Three Nebraska cowboys among those qualified to compete at pro rodeo’s world championship in Las Vegas
for The Fence Post
BLUE HILL, Neb. — Three Nebraskans have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the PRCA’s world championship held Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas.
Bareback riders Steven Dent, Mullen, Orin Larsen, Gering, and tie-down roper Riley Pruitt, also of Gering, will compete in what is called the “super bowl” of pro rodeo.
Dent, a former high school wrestling and football standout, enters this year’s WNFR in 10th place. His rodeo season was plagued with injuries, which caused him to compete for only three months.
Dent, who is 32 years old, tore his MCL at last year’s WNFR, then in February broke the coracoid bone in his shoulder. After he returned to rodeo for the summer, he tore his abdomen and groin muscles from the pelvis in late August at a rodeo in Washington.
He had surgery on Aug. 29, and got released to compete a few weeks ago.
Out of the nine times he has qualified for the WNFR (the top 15 in each event qualify to compete at it), he has finished as reserve world champion three times.
He is married to his wife Kay; they have three children, ages 6, 4 and 2, and the family ranches near Mullen.
Because of his ranching and family obligations, he plans on cutting down on competition next year, going to about 40 rodeos. “I need to be around home more,” he said. “I have a lot going on here, and I put a lot on my wife when I’m gone.” He hopes to do for his kids what his parents did for him. “I want to give my kids every opportunity my parents gave me, and I can’t do that if I’m rodeoing full time.”
Dent enters this year’s finals in 10th place with $93,798 in the year’s winnings.
Riley Pruitt will compete at the WNFR for the second time.
The tie-down roper finished the 2016 season at the WNFR as the average champion, the cowboy with the fastest combined times on 10 runs.
Pruitt, who is 28 years old, had a good winter, winning money at the big winter rodeos like Houston, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Florida, and in Jackson, Miss.
Then the summer slump hit. After he won a check at the Clovis, Calif., rodeo, he went two and a half months, up to the Cody, Wyo., rodeo, without winning any money. “I got in a slump and couldn’t win,” he said.
His luck turned around at the Northwest rodeos in the fall, starting with Bremerton, Wash., and continuing on to the Pendleton, Ore., Round-Up, where he was champion.
Pruitt, the son of the 1990 world champion tie-down roper Troy Pruitt, will haul two horses to the WNFR. Bentley, a 10-year-old sorrel gelding, did well for him this year. Graybird, a 21-year-old gray gelding, will also make the trip.
Pruitt prepares for 10 consecutive days of rodeo by practicing and keeping his horses in shape. He’ll decide which horse to ride when he arrives in Las Vegas.
Pruitt is married to Jenna; they have a 23-month-old daughter and a son, to be born in March.
The Gering man enters this year’s WNFR in eighth place with $99,535 in winnings for the year.
Orin Larsen is the third Nebraskan to qualify for this year’s WNFR. A native of Inglis, Manitoba, he now lives in Gering with his wife, Alexa. Larsen enters this year’s WNFR in third place among bareback riders, with $173, 442 won for the season. This is his fifth WNFR qualification.
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will pay out $10 million to the 120 cowboys and cowgirls who compete there.
It can be viewed live on the CBS Sports Network at 9 p.m. CT each night, Dec. 5-14, with a half-hour preview show prior to the rodeo.
For more information on the WNFR contestants, stock, and statistics, visit http://www.prorodeo.com. ❖