Guy becomes the man, takes first place
LAS VEGAS – Nick Guy became the first Wisconsin timed-event cowboy ever to win a round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and it catapulted him to the top of the steer wrestling world on the opening night of action before a sellout crowd of 17,591 at the Thomas & Mack Center Arena.
Guy, who entered rodeo’s Super Bowl in fourth place among steer wrestlers in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, won Round 1 with a time of 3.6 seconds.
That earned the 30-year-old cowboy from Sparta, Wis., a paycheck of $19,002 – he has $96,757 for the season – and pushed him past Trevor Knowles, K.C. Jones and Casey Martin into the top spot.
“It feels good to get a nice paycheck in Round 1,” Guy said. “We talked about winning Round 1 the whole way out here to Las Vegas.”
Guy, who is making his second appearance at the Finals, felt even more confident after learning which steer he’d drawn for Round 1.
“I ran that steer when we broke these steers in a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “We videoed all the runs down there, so I probably watched my run on that steer 10 times before we came in here. I knew he was just a good steer, but I didn’t know if he was a 3.6 steer. I got a great start and the horse worked great, and I caught him quick and I just made a good run from there.”
Martin tied four-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho – who has been sidelined since he injured his right lat muscle at the California Rodeo Salinas on July 18 – for second place in 3.7 seconds, just one-tenth of a second behind Guy. Martin moved into second place in the world with $93,457. Branquinho, who led the world before getting injured, is fifth.
Guy is just the fifth Wisconsin cowboy to win a round at the Finals, joining bareback rider Jack Buschbom and bull riders B.J. Schumacher, Cory Check and Fred Boettcher. Buschbom was the world champ in 1959-60, and Schumacher won the world in 2006.
Guy said not everyone in Wisconsin understands rodeo.
“It’s not a rodeo part of the country, and that’s why when I win, it makes me feel good about being where I’m from,” he said.
Guy said the fast start will help put him at ease for the next nine days of the Finals.
“I’m going to sleep well tonight and try to keep doing exactly what I did tonight for the rest of the NFR,” he said. “The horse I was on (Roanie, 10 years old), gives me a chance to win every time.”
While Guy is trying to win his first world championship, bareback rider Kaycee Feild is gunning for his fourth consecutive gold buckle. Feild got off to a fast start by winning Round 1 when he rode for 84.5 points on Sutton Rodeos’ Cactus Juice.
“This feels awesome,” Feild said. “It’s great to get off to a good start. That’s a horse I saw in Omaha (Neb.); he gets off the ground and gets good hang time. It was a fun ride.”
Last year, Feild became the first contestant to win a third straight average title at the Finals while also winning his third consecutive world title. He often thinks about stretching that streak to four of each.
“I dream of it,” he said, “at least once a week.”
Feild is the seventh bareback riding defending champion to win Round 1, joining his ProRodeo Hall of Fame father, Lewis Feild (1987), on that list that includes Jack Buschbom (1960), Gary Tucker (1970), Bruce Ford (1980), Marvin Garrett (1989-90) and Justin McDaniel (2009).
In 2011, Feild won the first three rounds – an amazing feat he’d love to repeat – en route to his first gold buckle and average title.
“In 2011, I wrapped it up in the seventh round,” he said.
In his first Wrangler NFR, bull rider Joe Frost accomplished an unprecedented feat by staying aboard the previously unridden Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Rattler for eight seconds and 85.5 points.
“It’s what everyone dreams about doing from the time they’re a little kid,” Frost said. “I knew since I was 3 years old that I would be riding at the NFR someday. It feels good to finally be here in person, because this is the only sport I’ve ever really known or cared about. I’ve dedicated my whole life to this sport, and will continue to do so.”
Before the performance, Frost was anxious, though. The senior at Oklahoma Panhandle State University tried to ease his apprehension by calling his college coaches – former NFR contestants Craig Latham and Robert Etbauer.
“I have to be honest, I was extremely nervous starting at about 3 o’clock this afternoon,” he said. “I had big-time butterflies and I wanted to take a nap, but there was no chance I was going to be able to close my eyes. I called Craig Latham, Robert Etbauer and (former bull rider) Denny Flynn for some advice, and then talked to my parents. My dad told me to treat it like another rodeo, even though that’s impossible.”
Frost was thrilled to continue his family’s legacy of success.
“My Uncle Clyde was at the first-ever NFR, and was the only guy from Utah there and carried the flag in, and then my cousin Lane won the world championship here in 1987,” he said. “It was important for me to fulfill my lifelong dream and get here to represent my family.”
Team ropers Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager posted the fastest Round 1 time in NFR history when they won in 4.0 seconds. The previous mark was 4.1 by Speed Williams and Rich Skelton in 1997, and by Matt Sherwood and Cory Petska in 2011.
“It’s the greatest thing in the world to come back to the Finals and get a ‘W’ in the first round,” said Kirchenschlager, who is in his second WNFR. “This is what we work all year for.”
Powell, who is competing in his ninth Finals and won the world with Jhett Johnson in 2011, was also thrilled with the fast start.
“This means a lot to get the momentum rolling for us,” Powell said. “Winning the first round gives us a lot of momentum and confidence. The year I won the world with Jhett, we came in with the same mindset; to be aggressive on the first one. We placed in the first six rounds doing it.”
Not everyone takes such strategic chances so early in the week.
“People think it’s crazy to go at it in the first round when it’s a 10-head average, but we’re not going to let off,” Powell said. “I’m going to rope this way all week. That’s the pep talk I gave Dakota before we came here. This is what we practiced for. Dakota knows when I get my adrenaline going my handles aren’t going to be layups.”
Kirchenschlager said it’s a winning formula when Powell is fired up.
“I love it when Turtle goes at ‘em,” he said. “Every time he ducks, we win. He tries to apologize for wild handles and I tell him, ‘Do it again. That’s fun.’”
Rookie tie-down roper Marty Yates won his event with a time of 7.4 seconds, one-tenth faster than 20-time World Champion Trevor Brazile, who moved up a spot to second in the world standings behind leader Tuf Cooper, a two-time champ.
Yates, 20, is the youngest tie-down roper at the Finals.
“Words can’t explain what I’m feeling right now,” Yates said. “It’s amazing and awesome. My first NFR to come out winning Round 1 gives me a lot more confidence for the remaining nine rounds. I was a little bit nervous and I was a little bit worried about myself. But when I backed in there and nodded my head, it felt like just another rodeo.”
Saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer moved into second place in the world standings by winning Round 1 when he rode for 87 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Short Stop. Scheer trails saddle bronc riding standings leader Taos Muncy – who tied for third on opening night – by $15,118, or less than a round win.
“It’s tremendous to get out there in the first round and ride well and win,” Scheer said. “It gets your confidence going 110 percent, and you just hope to keep riding and drawing well.”
This is the fourth trip to the Finals for the cowboy from Elsmere, Neb. He was second in the average in 2013, when he finished fifth in the world. He was ninth in the world in 2012 and fourth in 2010.
Still, Scheer was thrilled to get off to a fast start, something that’s eluded him in previous years.
“I’ve been here three times before and never really rode well to start,” he said, “So this was really important to me.”
Fallon Taylor won the barrel racing with a time of 14.09 seconds – even though she wasn’t going for the top spot, she said.
“I am completely stoked,” Taylor said. “I’m shooting for fifth every night and I’ll keep doing so, and if the runs land me in first place that will be just fine with me. I couldn’t be happier.”
Taylor was dressed in a colorful tie-dyed outfit that definitely garnered attention.
“Tie-dye is my signature,” Taylor said. “I am not sure what the outfit for tomorrow night is just yet. I’ll just have to open the closet and see what jumps out at me each night.”
The 56th annual Wrangler NFR continues Friday with the second round at the Thomas & Mack Center. The action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 7-10 p.m. (PT) with Jeff Medders and Butch Knowles announcing.