Each December, cowboys and cowgirls from across the country make the journey to the super bowl of rodeo, the Wrangler National Finals.
This year, 119 contestants competed in seven events. The top 15 in each event qualified for the WNFR, and included Colorado cowgirl Christy Loflin, Franktown, who placed seventh, cowboys Wade Sumpter, Fowler, who placed 11th in steer wrestling and Casey Colletti, Pueblo, who placed ninth in bareback riding. The two highest placers were bull riders Tyler Smith, Fruita, who placed third in the world, and Josh Koschel, Nunn, who placed fifth. Smith rode four out of his 10 bulls, which placed him fifth in the average. He took home $156,277 for 2013. This was his second trip to the NFR.
“The finals went fair. It could have been worse, and it could have been better. I was hoping to ride all my bulls, but only rode four out of 10. There were some I wasn’t too excited about, but everyone feels that way,” he said.
He added, “However, the whole experience was still great. The money is great. The animals that you get on buck great. You can’t explain it unless you are behind the chutes.”
Smith’s training is pretty simple: ride bulls. “If I feel like I need to get in better shape I enter more rodeos. You can ride almost every day if you want,” he explained.
He first started riding steers when he was nine, and got on his first big bull when he was 14. He loves riding bulls, and hopes to continue doing so, and to eventually win a world title.
“It would mean everything. It’s someone I have always dreamed of. I’ve done everything else in bull riding that I’ve wanted to do except that,” he said. Next year he hopes to have a little better placing going into the finals, but knows he must stay healthy to do so. Last year he got hurt in July, which kept him out of several large rodeos.
Fellow Colorado cowboy Josh Koschel experienced his very first NFR this year, and he was happy with her performance. “It was good. I didn’t have any great scores or be quite what I anticipated, but I still finished fourth in the average and fifth in the world, which is a pretty good accomplishment,” he said.
He added, “It was pretty much what I expected. It’s nice to see your hard work pay off and to see results.”
Koschel has spent much of his rodeo career in the PBR, but has worked toward making the NFR as a goal. “I knew I had to commit to that if I wanted to accomplish this goal. I didn’t have the qualifications before to make it, and this was the first year that I was set up to go and have the qualifications,” he explained.
“That’s everyone’s dream to win the NFR. Now that I have making it out of the way I can set bigger goals.”
This next year he is going to keep doing what he did this year. “The only difference I would like to see is to make every rodeo count and increase my consistency. I rode pretty well all year, but sometimes I wasn’t riding my best, other times as good as I ever had. I want to ride my best all year long and have a better chance of making it,” Koschel said.
In the bareback riding event, Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, picked up his third straight championship. He won the average as well, and finished the season with $239,465.
The steer wrestling champion was Hunter Cure, Holliday, Tex., who won his first buckle. He entered the WNFR in seventh place, but his third place finish in the average helped propel him to the win. He won $173,355 on the season.
Team ropers Clay Tryan, Billing, Mont., and Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., also earned their second NFR titles, but their first as partners. Tryan earned $179,688, and Corkill earned $178,057.
In the saddle bronc event, Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., earned his second world title. He earned $204,432 on the year.
Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., picked up his first world title in the tie-down roping event. He earned $207,672 on the season, and broke the WNFR record with a time of 80.1 seconds on ten head.
In barrel racing, Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., earned her fourth world title on her horse Stingray, who was his second. They won three rounds and placed in every round, which helped Cervi to win the Ram Truck Top Gun Award for earning more than any other contestant during the finals.
She brought home $155,899, which boosted her season earnings to $303,317.
In the bull riding event, J.W. Harris, Mullin Tex., earned his fourth gold buckle in six years, which is the second most dominate bull riding span behind Don Gay, who won seven titles in eight years during 1974-1981. He earned $252,829 for the year.
In the all-around race, Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Tex., dominated the field yet again, earning his 19th gold buckle. “I’ve never dreamed of setting 19 world championships as a goal, because I’m into setting goals I can reach. I watched Guy Allen dominate. I wondered how someone could do something as hard as winning a world championship 18 times. It’s little different, because he did it in one event. I witnessed his dominance firsthand, because I was the bridesmaid on many occasions,” said Brazile.
He also became the first contestant to pass the $5 million mark in career earnings, earning $5,029,313 after the WNFR this year. He earned $426,011 in 2013, which is the second highest single-season total. He currently holds that record as well. This was the fourth time in his career that he earned more than $400,000. Winning that many gold buckles takes hard work and dedication every single year. “This is a little bit surreal. It sounds like a number to most people. Just because you have 18 doesn’t mean they give you 19. World titles are never get any easier to win, and that’s why they all hold something special for me. There are 15 guys in every event here every year, and none of them just lie down and let you have it. This is what we dream about from when we were little. No one wants to let go of that part of it,” he stated.
He continued, “I’m happy, and I’m proud of the sport. I know how hard every world championship is to win. I know great cowboys with one world title...or even none. None of them are ever easy. NFR qualifications aren’t easy. I’ve been blessed way more than I could ever believe.”
The WNFR saw a record crowd of 18,242 people during the 10th and final round. The WNFR was held from Dec. 5-14 at the Thomas and Mack arena in Las Vegas, Nev. ❖