Team roping was one of the most exciting events at this year's National Western Stock Show, and header Nick Sartain certainly enjoyed his runs. The 34 year-old roper from the tiny town of Dover, Oklahoma paired with new partner, the team roping legend Rich Skelton to win his first NWSS Champion belt buckle. The win wasn't just another buckle; it was one of the happiest birthdays Sartain can remember. "It was a great birthday present," Sartain said in a post-run interview. Sartain had to high-tail it to Fort Worth, Texas for a horse show the next day, but would have plenty of time to think over his exciting run during the long drive. The pairing is a new venture for both Sartain and Skelton, who will complete their first season as a team in 2013. The National Western Stock Show is one of the largest rodeos of the year, and starting off the season with a big win is a serious confidence booster for a team hoping to rope their way into the 2013 National Finals Rodeo. When asked about their ambitions, Sartain commented, "I'd be lying if I said to win the world title this season wasn't our plan." With any luck, Denver won't be their last big win of the season. Sartain and Skelton left the rest of the field in the dust, with second and third-place teams Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn and Dustin Bird and Paul Eaves coming in a full second and a half behind on three head.
The other events at this year's NWSS were exciting in their own right, with some close calls and some blowouts. Casey Martin of Sulpher, Louisiana dominated the steer wrestling competition, winning the final round and coming in over two seconds faster on three head than second-place cowboy Jason Miller. Tie-down roping was a slightly closer race, with Shane Hanchey, also hailing from Sulphur, clocking in just over a second faster on three calves than Clint Robinson. Barrel racing was undoubtedly the closest timed event at the Stock Show, with Jane Melby squeaking past Anessa Self by less than two-tenths of a second to take home the gold buckle.
Rough stock riders took a beating in Denver, with Cody Wright of Milford, Utah putting up 245 points on three head in the saddle bronc competition. Second-place finisher Tyler Corrington was hot on heels, pulling in a combined score of 243 on three horses. Bareback riding was another close call, with gold-buckle winner Ty Breuer finishing a mere two points ahead of Wes Stephenson and R.C. Landingham, who tied for second and third places. Bull riding put up another mere two-point victory, with veteran Corey Navarre beating Trevor Kastner by a score of 247 to 245.
While the 2013 National Western Stock Show was a victorious event for many cowboys, it was a heartbreaking one for steer wrestler Dru Melvin of Hebron, Nebraska. After a clean start from the box during the January 26th performance, the steer made a sharp turn toward his horse Diamond MS Moon, affectionately known as Moonshine. The horse, steer and hazer Todd Suhn tumbled to the ground, although all were able to walk out of the arena. In the aftermath, it was discovered that the steer's horn punctured Moonshine's heart and he died shortly after leaving the arena. The Melvin family was devastated by Moonshine's passing. Suhn said of the 8-year old horse, "Moonshine was definitely one of the best." He was transported back to the Melvin family ranch, where he will be laid to rest.