Each December, the 15 best cowboys and cowgirls in each of rodeo’s events gather in Las Vegas to compete for a world title and bragging rights as the best in the world. This year the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was held from Dec. 6-15 at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.
Nebraska sent three cowboys and a cowgirl, including bareback rider Steven Dent of Mullen, Neb., steer wrestler Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer of Elsmere, Neb., and Trula Churchill, barrel racer of Valentine.
Dent finished fifth in the world, and 13th in the average in the bareback riding at the WNFR. He also finished third in the all-around. His total earnings for the year totaled $157,762.51, of which $16,981.15 was earned at the NFR.
Gorsuch, who is a two-time world champion, finished fifth in the world and sixth in the average in the steer wrestling. He earned $139,035.96 over year, with $51,826.93 coming during the finals. He led the event at one point during the finals, but was disappointed he didn’t hold that lead.
“It wasn’t what I wanted. Every year that you go out you want to win the world. Breaking two barriers made it hard, but it happened. Sometimes you have really good finals, and other times it’s just good. I can’t look back at it disappointed though. I was proud to be there and we did all that we could do,” he said.
Gorsuch lost both of his horses at the beginning of this year, and was working with two new horses. “I lost two great ones and gained two great ones. They were both great at the finals. I was so proud of them. I can’t say enough about how good they were,” he stated.
This was his seventh trip this year, and even though he didn’t win, he is excited for next year. “You are never satisfied unless you complete your goal, and that’s what I want again next year. I want to be there in December again and have a chance to win the world,” Gorsuch said.
Scheer finished ninth in the world and fifth in the average. He earned $98,179.72 for the year, of which $30,428.68 came during the finals.
This was his second trip to the finals, his first coming in 2010. “It was awesome to make it back to the finals. Last year I was sitting fifth when I blew out my knee, so I was pretty disappointed. I had a good doctor named Pepper Murry, in bountiful, Utah, and he brought me back better than I could imagine. I was confident that I could make it but wanted to prove it,” Scheer stated.
He continued, “I stayed in Utah at Kaycee Field’s house for two months after doing therapy up there so I could stay close to my doctor, because he wanted to see me every couple of weeks to make sure I was on schedule. Every doctor I talked to told me six months, but he had me back in four. I then came back home and finished therapy in Broken Bow at McMeen’s, and I owe a lot to them too. Other than that it was a lot of God’s blessings and miles to make it back.”
Scheer didn’t have his best performances, but will use this experience to build on for next year. “I was confident and planned on doing a lot better, but just had some bad luck and didn’t take advantage of a few opportunities. Even though it didn’t go as good as I wanted, it drives me for next year. You can let it get you down or thrive off of it and use it for next year,” he said.
Churchill finished 13th in the world and 10th in the average. She earned $84,629.46 for the year, including the $23,852.17 she won during the finals.
The world champions were: Bareback rider Kaycee Field of Payson, Utah; steer wrestler Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos, Calif.; team roper header Chad Masters of Cedar Hill, Tenn.; team roper heeler Jade Corkill of Fallon, Nev.; saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright of Milford, Utah; tie-down roper Tuf Cooper of Decatur, Texas, barrel racer Mary Walker of Ennis, Texas; and bull rider Cody Teel of Kountze, Texas.
Three of these world champions repeated. Steer wrestler Luke Branquinho won his fourth gold buckle and bareback rider Kaycee Feild and tie-down Tuf Cooper each backed up their first.
“The race was a little more tight coming into it. Will (Lowe) was healthy, and J.R. (Vezain) gave me a run for my money all week. Bareback riding’s simple. It’s just having the right mindset. I’m as happy as I can be,” Field said of his win.
Branquinho spoke about how hard it is to win back-to-back titles. “You just look at the competition here; you’ve got guys that every one of them is very capable of winning a world championship. Some guys had some bad steers that took them out early on or midway through, that if they had a little better steer, they could be standing here instead of me,” he said.
Cooper was not ahead this year heading into the finals, and had to really earn back his spot. He stated, “I came in from behind this year and had to rope my way up. And I got to ride Roanie, my horse. She made the difference for me. There’s really nothing that compares to winning the first one.”
Walker earned the Top-Gun award, which is given to the contestant with the highest NFR earnings. She $146,941 over the 10-day event, which broke the previous NFR earnings record. This was Walker’s first trip to the NFR, and a very meaningful one.
Walker lost her son, Reagon, in a traffic accident last year. After this loss, she and her horse Latte fell while racing, breaking Walker’s pelvis. She competed at the finals on this same horse, who was named AQHA’s PRCA horse of the year in the barrel racing event.
The all-around world champion was Trevor Brazile, who won his 10th title. It’s Brazile’s 17th career gold buckle, the second-most all-time to Guy Allen, who won 18 steer roping world championships.
“It’s just such a relief,” Brazile said. “As much as I try not to let it affect anything, it kind of just releases me to go try to do whatever it takes to win the team roping, and just concentrate on that title. That is the immediate thing that I think about. And as far as the long-term stuff, 10 world titles is more than I ever could have dreamed of. It’s awesome.”
Brazile’s 17 gold buckles sets the record for most world championships by a cowboy competing in multiple events, breaking the mark he shared with Jim Shoulders. Brazile’s seventh straight all-around gold buckle also set a new mark, breaking a tie with Tom Ferguson (1974-79) and Ty Murray (1989-94) at six.
“To do it one time is hard,” Brazile said. “Anyone that’s been out here knows how much things have to go right. I’ve been so blessed, with the injuries I’ve had, to be able to still team rope, or I could always keep moving.”
Colorado sent four competitors, including bareback rider Casey Colletti of Pueblo, steer wrestler Wade Sumpter, barrel racer Christy Loflin of Franktown and bull rider Cody Samora of Cortez.
Wyoming sent a total of five contestants, including bull riders Seth Glause of Cheyenne, Clayton Savage of Casper and Kanin Asay of Powell, bareback rider J.R. Vezain of Cowley and steer wrestler Les Shepperson of Midwest.
South Dakota brought four cowboys and two cowgirls, including steer wrestler Todd Suhn of Hermosa, saddle bronc riders Chad Ferley of Oelrichs, and Cole Elshere of Faith, barrel racers Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs, and Nikki Steffes of Vale, and bull rider Ardie Maier of Timber Lake. ❖
“We still run things on good old fashioned customer service. A lot of the reason why we can compete with bigger feed stores is because we treat people how they want to be treated, and they come back because of that.”
~ Danielle Nater, daughter of Dennis Nater, owner and operator of Northern Colorado Feeder’s Supply