’s also leading the bull riding average with 350 points on four head. He’s the only rider to cover all four bulls, so far.
“I’m going to stick with the system I’ve had since it’s working well – I don’t want to change anything,” Benton said. “… It’s just keeping my mindset right, I’ve seen harder days than this. The past three years (at the WNFR), I partied too hard and this year I didn’t – I’m working out and eating right and not listening to outside opinions.”
Sunday was the 29th time in the history of the National Finals Rodeo that just three riders have covered.
Joining Benton in riding to the whistle were Joe Frost (83 points) and Ty Wallace (80.5 points).
Unlike in years past, Benton was healthy heading into this Finals, and it’s making a difference.
“I just kept believing in myself when there was so much doubt,” Benton said. “There’s a reason you’re here, and it sucks when you get high expectations for yourself and they don’t come out as planned.”
Three-time defending world champion and current world leader Sage Kimzey sits atop the standings with $291,576. Garrett Smith is second ($253,797) and Benton, who started the Finals in sixth, is up to third with $209,670.
It was his second win of the Finals. He placed fourth in the second round and third in the third round. His $89,115 won at the WNFR through four rounds has him in front for the RAM Top Gun Award, given to the competitor who wins the most money in one event.
He knows he has a chance to do more.
“It’s good, and I’ve got to finish my job – but I’m not getting excited yet because it’s only the fourth round,” Benton said.
Brown/Long tie Egusquiza/Koontz to climb team roping standings
Luke Brown and Jake Long are on a roll.
The team ropers tied Dustin Egusquiza and Kory Koontz with a time of 4.1 seconds to split the first-place win.
Brown entered the team roping header standings in fourth, while Long was fifth in the heeler standings.
Brown has shot up to second place, Long third, in their respective events.
“I feel like I’m on a spaceship right now,” Long said. “I’m feeling a lot better. I had a rough start. If we can make six more good runs, we’ll win a lot more money and we’ll have a good week.”
Brown trails team roping heading leader Kaleb Driggers by about $5,400. Team roping heeling leader Junior Nogueira leads the world standings by about $3,300.
Egusquiza is making his first WNFR appearance. Sunday marked his first WNFR win.
“I’m incredibly excited right now,” said Egusquiza, 22. To be here, to split the round with (Brown and Long), these guys are legends and my partner (Koontz) is one of the greatest legends of all time.”
The 4.1-second time was Egusquiza and Koontz’s best time of the Finals.
“Our game plan really didn’t change much, we just executed what we’d been wanting a lot better tonight,” said Koontz, adding that Egusquiza made a horse change.
Brown and Long are looking to keep climbing.
“It’s outstanding,” Brown said. “It’s a whole ton of money.”
Ryder Wright scores 89 points to win saddle bronc riding
At 19 years old, Ryder Wright shows no fear when he steps into the Thomas & Mack. He hides it well.
Wright scored 89 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Pony Man to win Round 4 of the saddle bronc riding.
Wright won the first four rounds of the WNFR as a rookie last year. This was his first win of this WNFR, giving him $72,615 at the Finals.
“I thought I would be calmer this year, but I was shaking bad in the first round,” Wright said. “The atmosphere and crowd are not anything you’ll get over. You wouldn’t think it would be as different as it is, I’ve been here 13 years watching my dad (Cody) and it’s crazy how different it is to ride here.”
Wright has climbed from eighth in the world standings to start the WNFR to fourth. He’s hoping the win kickstarts the rest of his Finals.
“It definitely helps and gets your motor rolling when you’re winning,” the Utah cowboy said. “I just need to win the next six and let the cards fall where they may.”
A night after winning Round 3, Jacobs Crawley continues to lead in the world standings with $220,158.
Martin wins first WNFR tie-down roping buckle
In just his fourth round at the WNFR, Cooper Martin won his first career Finals go-round buckle.
Martin won the tie-down roping competition in 7.6 seconds.
He tied for fifth for his first Finals check in Round 3, then came back to win Sunday.
“I can’t even describe what it feels like to win,” said Martin, 20. “Just even riding in the grand entry is incredible. I have been watching these guys rope since I was 7 years old, and to be with them out here roping is just phenomenal. I’ve been roping all fall to try and get ready for this.”
Martin’s winnings (he’s won $56,961 at the WNFR) has him in sixth place in the world standings with $142,400. He opened the Finals in 14th place.
He’s been able to push aside his nerves of the bright lights of Las Vegas.
“I thought I would be more nervous than I have been, but once I got in the building I seemed to relax a little bit because I know I got here for a reason and this has been a blast,” he said.
Moore notches fifth buckle
Barrel racer Amberleigh Moore didn’t have the easiest ride. But she didn’t need to, either.
Moore, with one foot out of its stirrup, won Round 4 in 13.56 seconds. She’s in second place in the world standings with $198,922.
“I knew there had been a lot of girls having trouble on the ground, so I came into my first barrel and I went in and sat her (my horse, Paige) and asked her to sit really hard and she did,” Moore said. “Somehow, I managed to blow my inside stirrup, so going across to two I’m fishing for it and I can’t find it, and then I’m going to three and I still can’t find it. I just said, ‘Oh well, sit hard on the third and don’t come off.’”
Her fifth buckle won at the WNFR came on a significant day.
“Today is my daughter’s 26th birthday, so I guess Paige gave her a happy birthday present,” Moore said. “I will give this buckle to her.”
Cowboys and cowgirls from 4 to 18 years old came from Montana, North and South Dakotan Wyoming, gathering in Newcastle, Wyoming to vie for Championship titles in the Weston County Mini Roughstock Rodeo.
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