O’Connell ties arena record for bareback riding with 91.5 points | TSLN.com

O’Connell ties arena record for bareback riding with 91.5 points

LAS VEGAS – Ahead of Saturday's Round 3 draw for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER, there was plenty of hope among rodeo fans that bareback riding defending World Champion Tim O'Connell would be matched with reigning Bareback Horse of the Year C5 Rodeo's Virgil.

O'Connell himself prayed for a decent draw.

Everyone got what they wanted, and O'Connell made it count.

On a night when the bareback riding stock was as impressive as the riders aboard them, the reigning world champion tied the Thomas & Mack Center arena record by riding Virgil for 91.5 points on Saturday, Dec. 9, to cash in for $26,231.

“I want to be consistent every time I nod my head. I want the fans to know I’m the world champion. I’ve worked really, really hard to be the best in the world. I feel like the second one (title) will prove it.”Tim O’Connell, world champion bareback rider

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"I was actually really relieved to be honest with you," said O'Connell, who has placed in each of the first three rounds. "We were sitting at dinner and it had been like an hour after they drew and it's the E-pen (Eliminator Pen Round). You're just sitting there and you're anticipating the draw sheet to come out, you're wondering, and you've got things running through your head. I remember I was just sitting there and I grabbed my cross and my wedding band that's around my neck. I just prayed to God to put me at ease and give me what I needed. He did exactly that. He gave me the world champion bucking horse."

O'Connell tied Justin McDaniel (2007), Bobby Mote (twice in 2008) and Will Lowe (2007) for the arena record.

O'Connell entered the WNFR with the largest lead of any cowboy in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings. His win Saturday put him in first place in the aggregate scores in the race for the average title.

O'Connell tied for third in each of the first two rounds before winning Round 3. He wanted to be consistent at the Finals, and so far, so good.

"I want to be consistent every time I nod my head," said O'Connell. "I want the fans to know I'm the world champion. I've worked really, really hard to be the best in the world. I feel like the second one (title) will prove it."

O'Connell leads the world standings with $264,800. Tanner Aus is second with $170,138.

Kinsel shatters arena barrel racing record

Immediately after watching the arena record get broken, barrel racer Hailey Kinsel posted a blistering time of 13.11 seconds to set the Thomas & Mack arena record.

After two barrels, Kinsel knew something special might be happening.

"(My horse) Sister was a little different than normal tonight," Kinsel said. "She felt a little bit more focused than ever. I felt like she was going to do something good. I mean, I didn't know it was going to be that good. She smoked the first barrel and then she smoked the second, and I sat up and rode my third good, so I can take a little credit there, but I let her work and I don't know what else to say. This is one night I sure won't forget."

Right before Kinsel's run, she watched Kassie Mowery finish in 13.36 to break the previous arena record of 13.37.

"I can't downplay what Kassie did," Kinsel said. "That was a smoking run. We know from record books that it was an awesome run. … I mean, Ivy Conrado ran a 13.59 and any other night that might win the round. So, smoking runs by everybody. Hats off to the ground crew. They help us out a lot."

Bull riders Melancon, Kimzey tie with 91.5 points

In Cole Melancon's first trip to the WNFR he has his first round win. And he tied three-time defending World Champion Sage Kimzey to do it.

Melancon scored 91.5 points on Smith, Harper & Morgan's Hot and Ready, while Kimzey scored 91.5 on Rafter H Rodeo Livestock's Nose Bender to split the first-place winnings in Round 3.

"This is my first time here and my first win, and to ride one last night calmed my nerves a bit and then to get a 91.5 is awesome and something I'll never forget," Melancon said. "This is the biggest stage in rodeo, and to be a 91.5 at the Super Bowl is a great feeling."

Kimzey continues to sit atop the world standings. He tied for second on Friday before returning to tie for the win on Saturday. Kimzey has $291,575 in earnings for 2017.

"Oh, man, I'm blessed, and I started this year putting the work in and it's nice to see that hard work paying off," said Kimzey, who notched his first score of at least 90 points at the WNFR. "I work for everything I get, and this year is a prime example of that. I went to the most rodeos, besides Boudreaux Campbell, and got on 170 bulls and rode 65 percent of them and put on 50,000 miles (on the road) and had 50 airline tickets."

Kimzey was excited by breaking the 90-point threshold.

"This was my first time being 90 here, and the few opportunities I have had I let slip past me and this is pretty special for sure," he said.

Tying with Kimzey was perfectly fine for Melancon, who sits seventh in the world.

"Sage is known as one of the greatest bull riders going, and I see myself as one of the greatest ones too, to be here," Melancon said. "But to split it with Sage, it's a great feeling to be able to do it at my first NFR and be in the 90s."

Irwin posts top steer wrestling time of 2017 WNFR so far

Steer wrestler Kyle Irwin posted the fastest steer wrestling time of this year's WNFR after stopping the clock in 3.4 seconds in Round 3 on Saturday.

It also gave him the second most money won at the WNFR in steer wrestling with $49,558.

"I'm going to say it was the horse (Scooter) I was riding and the hazer (Tyler Pearson)," Irwin said. "That horse, Tyler (Pearson) and I are co-owners of him, and he was the (2017) horse of the year and he makes my job so much easier because I know he's going to do his job. We knew that steer tonight would be OK, but I had to get a good start and get my feet on the ground fast, and Scooter let me do that, and it all came together."

Scooter wasn't just a good horse for Irwin. He was the horse for the top four steer wrestlers of the night, helping Ty Erickson take second, Pearson third and Tyler Waguespack fourth.

"Scooter gets stronger with the second and third who ride him," Irwin said. "I was first out on him, and that just tells you how good he is. It's good to have those other guys riding him. It's fun. We compete against each other, and it's cool to see Scooter handle the pressure over and over again."

The win has Irwin in ninth place in the world standings with $129,242.

Erickson continues to lead with $193,883.

Brown and Long heating up in team roping

A night after team ropers Luke Brown and Jake Long got on the board with a fifth-place finish, they came right back with a win in 3.9 seconds.

The win has them finding their timing.

"We've roped so much and we've practiced for this," Brown said. "There's one other team I know that practiced just as hard as we did, and honestly, I think we did everything we needed to do before we came here and we're going to stick to what we do."

Brown was able to hook the steer early and turn him for Long, setting them up for the win.

"Well, anytime you see (Luke) get it on one that fast, you know the ball's in your court and you don't ever want to miss that shot, because it's a layup to win first," Long said.

The win gives header Brown $154,611 for the 2017 season and heeler Long $146,082, good for fourth place in the world standings for each of them.

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira lead the world standings, with Driggers atop the headers with $183,535, and Nogueira leading heelers with $184,265.

Brown and Long are planning on continuing to do what's working for them and hope things work out when the 10th round ends.

"Luke is really solid, and one thing he told me was, if we make nine good runs like we've practiced, we'll win plenty of money and get out of here good," Long said.

Former world champ scores 87.5 to win saddle bronc riding

The 2015 saddle bronc riding World Champion Jacobs Crawley had yet to score through two rounds at the WNFR.

Then came Saturday night.

Crawley notched 87.5 points on Sutton Rodeos' South Point to win Round 3 and $26,231.

"It's been another great year as far as the regular season is concerned, so you hope to get hot and stay hot, and I caught a spark tonight," said Crawley, tops in the world standings.

The winning money gives Crawley $220,158 for the 2017 season. CoBurn Bradshaw is second with $186,577.

Crawley won the saddle bronc riding title in 2015, but the first two rounds of 2017 had been a struggle. That's not the case anymore.

"It means I got the monkey off my back and getting a nice check with a lot of opportunities is where I would like to be," he said. "Obviously, I would have liked to have done better last night, but I'm happy to be in this position."

He's not planning on doing anything differently as he continues to push for his second world title.

"… If you think about changing the plan based on a round win, I don't think it's a good idea," said the 29-year-old Texas cowboy. "I'm happy to get it and I'm ready for seven more."

Moore notches first round win of 2017 WNFR in 3rd round

Tie-down roper Timber Moore is no stranger to the WNFR after making this his sixth trip to the Finals in Las Vegas.

But last year Moore failed to place in any round.

On Saturday, he rectified that with a 7.1-second time and a first-place check worth $26,231.

"I came in second in the standings at the NFR last year and thought I had a good chance to win the world and nothing went my way and I had all kinds of trouble," Moore said. "This win feels really good to get some money, especially after the year I had last year at the NFR. This is a big confidence boost. The run was very good and I had a really good calf and I had a really good start."

The victory has Moore up to ninth place in the world standings. F

–PRCA