Wrangler National Finals in review

Past world champion team roper Clay O' Brien Cooper rides away after one of his round wins at the 2015 WNFR. Photo by Dan Hubbell

With $10 million and nine world championship buckles up for grabs, the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER was the biggest and richest yet.

There were numerous historic performances in Las Vegas over the 10 nights, but no cowboys left town with bigger smiles than Trevor Brazile, Steven Peebles and Sage Kimzey.

Brazile captured his 23rd overall world championship by clinching his 13th all-around gold buckle. He became the first man to cross the $6 million mark in career earnings and set the record for most money earned in a season with $518,011.

Brazile now has the nine highest-earning seasons in PRCA history, with five of them surpassing $400,000.

He also put his name in the WNFR record books, clocking two of the seven fastest times in the event’s history. His 6.5-second run in Round 8 tied Cody Ohl’s 2003 arena record, and Brazile’s 6.6 in Round 6 set the round record and is tied for the third-fastest run in WNFR history. That round win also clinched his 10th-straight all-around championship.

Hunter Herrin put his name next to Brazile’s in a tie for third on the list with a time of 6.6 seconds in Round 9. Matt Shiozawa (Round 7), Tuf Cooper (Round 10) and Tyson Durfey (Round 10) all posted times of 6.7 to tie for eighth on the all-time list.

Peebles captured the bareback riding world title in dramatic fashion on the 10th night, splitting the Round 10 victory to win the world title and prevent Kaycee Feild from a historic fifth straight gold buckle.

The Redmond, Ore., cowboy – who nearly died in July this year in the back of an ambulance – also took the WNFR average title with a score of 832.5 points on 10 head. The $234,054 he earned over the 10 nights was a bareback riding WNFR record, and also won him the RAM Top Gun award for the contestant with the most money earned in a single event.

In addition to the two buckles he took home, Peebles also received a one-of-a-kind wrapped RAM truck, a custom buckle from Montana Silversmiths and one-of-a-kind RAM Truck Top Gun-branded rifle from Commemorative Firearms.

Peebles’ record-setting 10 days got him to the $1 million mark in career earnings, the 132nd PRCA cowboy to get there and the second of the 57th annual WNFR; fellow bareback rider Clint Cannon got there on the first day of the rodeo. Peebles’ total of $1,062,215 puts him 116th on the all-time list after starting the WNFR at 181st.

Kimzey earned his second bull riding gold buckle in a row, making him the only competitor in the event’s history to win the world title in his first two years as a PRCA card holder. The $327,178 he earned set the mark for the most money won in a season in bull riding.

Aside from Brazile in the all-around and Kimzey in the bull riding, the only other season earnings records that fell in 2015 were both sides of the team roping. World Champion Header Aaron Tsinigine’s $227,672 and World Champion Heeler Kollin VonAhn’s $231,601 were both tops in the event’s history.

Kimzey and barrel racer Callie duPerier were the only world champions who led their events heading into the WNFR. As a result of the shakeup at the top, there were five first-time world champions in 2015: Peebles (bareback riding), Tsinigine (team roping header), Jacobs Crawley (saddle bronc riding), Caleb Smidt (tie-down roping) and duPerier (barrel racing). This tied the record for fewest regular-season champions to claim a gold buckle; there were also two in 2001.

Clay O’Brien Cooper out-earned fellow team roping heeler Rich Skelton by better than a 2-1 margin at the WNFR and moved ahead of him to sixth on the all-time earnings list with $2,902,436. Skelton held off bareback rider Bobby Mote to stand seventh with $2,878,438.

Despite sharing second place on the final night, saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss finished the year with $1,999,439, so he will need one more check somewhere to become the 24th PRCA cowboy to surpass $2 million in career earnings.