Rough Stock Events – Bareback, Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding:
Tim O’Connell and Shane O’Connell are friends, traveling partners and no relation. The bareback riders along with the third member of their crew Logan Corbett will make their first appearance here today. Tim has won world titles the past two years, won his first Cheyenne buckle in 2017 and is currently leading the world standings. Shane is in 10th and Corbett is 17th. Nothing would make these three happier than to all qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) together.
Corbett likes to lead by example and he is setting a very positive one for college rodeo team competitors from New Mexico State University where he is the coach. Corbett started his rodeo career growing up in Tennessee then he went to college at Murray State in Kentucky. If he wins money here and moves up in the standings, no one will be happier than the students that he coaches.
Tanner Aus won the championship in Frontier Park in 2015 on the way to his first of three NFR qualifications. His life changed forever last May when his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Tim O’Connell also is a new dad. His wife, Sami gave birth to their son in February. Steven Dent won the bareback riding title in Frontier Park in 2010 and rounds out the former champions putting their hands in a rigging today.
Part of CFD Rodeo’s legend is due to the wild and western attitude of the rodeo, that suits saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell just fine. Sundell tied for the win here in 2012 with Chad Ferley. The enthusiastic cowboy would like nothing better than to be on the top of the photo pit all by himself on Sunday. He is also a new dad and his son Rankin gets really excited when his daddy is in the arena. Sundell is second in the world standings and a win here would help him narrow the gap between him and Jacobs Crawley.
Two former CFD Rookie Saddle Bronc Riding champions are trying to win a buckle in the saddle bronc riding. Cort Scheer won the rookie event in 2008. Audie Reed was a rookie just three years ago. There will be a battle between saddle makers today as well. Joey Sonnier and Andy Clarys will each be riding a saddle that they made for themselves.
Bull rider Trevor Kastner doesn’t like doing interviews, but he would be very happy to have the opportunity to talk to the media and be interviewed on stage as the best bull rider at this year’s rodeo. Kastner has struggled with injuries the past few years, has been making a comeback and has been injured again. He broke ribs the end of June and tried to power through it. When that didn’t work he went home for a few days and spent time with his wife and baby girl that was born on Valentine’s Day. Kastner is 9th in the world standings and on track to compete at his fourth NFR, but his first since 2013.
Shane Proctor won the bull riding here in 2011, the same year that he won a world championship. Proctor, who is an all-around talent loves Wyoming and the atmosphere at Cheyenne. He went to college at Northwestern in Powell and has made a lot of friends in the state. He is not ranked in the world standings and has been fighting an injured groin. A win here would certainly turn his season around.
Last year, Dawson Hay was riding in the rookie saddle bronc riding. This year, he is fourth in the overall standings in the main saddle bronc riding and will watch as his younger brother Logan James Hay takes his opportunity at the rookies. If the brothers both won buckles in the same year, they would be making history here. Their dad, Rod Hay, was the 2000 CFD saddle bronc riding champ.
Timed Events – Steer Wrestling, Tie-Down Roping, Team Roping and Barrel Racing:
The whose who of team ropers are here today including the first and second place teams in the world standings. Clay Smith and Paul Eaves have been roping together for the past four years and have won a lot of big rodeos together. If they pull that off here, it would increase their lead in the world standings. Smith is named after Clay O’Brien Cooper and he and his brother Jake were featured on the tonight show with Jay Leno. They got to rope on the show as children and exposed Leno to the Western way of life.
Kory Koontz is one of the best heelers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and he has roped with the best. Two years ago, he started roping with Dustin Eguisquiza and is literally showing him the ropes. Koontz made his first of 21 appearances at the NFR three years before Equisquiza was born. The duo has found their mojo together and are ranked second in the world.
There are also two former CFD champions in today’s field. Clay Tryan won here in 2013, the same year he won the second of three gold buckles in the heading. Luke Brown, originally from South Carolina used all of his horsemanship skills to win here in 2015 with Kollin VonAhn. Brown is roping with Jake Long and they are seventh in the world. Tryan is roping with Travis Graves and is likely headed to his 16th NFR in December.
Tuf Cooper accomplished a life-long goal last year when he won the ultimate title in rodeo – world champion all around cowboy. He got a little taste of that here in 2013. He is on track to win that title again this year but is hoping for individual event titles along the way. He leads Cheyenne in the steer roping and will try to add some tie-down roping earnings here today.
One of the hottest ropers on the trail right now is Ryle Smith. He started the year off with a big win at the San Antonio Stock Show last February and hasn’t slowed down yet. Smith is third in the world standings. His wife is a blogger. They travel with their young daughter and rodeo gives her plenty to write about.
K.C. Jones grew up in Colorado, then moved to Wyoming to further his education. He graduated with a degree in business marketing from the University of Wyoming, a degree that he has put to good use as an entrepreneur. So, when he won the steer wrestling title here in 2011, it was a definite goal realized. Not only does he compete and provide horses for other steer wrestlers, he started the Rodeo Vegas promotions that align with the National Finals rodeo and he owns and manages Pro Fantasy Rodeo.
Last year’s steer wrestling champion, Baylor Roche, left Cheyenne with over $21,000, the buckle and saddle that said he was the best. He had to rise to the top of the mountain, beating nearly 200 other steer wrestlers that have the same goal, and have the fastest total time on three steers to do that. Roche used the money last year to qualify for his third consecutive NFR. He is not in the standings and has an outside chance to move up. Right now, he is focusing on his family, helping on their farm and preparing for 2019.
Weather conditions have made the arena a muddy mess, and that has had, and will have an impact on the timed events at today’s rodeo. Steer wrestlers will get the dirtiest while trying to stop the steers. It could be assumed that conditions also really impact the footing for the barrel racers. Cheyenne’s arena crew works hard to keep things safe and while it does get muddy, the ground usually isn’t slick. Regardless, it could have an impact on today’s times and this group of barrel racers will have a challenge trying to qualify for Sunday’s Championship Finals.