2020 rodeo finals makes history for NWSS
for The Fence Post
2020 NWSS Rodeo Champions:
Bareback: Mason Clements - 89.50 points on Gander Goose
Steer Wrestling: Stetson Jorgensen - 4.0 seconds
Team Roping: Cody Snow/Paul Eaves - 4.2 seconds
Saddle Bronc: Rusty Wright - 91 points on Ricky Bobby
Tie Down Roping: Adam Gray - 7.2 seconds
Barrel Racing: Carly Taylor - 14.99 seconds riding “Diva”
Bull Riding: Brody Yeary - 83.50 points on Rawhide
The 114th National Western Stock Show made history for its long-running rodeo; changing its nearly 90-year-old rodeo format to a tournament style set-up in which the contestant that won the championship round also took home the prestigious NWSS buckle.
For the first time at the NWSS, a semi-final round was created that whittled the field from the top 24 competitors coming into each event down to 12 contestants per event for the final round. To top it off, the final round saw everyone’s scores wiped clean from the semi-final round, making the highest score or best time in Sunday’s (Jan. 26) short go the overall winner of the high profile rodeo. It was a fan friendly format that had the capacity crowd cheering.
“It was a pretty electric crowd,” said Utah bareback rider Mason Clements, who rode Cervi Rodeo’s high kicking “Gander Goose” for 89.50 points to best a talented lineup of competitors that included multiple time PRCA world champions Will Lowe and Tim O’Connell. “It makes it a lot of fun.”
Fun for the crowd and fun for the contestants.
“I love the tournament style,” said Utah saddle bronc cowboy Rusty Wright. Wright brought the full house down with a 91-point ride on Cervi Rodeo’s well-known bronc Ricky Bobby. The score tied popular Wyoming saddle bronc rider Brody Cress’ 91 points, but Wright won the tie breaker calculations for the NWSS buckle. “You have to ride good,” continued Wright about the new format for the historic Denver rodeo. “You just don’t get on two good horses in the long round. You have to ride both of them good and then you have to ride good in the semi-finals. You’ve got to work towards it and I like that. You get in the short round and this place is chuck-full and the fans are loud. I kind of feed off it, you know. I try harder when I can hear the crowd screaming. Denver is always my favorite for the atmosphere and the crowd. This place is awesome.”
It wasn’t just soaring, high point bronc rides that revved the packed stands, the new rodeo format also had the timed event contestants pushing it to the limit. With the best time on Sunday taking home the title, the barrel racers pushed their runs with aggressive turns and high octane sprints for the timers. While a few sub-15 second times were posted in the rounds leading up to the NWSS final, it was the reining WPRA Rookie of the Year that turned in the only one of the championship round, and that effort notched her the coveted NWSS buckle and a jump start for her 2020 season.
“I looked up and saw that time and I was like, ‘No way!’” said Carly Taylor of her 14.99-second result aboard 9-year-old “Diva.” “I was just super excited. I knew when she left to go to the first barrel, she was flying. She was really running today compared to the other days.”
Taylor qualified for the final round with times hovering between 15.40-15.60, so unveiling her fastest run in the intense atmosphere of the short go worked perfect for the NWSS’ new rodeo format.
“I really liked that,” Taylor said of the tournament style rodeo. “I was curious to see how that would work, and it worked,” she added with a laugh. “I definitely will be coming back next year.”
Returning next year will also be back-to-back bull riding title winner Brody Yeary. Yeary rode a spinning and kicking Cervi Rodeo bull named Rawhide for 83.50 points and finished ahead of six-time PRCA world champion Sage Kimzey for his second consecutive NWSS title. Winning Denver titles in both the average score format of 2019 and the brand new tournament style format for 2020, Yeary appreciated both, while acknowledging this year’s format helped him remain in the chase for the buckle.
“Everybody has to emphasize each ride or run the day of,” said Yeary about 2020’s change. “I got thrown off one earlier in the week, but I was high enough on the second one to come back in the semi-finals and that gave me a shot to come back and win it today. In the past, if I would have gotten thrown off my first one, even if I made the short round, there wouldn’t be a very good chance that I would be able to win it. A clean slate (for the semi-finals and final round), especially when it is an even pen of bulls, makes it anybody’s ball game that day. With all the good guys out there rodeoing right now, it is anybody’s ball game either day and the stock kind of divides that up. But right now, anybody can win on any given day.”
“We just are so pleased with how it all went,” said Paul Andrews, NWSS president and CEO, about the enthusiasm shown towards the rodeo’s format change by the crowds, as well as numerous contestants. Although anything new is bound to meet skepticism and flaws tend to reveal themselves over time, the NWSS is happy to build upon this year’s success. “There might be a tweak we will want to try to do with the PRCA over the course of the next few years to see if we can even improve it in some manner, but I tell you, I am excited to watch it again next year,” summed up Andrews.
Considering 2020 also marked the first time the historic NWSS rodeo’s championship round was broadcast live on television (via the Cowboy Channel), it is a guarantee there are plenty more people who share his excitement. ❖