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.
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.
Glause, 24, finished the finals third in the world standings and second in the average, earning a $98,647.84 during the NFR to make his total for the year $192,818.28. This is the best he has finished in the four years he has attended the finals.
“The finals felt pretty good. I made up about $50,000 on the leader throughout the week. To have that kind of finals is extraordinary. It was just unreal,” he said.
His trip to the finals wasn’t easy, however, as he battled injuries throughout the 10-day event. “I got bucked off in the second round, and the bull hit me in the face with a horn and broke my nose. However, It really didn’t affect me. I did put on a helmet for the first time, and I’ve never worn one before, so that was new, and I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t let it affect me though,” he stated.
Glause then dislocated his right shoulder, which is on his free hand side, during the fifth round. “I can’t give enough thanks for the Justin Sports Medicine team. They taped my shoulder so it couldn’t dislocate again, so it only affected me a little bit,” he said.
Glause has dealt with injury before, and knows what it takes to fight through it. “I’ve been banged up, but it comes with the territory. It’s just part of it. Mentality I knew that there was no way I wasn’t gonna get on,” he explained.
The Cheyenne cowboy grew up around rodeo, as his dad was a bronc rider. “I grew up getting on steers at junior rodeos, and got on my first bull in eighth grade. I got my PRCA permit when I was 18. I’ve been around it my whole life, and I’ve had the fortune of being successful in the bull riding,” he said.
Glause also rides saddle bronc horses, and his efforts throughout the year landed him fifth overall in the all-around world standings. “Hopefully I can get better and get my qualifications up, and make the finals in that too,” he stated.
He enjoys rodeos and bull riding because of the challenge it gives him. “For me, it’s you against a 2,000 pound animal. If you make the whistle, you beat that animal. It’s the coolest thing you can do,” Glause said.
He continued, “It’s the coolest lifestyle. You get to go to different places, and meet different people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. My hero growing up was Billy Etbauer. I got to rodeo when his career was ending, and I caught a ride with him once. It was amazing that my idol treated me as an equal. It was one of the neatest experiences I have ever had.”
Riding in the WNFR has also been one of his best experiences, and a dream come true. “Everybody that makes it has always dreamed of going there. To ride in the Thomas and Mack arena, and have the screaming fans, it’s the coolest thing ever,” Glause said.
Savage finished eighth in the world, and fifth in the average. Asay finished seventh in the world and ninth in the average in the bull riding. Vezain finished fourth in the world, and fourth in the average. Shepperson also had a great finals, as he finished third in the world and first in the average.
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.
Colletti finished 11th in the world and 14th in the average in the bareback riding. Sumpter finished fourth in the world and ninth in the average in the steer wrestling. Loflin finished 15th in the world and seventh in the average in the barrel racing. Samora finished 14th in the world. Samora was one of two cowboys who failed to ride a bull during the WNFR.
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 earned $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.”
Nebraska sent three cowboys and a cowgirl, including bareback rider Steven Dent of Mullen, steer wrestler Dean Gorsuch of Gering, saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer of Elsmere, Neb., and Trula Churchill, barrel racer of Valentine.
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. ❖