Each event at this year's National Finals Rodeo was packed with excitement. The 2012 race for the bareback riding gold buckle was a tight one, with crowd favorites Kaycee Field and three-time World Champion Will Lowe battling head-to-head through each of the 10 rounds to stay on top. Both cowboys struggled through the 9th round with difficult rides and ended up with no scores, putting a serious wrinkle in the leader board. However, determination won out for Kaycee as he held onto 1st place in the standings.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Saddle bronc riding was one of the most closely-watched events at this year's NFR, with three cowboys competing for the gold buckle. Jesse Wright, Wade Sundell and Cody DeMoss were all within a few hundred dollars of each other throughout the 10-day event, although it was ultimately young Jesse who came out on top.
In the timed event category, steer wrestler Luke Branquinho was in the hunt for second place on the all-time steer wrestler's list with his fourth World Championship. A gold buckle in 2012 would also give Luke prestigious back-to-back titles. Les Shepperson was close on Luke's heels the entire time, but couldn't pull off an upset.
The fast-paced sport of tie-down roping was essentially a two-man race in 2012, with current World Champion Tuf Cooper and Texas native Justin Maass vying for the lead. Maass was the regular season leader, but faced tough competition from Cooper throughout the NFR's 10-day duration. Tuf had success early in the rounds and widened his lead to $16,000 over Maass, and those paychecks were enough to earn Cooper the 2012 World Champion belt buckle.
In the team roping category, it's normal for both the header and the heeler of the same team to come out on hop. However, the 2012 National Finals Rodeo was anything but normal. Chad Masters and his partner the legendary Clay O'Brien Cooper lead the standing with 9 qualified runs and a check in nearly every round, but even that wasn't enough to fight off the phenomenal Jade Corkill. Masters took home the buckle in the Header category, while Corkill maintained a steady hand throughout the NFR and was rewarded with the 2012 World Championship Heeler title.
Barrel racing's crowning glory went to 53-year old NFR newcomer Mary Walker, who also took home the inaugural Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed award. Walker, wife of 1981 World Champion Steer Wrestler Byron Walker, held off regular season leader Brittany Pozzi to take home the title in high style.
The bulls at this year's National Finals Rodeo were some of the best we've ever seen, and they certainly gave the cowboys something to work for. Three-time World Champion J.W. Harris and regular season leader Cody Teel held onto the top two spots, but managed only one ride in more than 6 rounds of competition. The bulls maintained a buck off average of just over 61%, and made it difficult for even world caliber cowboys to take home a check. Persistence paid off for Cody, and his determination to take home the title was richly rewarded as he was crowed World Champion Bull Rider for the 2012 season.
All Around Race
The all-around race is always one of the most watched events throughout the season, and the same held true for 2012. Legendary cowboy Trevor Brazile was poised to win the 2012 All-Around title, and he clinched the honor early in Round 5. Trevor took home more than $285,000, leaving the second-place Bobby Mote in the dust with a respectable $145,000. This win marks his 17th career World Championship title, just one win behind the all-time high of 18 won by Guy Allen.