Cali Cowboys at Circuit Finals

By April 4, 2012
Tyson Thompson lies prone on the back of a bucking bareback bronco.

Tyson Thompson drew Big Lights and made it to the semifinals. (Photo by James Phifer)

In the ultimate round there was only one big win, but California cowboys roped, rode and wrestled their way to second in the team standings at the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, with $66,794 in earnings.

Team roping was the big category for California, with header Spencer Mitchell of Colusa taking first place along with heeler Brady Minor of Ellensburg, WA, at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event, March 29-April 1 at the State Fair Arena.

Three California team ropers were in a tie for third: Clay White (Shandon) and John Chaves (Los Alamos) shared the prize with Santa Margarita heeler Jake Twisselman and his partner (Blaine Linaweaver, KS). Also landing third in their respective categories were steer wrestler Luke Branquinho of Los Alamos and tie-down roper Ryle Smith of Oakdale.

Tie-down roper Ryle Smith, of Oakdale, CA, finished second, moving up from third in the semifinals. Barrel racer Christina Richman of Glendora topped out at fifth in the semis.

With a whopping $525,000 in purse, the RNCFR unfolded over 28 rounds, four for each of the PRCA disciplines: Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Bull Riding, Steer Wrestling, Tie-Down Roping, Team Roping and Barrel Racing.

There were a total of 168 contestants from each of the PRCA’s 12 zones ―two from each category (the year-end high-point circuit champs plus the individual winners from the Ram Regional Circuit Finals).

Two early rounds winnowed each division down to eight who graduated to the April 1 semifinals with their scoreboard wiped clean. The top four from that contest advanced to the finals that night with a fresh score.

Branquinho, whose 4.2 run put him on top for day one, knew the format quite well, having won the Ram National Circuit Champion in 2010 on his main horse, Spiderman, who he rode again this year. But it was not to be. Much was made of the fact that it was Clay Cowan, whom Branquinho narrowly defeated at the finals at Pocatello, ID, two years ago, that denied him the championship this year.

Luke Branquinho caught mid-air as he dives off his horse and lands on a steer's neck.

Steer wrestler Luke Branquinho placed third in the final round. (Photo by James Phifer)

“Luke got me two years ago when he won first and I took second,” said Cowan, who won the title with a 3.6-second run and defeated both Tom Lewis (Lehi, UT) and Branquinho, who both had final round times in the 4-second range. After coming in second twice, Cowan admitted with typical understated cowboy charm, “It’s good to finally be first and win the truck.”

Arizona barrel racer Sherry Cervi and her 10-year-old palomino mare Stingray sat atop the standings on opening day, posting the run at 15.46. Christina Richman of Glendora, CA, sat sixth (15.61).

Rounds one and two saw Tyson Thompson of Bradley, CA, in the spotlight, taking the lead in the second round of bareback riding with an 82-point tour on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Big Lights. Thompson said he was very excited to draw Big Lights. “I’ve seen him on TV a few times. He’s a really outstanding horse,” Thompson said of the bronc, who has comopeted in each of the last four Wrangler NFRs.

“He’s got some stuff to him, some moves… just a touch strong, enough to make you try. I was scraping, trying to make the whistle. I just tried to ride him jump for jump.”

Thompson, the California Circuit year-end champion who made it to the semifinals, said he was  thrilled to find himself in contention for the title at the facility known as the Jim Norick Arena.

“It’s just such a great rodeo,” Thomson continued. “I just stay at my circuit, so this is what it’s for. Basically it’s my national finals. It’s a goal every year to try to do good in your circuit and make it here. There are 24 really good guys and really good horses, and a lot of money to be won.”

This year was the first in a long-term agreement to hold the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. “Oklahoma City is a horse community,” Cervi said. “It is fun to be back here running barrels and competing.

Finals winners also got a $20,000 gift certificate good toward a new Ram truck.

Insofar as the regional standings, the Wilderness Circuit took home the team title with a total of $84,733, its fourth win in the last six years. The 2011 champion, Columbia River, checked in third with $57,969. Just behind California.

For a complete list of results, click here.

Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo

Final round results, Sunday, April 1

1. Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 86.0 points on Andrews Rodeo’s PTSD Power Play, $5,484
2. Cody DeMers, Kimberly, Idaho, 85.0, $4,113
3. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 83.0, $2,742
4. Tanner Aus, Granite Falls, Minn., 81.0, $1,371

1. Clay Cowan, Highmore, S.D., 3.6 seconds, $5,484
2. Tom Lewis, Lehi, Utah, 4.1, $4,113
3. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 4.4, $2,742
4. Kyle Whitaker, Chambers, Neb., 14.0, $1,371

1. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, 7.7 seconds, $5,484
2. Blair Burk, Durant, Okla., 8.3, $4,113
3. Ryle Smith, Oakdale, Calif., 8.4, $2,742
4. E.J. Roberts, Stephenville, Texas, 9.2, $1,371=

1. Sam Spreadborough, Snyder, Texas, 86.0 points on Classic ProRodeo’s Big Tex, $5,484
2. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 84.0, $4,113
3. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 82.0, $2,742
4. Cody Taton, Mud Butte, S.D., 79.0, $1,371

1. Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., 3.7 seconds, $5,484
2. Manny Egusquiza Jr., Madison, Ga./Clint Summers, Lake City, Fla., 5.4, $4,113
3. (tie) Clay White, Shandon, Calif./John Chaves, Los Alamos, Calif., NT; Blaine Linaweaver, Leavenworth, Kan./Jake Twisselman, Santa Margarita, Calif., NT

1. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 15.07 seconds, $5,484
2. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 15.08, $4,113
3. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.20, $2,742
4. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 15.32, $1,371

1. Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., 83.0 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s Best Yet, $5,484
2. (tie) Paul Coppini, Kuna, Idaho, 0.0
Travis Atkinson, Lehi, Utah, 0.0
Sunshine Schwartz, Anoka, Minn., 0.0

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