Brazile a Record-Breaker at NFRBy Jim Bainbridge December 12, 2011
LAS VEGAS – If ever there was a reason for Luke Branquinho to shake his booty at the Thomas & Mack Center, this was it. The Los Alamos, CA-based Branquinho―who routinely performs the celebration dance in the arena following fast times―won his third steer wrestling world championship title and the first since 2008.
The champions were touted Dec. 10, the last day of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which kicked off Dec. 1. Roper Trevor Brazile (Decatur, TX) clinched his record ninth world all-around championship and his 16th gold buckle overall, putting him on par with Jim Shoulders for second most awarded in the steer roper category. Only Guy Allen, with 18, has more.
Brazile’s win was assured during Round 4 of the Wrangler NFR. Branquinho claimed checks in nine of 10 rounds to earn a Wrangler NFR steer wrestling record $146,779.
A relatively equal number of veteran champions and gold-buckle newcomers topped their respective categories. Joining Branquinho among the veterans was saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy of Albuquerque, NM, and barrel racer Lindsay Sears of Alberta, Canada.
Newcomers to the world champion club included bareback rider Kaycee Field (Payson, UT), team ropers Turtle Powell (Stephenville, TX) and Jhett Johnson (Casper, WY), tie-down roper Tuf Cooper (Decatur, TX) and bull rider Shane Proctor (Mooresville, NC).
A trio of steer wrestlers had a strong chance to win the world going into the final round, but Branquinho earned the average title with a time of 41.9 seconds on 10 head. The winnings pushed his season total to $234,518 – more than $56,000 ahead of second-place Shawn Greenfield, who also took second in the average.
“Winning one is amazing, but winning three – I can’t even explain it,” Branquinho said. “Just to be in the situation to win one, let alone three, is an amazing feeling.”
Branquinho saw his two closest competitors – Greenfield and Jason Miller – break the barrier for 10-second penalties in Round 10.
“Those guys were going in there knowing they had to win good in the rounds to stay ahead in the average and get the money they needed,” Branquinho said. “They were taking a chance, you know. If I was in their situation, knowing that I had to win good in the go-rounds, I maybe would have clipped the barrier, too. But, that’s just rodeo. It happens day in and day out, and unfortunately for those two, it happened in Round 10 at the NFR.”
Round 10 had another unfortunate incident when bull rider Shane Proctor got a broken left arm and a concussion after being bucked off Powder River Rodeo’s Black Attack and stepped on by the bull.
Brazile in ‘Uncharted Territory’
For his part, the wildly successful Brazile said, “It’s a totally different feel, because everything was around [wining] seven [world championships]. Then to beat that last year…It’s uncharted territory, and I’m just thrilled to have such a blessed year again. To clinch it this early, it kind of lets a guy let his hair down in the single events.”
Virtually assured of winning the title based on his strong start, it was just a matter of how soon Brazile would officially clinch it. Brazile got off to a great start with a second-place finish in the team roping with partner Patrick Smith. The cowboys earned $14,135 apiece for their 4.7-second run, and left Brazile sitting within a fifth-place finish in the tie-down roping of clinching the all-around crown.
A miss on his first loop took Brazile out of the money in tie-down roping, but he clinched the title anyway when bull rider Proctor got bucked off later in the round. Proctor was the lone cowboy with a mathematical shot at catching Brazile for the all-around going into Round 4.
With his second-place check on Day 4, Brazile topped $300,000 for a record sixth consecutive year. He sits at $305,581 four rounds into the NFR, with Proctor a distance second in the all-around standings at $137,774.
“When I came into this game, I was one of the guys that was saying those records would never be broken,” Brazile said. “To talk about Jim Shoulders, I said that’s not going to happen in this new era of rodeo. It doesn’t even seem real to me to reach that 16th title. My career has been more than I could ever dream it would be at this point. I’m loving it. I’m living the dream, actually. I didn’t dare to dream this stuff, I’ll be honest.”
Expect the Unexpected
In his fourth Wrangler NFR, tie-down roper Cooper didn’t have the week he might have dreamed about, but he still won $46,731 and held off a fierce challenge from fellow Texan Cody Ohl and Idaho cowboy Matt Shiozawa. Cooper took sixth in the final round with a 9.6-second run and finished seventh in the average.
“We didn’t have the Finals that we were expecting, and if you look back on paper, that’s the ones we were expecting,” Cooper said. “It’s definitely worked out the way we wanted it to, and it all works out in the end.
“Everything’s going to change from this point on. We’re trying to take the steering wheel and do the driving instead of being along for the ride. I’ve got a big responsibility to a lot of people, and I’m going to try to do the very best job that I can.” Cooper won $192,042 on the season―$18,266 ahead of Shiozawa, who won the average title for the first time in his five trips to the Finals.
One cowboy who didn’t have to sweat it out on Saturday was bareback rider Feild. After winning or splitting the win in five of the first nine rounds, he locked up his first world championship. Heading into Round 10 he was within spitting distance of the Wrangler NFR average record set in 2008 by Justin McDaniel, and he held a slim lead in the Ram Top Gun Award standings over saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright. Mission accomplished!
Feild topped Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night for 87 points to win an event record sixth Finals go-round and top the average record by 1.5 points.
Winning a Ram truck thanks to his $179,327―a Wrangler NFR record in bareback riding and for any cowboy competing in a single event―was just icing on the cake for a year in which Feild earned an event record $319,986.
Feild wasn’t the only one setting Wrangler NFR records. Team ropers Powell and Johnson bested the year-old earnings record of $120,419 (set by Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith in 2010) with $125,625 during their 10 days in Las Vegas. To put that in perspective, Powell entered the Wrangler NFR with just $69,782 won, while Johnson had $71,487.
It’s the first world title for each of the ropers, Powell from Stephenville, TX, and Johnson from Casper, WY. “I told Jhett this morning we should have met for breakfast at 5 o’clock, because we were both laying there staring at the ceiling,” Powell said.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve dreamed of backing in the box in the 10th round at the NFR with the championship on the line, but it’s a lot different than I expected. That’s the hardest steer I’ve ever run in my life!”
Complete NFR results are available at the PRCA’s website, www.prorodeo.com.
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