2006 Wrangler National Finals RodeoRound 1 Highlights
Thursday, November 30th
The 2006 National Finals Rodeo has begun and for the first time the action runs from Thursday to Saturday. This year over 5.3 million dollars in prize money is available to the World's best cowboys and cowgirls at this prestigious and honorable rodeo where the World Champions in all seven events will be crowned.
Out of the 118 rodeo athletes competing in this year's NFR, 34 are here for the first time. This speaks volumes to the new talent entering this sport from the many different levels of competition. Every contestant who makes it to the year-end extravaganza can be proud, but they can't rest on their laurels, the work has just begun.
The National Finals Rodeo isn't just another rodeo; it's where you match your skills against the best in your event and the best stock in the business. It's always a battle of nerves for even the most hardened and experienced cowboy when you ride into Las Vegas and enter the Thomas and Mack for Round 1!
Solid rides mark the first event of Round 1. Wes Stevenson put on a spurring clinic, getting in front of Wise Guy's jumps and showing how you can make a good ride happen. Andy Martinez made a good looking ride aboard a powerful Big Valley and Will Lowe the reigning World Champion stepped it up on Red Ears, who figured he'd try to high-jump and kick out the overhead lights.
After the payouts from Round 1, the status of this race is still closer than a horse hair.
Round 1 Bareback Results:
1 Wes Stevenson - 89 points on Wise Guy
2 Will Lowe - 85 on Red Ears
3 Andy Martinez - 84.5 on Big Valley
4 Bobby Mote - 83.5 on Faded Dice
5 Chris Harris - 82.5 on Size Matters
6 Heath Ford - 80 on Goldy Locks
6 Royce Ford - 80 on Beaver Fever
The bulldoggers looked good in Round #1 with several competitors choosing to ride Zan who was once again voted the AQHA Horse of the Year. Ronnie Fields made the best out of a bad situation after a difficult steer almost made him loose some teeth. Luke Branquinho said "I'mm baacckk" by putting together the opening night run after having to set out last years NFR with a torn pectoral muscle.
Round 1 Steer Wrestling Results:
1 Luke Branquinho - 3.7 seconds
2 Gabe Ledoux - 4.1
2 Trevor Knowles - 4.1
4 Jason Lahr - 4.2
5 Jason Miller - 4.3
5 Joey Bell Jr. - 4.3
5 Linn Churchill - 4.3
If nerves were a factor (and they almost always are on opening night) then it really showed in the team roping where it was not pretty. The team of Trevor Brazile / Rich Skelton set the tone with a missed loop. Joe Beaver also missed his first loop on his NFR return. The ropers finished strong at least with the team of Travis Tryan / Jhett Johnson taking down the victory.
Round 1 Team Roping Results:
1 Travis Tryan / Jhett Johnson - 4.3 seconds
2 Speed Williams / Clay O'Brien Cooper - 4.9
3 David Key / Kory Koontz - 5.0
4 Chad Masters / Allen Bach - 5.4
5 Garrett Tonozzi / Brady Minor - 6.0
6 Nick Sartain / Shannon Frascht - 9.4
Saddle Bronc Riding:
It was solid rides all around for the boys of the classic event. Jeffery Willert, the reigning World Champ, rediscovered his championship form after having an up and down year. My only gripe was the ridiculously low score of 74.5 that Dan Mortensen received on Spring Break putting him 13th in the round. And judges, I tip my hat to you, but the first bottle of eyeglass cleaner is on me.
Round 1 Saddle Bronc Results:
1 Jeff Willert - 86 points on Tokyo Massage
2 Billy Etbauer - 83 on Hanger
3 Bobby Griswold - 82 on Lady Luck
3 Bradley Harter - 82 on John Wayne
3 Rusty Allen - 82 on Hay Wire
6 Chad Ferley - 81 on Ginger Snap
The loop of the night came from Joe Beaver who turned around his misfortune from earlier in the evening to win Round 1. Joe lost his father a couple of months back and dedicated the opening night win to him. Fred Whitfield went out of the average race early after missing his first loop and then making a catch with his second only to have his rope break. Look for Fred to step it up and try to win every round from here on out. It's a tall order but then, we're talking about Fred Whitfield.
Round 1 Tie-Down Results:
1 Joe Beaver - 7.7 seconds
2 Ryan Jarrett - 7.8
3 Mike Johnson - 7.9
4 Doug Pharr - 8.2
5 Matt Shiozawa - 8.6
6 Hunter Herrin - 9.4
The ladies put together some great runs in the first round. It'll be interesting to see how the World Champion race works out in the barrel racing but it's way too early to tell anything now.
Round 1 Barrel Racing Results:
1 Shelly Anzick - 13.96 seconds
2 Kelly Kaminski - 13.99
3 Denise Adams - 14.06
4 Terri Kaye Kirkland - 14.07
5 Mary Burger - 14.09
6 Sherry Cervi - 14.11
The bull riders looked good going 10 for 15 in the opening night's pen. Steve Woolsey got hung up on Snake Bite and barely avoided a disaster as the guys on the catch pen gate opened it too early. Theres nothing like being hung up on a bull as runs down the catch pen banging you on everything under the sun. Sonny Murphy's new hairstyle didn't help his dismount as flew like a rag doll after making an 80.5-point score on Crooked Tooth.
World Champion Matt Austin showed some heart but is visibly in pain with torn stomach muscles. Honestly it seems like a long shot for him to make all the rounds. B.J. Schumacher is proving that he is not just a replacement but that he belongs among the best by winning the first round.
Round 1 Bull Riding Results:
1 B.J. Schumacher - 91.5 points on Texas
2 Bobby Welsh - 90 on Vitalix Hot Damn
3 Wesley Silcox - 88.5 on Hurricane
4 Cooper Kanngiesser - 87 on XS Energy
4 Dustin Elliott - 87 on Three Spot
6 Matt Austin - 86.5 on Rocket Man
This National Finals Rodeo broadcast seems a little slicker (in a good way) than in years past and I've been impressed with the Cingular SkyCam which is giving us views of the action that are astounding. All the event races are close and the next nine days should give us plenty of excitement.
Next stop Round 2...I'll see you there!