Pruitt proves Nebraska cowboys can rope | TSLN.com

Pruitt proves Nebraska cowboys can rope

Riley Pruitt competes in round two of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Gering, Neb. cowboy won the average at this year’s WNFR, the fastest time on ten head. Photo by Jackie Jensen

Tie-down roper Riley Pruitt won the average at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in Las Vegas December 1-10.

The Gering, Neb. cowboy, who is 25 years old, qualified for the WNFR by being one of the top fifteen tie-down ropers in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association on September 30, the end of the pro rodeo season. At his first WNFR, he was consistent, being one of only five of the fifteen tie-down ropers to get a qualified time on all ten runs.

The average, sometimes referred to as the aggregate, is the combined times a cowboy makes for all of his competition runs at a rodeo. The WNFR, the "super bowl" of pro rodeo, features ten nights of rodeo. Pruitt's time was 85.90 seconds on ten runs. For his average title, he won a gold buckle and $67,000, which was in addition to the $28,769 he won for placing fourth in the first round, fifth in rounds three and seven, and sixth in round five.

"I messed up some good calves," he said, referring to a few runs where he should have done better, "but coming out here, I wanted to make ten good runs. If they paid me, they paid me. If not, I wasn't too worried about it. That was my game plan."

Pruitt, the son of the 1990 PRCA tie-down roping champion Troy Pruitt, showed his dad the average buckle after he made his victory lap the night of Dec. 10. His dad, who qualified for eight WNFRs and won the average in 1993, looked at it, and said "they're a little different than they were in 1993. They're a lot prettier."

Pruitt's horse for the year is a seventeen-year-old buckskin named Chip, who was purchased from Sam Chittick of Wellfleet, Neb. in the spring of 2015.

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His winnings will come in handy. He and wife Jenna, who were married in October, are planning a honeymoon in Jamaica this winter. But for now, he's just happy to get home. "I miss home, I don't care how cold it is," he said.

Pruitt won the Nebraska High School tie-down roping championship three times and finished third in the average at the College National Finals Rodeo in 2011 before hitting the pro rodeo trail full time.