LAS VEGAS – The 60th edition of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo proved to be historic. And not just because it marked 60 years of the Finals crowning world champions.
Trevor Brazile won his PRCA-record 14th All-Around gold buckle, adding to his ever-growing record of PRCA championships, this one No. 24, in front of 17,150 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Saturday, Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, Sage Kimzey became the first bull rider in the NFR era to win five consecutive world championships. ProRodeo Hall of Famer Jim Shoulders won six consecutive bull riding world titles, but that was before the NFR began.
“Anytime your name is by Jim Shoulders’ you are in a league you can’t put into words,” said Kimzey, 24. “He is one of the greatest cowboys of all time and it means the world to me.”
Kimzey’s fifth bull riding world title also puts him in precious company. Only four other bull riders have won at least five – Don Gay won eight, Shoulders seven, and Smokey Snyder and Harry Tompkins each won five.
Kimzey was banged up throughout the Finals, and that reflected in the fact that he rode four bulls. But Kimzey saved the best for last.
Hopping on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Record Rack’s Shootin’ Stars, Kimzey posted a 93-point ride. Making it more impressive was the fact that Kimzey was bruised and battered.
“This year was tough, it was just sheer grit and determination from the start of the year,” he said. “It started with a fractured pelvis, and it was a 365-day grind. Going into here with a big lead, then getting hurt in the first round – it was a brutal 10 days and it was hard to get out of bed.”
While Kimzey’s career continues to flourish, Brazile announced before the Finals started that the 2018 season marked the last time he would rodeo full time. Brazile is going to an abbreviated schedule in 2019 to spend more time with his family.
Then he went out and won his 14th All-Around title, and he did it by winning Round 10 of the tie-down roping in 7.2 seconds. It was his 71st career go-round win at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – in tie-down roping and team roping – and National Finals Steer Roping. Yet another record.
“When I came into Round 10, I was honestly so thankful that I had another chance,” Brazile said. “It wasn’t maybe the best chance. I had to win the round and do some certain things, but it was at least a chance, and as a competitor that’s all you can ask for.”
Brazile entered Round 10 trailing his brother-in-law Tuf Cooper by a little more than $12,000. Cooper won the All-Around title in 2017.
“It’s a really unique situation because I love him so much, and I’m his biggest fan, too,” Brazile said of Cooper. “It’s a crazy dynamic that we’ve lived for so long, but I can’t wait to just set back and be able to watch him instead of competing against him.”
And while some say Brazile should keep going as hard as ever, especially after the win, that’s not his thinking.
“The first question everybody wants to ask is you can’t go out now,” he said. “But, the competitor in me, this is the only way to go out. It was hard to swallow the other scenarios. I hadn’t roped well this week, and I ended up with three round wins. But I also ended up with three two loops, and that’s the most I’ve ever had. It couldn’t have ended any better.”
The 10-day attendance for the Wrangler NFR was 169,171.