When rodeo media types claim that rodeo is a family friendly sport, they aren’t just making a sales pitch. The record books for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) — the Super Bowl of rodeo, the crowning event of the professional rodeo season –are littered with references to families competing together at the highest levels of the sport: father-son-daughter combination qualifying to the WNFR (the Yates family, 1984), mother and son combo’s (the Tryans and Terri Kaye Kirkland, 2003-2005) and three brother sets qualifying together.
The latter is the most common, from the Kirbys in the 1970’s to the Etbauer’s in the 1990’s. In more recent times, it has been the Coopers in the tie down roping and the Wrights in the saddle bronc riding. While only two Coopers are competing in 2013, three of the Wrights will be in Vegas December 5-14 including twins Jesse and Jake. Though they aren’t the first twins to qualify (Jake and Jim Ross Cooper of team roping fame own that distinction, earned in 2007), they are the most prolific to date: Jesse is the reigning World Champion and holds the arena record for most points earned in an average as well as money won at the WNFR.
“Those Wright boys are really tough, they ride really well,” laughed Clint Corey, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Supervisor of Pro Officials and ProRodeo Hall of Fame cowboy. Corey qualified for 18 WNFRs in the bareback riding and won the World title in 1991; he also won 12 straight Columbia River Circuit titles and won the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo three times, the most of any rough stock cowboy in history.
Two-time World Champion Cody Wright is the eldest of seven brothers in the Wright family, six of whom are professional saddle bronc riders. Cody leads little brother Jesse in the World standings by just under $20,000. The Wrights are being chased by 2006 World Champion Chad Ferley. Ferley comes to Vegas about $5,000 behind Jesse.
“Chad Ferley is back to his world championship form,” Corey says, noting that the South Dakota cowboy is in the best position to upset the Wrights. “You’ve seen it over the years, some people that win world championship and there might be a couple of years that they don’t perform as well. Then all of a sudden they click and get it all back.”
“I think Chad’s on that road to possibly win another world championship; he’s riding really well.”
Corey gave credit as well to another two-time World Champ in the field, Taos Muncy of New Mexico.
“Taos Muncy – he can come from anywhere and win a world championship” Corey says. Muncy became the youngest saddle bronc riding champion in history when he won in 2007 at the age of 20. “We’ve seen him do it there at the National Finals.”
Muncy has averaged at least two round wins in each of his previous five WNFR appearances and has twice been second in the average.
Another bronc rider with a great record in Vegas is Wade Sundell. The Iowa cowboy has placed in 24 of the 40 WNFR go rounds in which he has competed in his career.
“Wade Sundell, is one of those guys that rides so well and wins so much money at the Finals. He is always a dark horse to me, he can always come in there and win a world championship. Rightfully so if he does, he deserves one,” Corey says. Sundell lost a close battle for the title with Cody Wright in 2010 and enters the 2013 WNFR ranked ninth.
In picking another underdog, Corey mentions Sheridan, Wyoming cowboy Chet Johnson, who is making his fourth WNFR but first since 2008.
“He’s been there. He would be one of those guys that, you kind of forget about until he starts riding,” Corey adds. Because he rides so well, he would be a dark horse maybe.”
As in the bareback riding and bull riding, the best of pro rodeo’s livestock will also be performing. Flying Five Rodeo’s Spring Planting, who tied with Frontier Rodeo’s Maple Leaf for bronc riding horse of the year honors, will buck in Vegas as will Sutton Rodeo’s Chuckulator, the 2012 Saddle Bronc of the Year and the WNFR.
“I always love that Chuckulator,” agrees Corey. “He is such a great horse and always fun to watch.”
“I’m a huge rodeo fan so I can’t wait to get there and get things rolling and be a part of it again,” says Corey. “It’s such a special place in my heart to be in Las Vegas in December.”
The 2013 WNFR runs Dec. 5-14. Great American Country carries the live television coverage while Pro Rodeo Live (available on-line or on SiriusXM’s Rural Radio Channel 80) provides play-by-play radio coverage.
Check out the WNFR WPRA barrel racing, team roping, bull riding and bareback riding previews also! More event previews to come as National Rodeo Examiner counts down to the 2013 WNFR; complete coverage from the rodeo will also be available here.
PRCA Saddle Bronc Riding
2013 Standings Leader: Cody Wright, $128,703
PRCA World Championships in saddle bronc riding (6): Wright and Taos Muncy (2 each), Jesse Wright and Chad Ferley (1 each)
WNFR average winners amongst 2013 field (2): Cody Wright and Jesse Wright (1 each)
WNFR qualifications (68): Cody Wright (11), Bradley Harter (8), Ferley (7), Muncy (6), Heith Demoss and Wade Sundell (5), Jesse Wright, Isaac Diaz and Chet Johnson (4 each), Jacobs Crawley and Cort Scheer (3 each), Tyler Corrington, Jake Wright, Cole Elshere and Sterling Crawley (2 each)
Career Earnings (Saddle Bronc Riding Millionaires through 12/31/12):
20. Cody Wright, $1.961 million
Pendleton Whiskey’s Let ‘er Buck Bucking Stock of the Year
Saddle Bronc Riding
1/2. Spring Planting, Flying 5 Rodeo, 31 points
1/2. Maple Leaf, Frontier Rodeo, 31
3. Medicine Woman, Frontier Rodeo, 16
WNFR Saddle Bronc Riding Records
Most Money Won at WNFR: Jesse Wright, $160,962, 2011
High Score: 93 points, Billy Etbauer, Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Cool Alley Dip, 2003-2004
Highest Marked Average: Jesse Wright, 848.5 points on 10 horses, 2011
Most Averages Won: Monty Henson and Rod Warren (4 each)
Go Round Wins: Etbauer, 51 (Most of any contestant in a single event)
Most Round Wins in a Single Year (5): Etbauer, 1992, 1999, 2055 and Dan Mortensen, 1998