By BRAD KEITH
(Photos courtesy DUDLEY BARKER, dudleydoright.com)
Sport: (December 8, 2014) — Marty Yates said reaching the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was a lifelong dream. What he’s done through four rounds in his first WNFR appearance, however, is beyond imagination.
Yates, 20, won the tie-down roping in the first go-round at the 2014 WNFR, roping and tying his calf in 7.4 seconds Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. He won again Sunday night, dominating round four with an impressive time of 6.7.
“Being able to come out here and win on this type of stage, to win my first go-round and come back in the fourth go-round and win a second one; to win half the go rounds so far, it’s more than I ever imagined,” said Yates in a phone interview with The Flash about four hours before the start of Monday’s fifth performance.
Yates missed his calf in round two, and while that currently has him out of the running in the average, he’s still raked in the cash. He earned $19,002.40 for each of his wins, and in round three he picked up $3,064.90 for placing sixth in 7.9 seconds.
“I’m not in the average right now. I could get back in it, but all I’m really focused on now is making as much money as I can each night,” said the Stephenville cowboy and 2013 graduate of Huckabay High School. “I just need to keep coming out strong and getting the rope on the calf as fast as I can.”
Which is exactly what Yates says has been his biggest strength through the early rounds.
“The biggest thing is being able to get a good start and get on the calf fast,” Yates said. “That’s what has let me be as fast as I’ve been on those three calves. A good start makes it so much easier.”
So does a good horse, which Yates certainly has with Chicken.
“My horse is the reason I’m here right now. The relationship me and him have is the key,” Yates said. “It’s awesome to compete with him and win at this level.”
Yates has been so fast that if he had just roped and tied his round two calf in better than 10.4 seconds, he would be leading the average. The legendary Trevor Brazile is the current leader, averaging 8.1 seconds on four head. Yates averages 7.33 on three head.
“It really doesn’t change for me,” he said of competing in what equates to the Super Bowl of his sport. “You’re still preparing to do the same job. It’s a bigger stage, but all you can focus on is the task at hand, and it’s no different.”
Except the prestige and, of course, the money.
“It’s a bigger stage and more money, but I don’t look at that as pressure at all,” Yates said. “It lights my fire. It makes me even more focused and I compete even harder.”
And even in the crowd of thousands and in front of millions watching on televisions across the country, Yates says he feels right at home.
“It’s awesome. The cowboys from home are all buds, and it’s a big deal to us to all come out here and win on this stage against all the big names,” Yates said.
He was one of four local cowboys to win events in round three. Bobby Mote of Huckabay split the win in the bareback riding before Luke Brown of Stephenville and Kollin VonAhn of Huckabay won the team roping, an event featuring five local headers and nine area heelers.
In all, cowboys from Erath County and the surrounding area have won more than $400,000, and Yates says everywhere they look, they see familiar faces in the crowd.
“It seems like the whole town of Stephenville and all the little towns like Huckabay are all here right now,” he said. “If they’re not here as fans, it’s because they’re in the roping.”