Underdogs rule 2019 NWSS short go
2019 NWSS Rodeo Average Winners:
Bareback: Clint Laye – 252 points ($8,601)
Steer Wrestling: Ty Erickson – 11.9 seconds ($10,024)
Team Roping: Clay Smith/Jake Long – 16.2 seconds( $7,125)
Saddle Bronc: Spencer Wright – 254 points ($8,178)
Tie-Down: Cooper Martin – 26.2 seconds ($7,938)
Barrel Racing: Jennifer Sharp – 26.2 seconds ($11,982)
Bull Riding: Brody Yeary – 248.5 points ($8,976)
All-Around: Daylon Swearingen ($2,912 – bareback & bulls)
Everyone loves an underdog, and those underdogs came to compete in Sunday afternoon’s championship round of rodeo at the 2019 National Western Stock Show. Out of seven events, just one leader coming into Jan. 27’s championship round ended with a buckle and the historic venue’s sold out crowd was the beneficiary.
Kicking off the upsets was Canadian bareback rider Clint Laye, whose 86.5-point ride aboard a black Calgary Stampede bronc named Added Money vaulted him from fifth in the standings to the top of the leaderboard. When the riders ahead of him couldn’t keep pace, Laye secured his first ever NWSS buckle.
“It is awesome,” said Laye about winning the prominent rodeo. “I have been here about five times now and every year I have wanted to win it so bad. Everybody was bringing their ‘A-game’ today. The horses were great (and) the crowd has so much energy.” The crowd lent that energy to steer wrestler Ty Erickson, helping him make the leap from fourth in the standings to first after posting a quick 3.8-second time in the short go. The big Montana cowboy’s efforts weren’t stress free, as he initially thought he incurred a time penalty at the start of his run.
“I was scared when I came across the line,” Erickson revealed with a grin. “I thought I broke the barrier coming across there. Then I heard everyone yell, yeah, so I went out there and tried to go make a good run. It is always awesome when you can win any rodeo, but if a guy can win one of these big winter rodeos, it is a great feeling.”
Team ropers Clay Smith and Jake Long experienced the same great feeling after moving up from second place. Nipping at the heels of three-time world champion Clay Tryan and his veteran heeler Travis Graves, Smith and Long were just 0.02 seconds back at the start of the final round. Their 4.4 second time in the short go gave them a lead even Tryan and Graves couldn’t overcome.
“You expect that team to do good,” said Smith about the prospect of overtaking the leaders. “We were just going to try to be pretty aggressive. We knew we had a decent steer and we were going to try and win first.”
Their aggressiveness showed, as Smith seemed to rope the steer within the shadow of the chute. It was an effort Long matched with similar determination.
“He did a great job,” said Long about his header. “I am fairly aggressive at heeling, so I didn’t want to back off just because he did a phenomenal job. This rodeo has got so much history. I have wanted to win it forever. It was really cool to get it done.”
The only front runner that held back the rest of the field was Utah saddle bronc cowboy Spencer Wright. His win contained some drama, however, as an explosive 90-point ride by his nephew Rusty Wright earlier in the round forced the uncle into needing a score of 86 points or higher to stay on top.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Wright about competing against family members for the coveted buckle. “I was really excited for Rusty. He made a great bronc ride. It made me want to do good, too, because I like seeing good bronc rides. It really gets me jacked up.”
His adrenaline was on display when the gate opened, as Wright put on a clinic aboard an NFR caliber horse named Pikuni Cougar. Once the dust settled, an 88-point reward gave him a two point edge over his nephew.
“This rodeo has always been really good for our family,” Wright said. “The crowd is always really excited and the horses are great.”
Another underdog making good was Kansas tie down roper Cooper Martin, who entered the final round more than a second behind four-time world champion Tuf Cooper. After stopping the clock in 9.5 seconds, Martin gained the lead but still had to wait for both Marty Yates and Tuf Cooper to rope. In surprising fashion, Yates incurred a penalty and Cooper missed his calf for a no time. As a result, the 21-year-old Martin went from underdog to top dog.
“I have never made a short go in the winter rodeos, so I just went and tied her down and hoped I got by everybody else,” said Martin about his win. “I’m just glad I went and did my job and let it all play out. You just can’t expect it to happen like that,” he said about the leaders’ misfortunes. “Those guys rope phenomenal. If it happened all over again, they would have never even let me get close.”
Another solid lead evaporated as Jennifer Sharp and “Smooch” overcame a 0.26-second deficit to win the prestigious NWSS barrel racing title. Matching the third best time of the entire rodeo, Sharp’s 15.26-second result was fastest of the short go and propelled the Texas cowgirl to a razor thin 0.05-second overall margin of victory.
“It was a great run,” said Sharp of Smooch’s final round effort. “I hit the third barrel this past Wednesday at San Angelo, so my main goal was to get by the third and I barely got by it. So I am very thrilled.”
Texas bull rider Brody Yeary was also thrilled after his 88.5-point score inside the venerable Denver Coliseum shot him from third place to the lead position. The spinning ride had the crowd roaring in appreciation for staying on the full 8 seconds.
“I had heard of that bull,” said Yeary about Cervi Championship Rodeo’s White Smoke. “I had never got on him and actually had never seen him in person, but knew he would be probably good enough to win the short round. I dang sure had to work for it the whole time, but I got it done.”
“From start to finish, the rodeo was really good,” said Leon Vick, NWSS director of rodeo and horse show operations. “I am a little bit biased, but that is probably the best rodeo in the United States, pure rodeo. We entertain a group that are not true rodeo fans. They are stock show fans and that is even better.”
It also makes it even better when the underdogs have their day. ❖
— Rogers is a freelance writer and photographer located east of Parker, Colo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find him on Facebook at Official Lincoln Rogers Writing & Photography Page.