Marty Yates has had an outstanding ProRodeo career, qualifying for the Wrangler NFR seven consecutive years. The only thing missing from his résumé is a gold buckle.
The Stephenville, Texas, cowboy is trying to change that narrative.
Yates won his second consecutive round with a 7.2-second run a day after winning Round 1 with a 7.1-second time.
“The first three rounds we get to tie the calves each morning at 8 and I actually tied that calf this morning,” Yates said. “I knew he was really good. That was a great pen of calves. I just want to keep drawing good ones, getting a good start and making good runs.”
Yates had concerns about the Globe Life Field configuration, but that’s not the case anymore.
“That’s what all of us were worried about coming in (that the calves would veer right), but they did a phenomenal job setting up the arena,” he said. “It’s an incredible setup and the fans, it’s unbelievable. You can dang sure hear the crowd yelling and hollering up there. It’s not Vegas, but it’s still the NFR and gets you pumped up.”
Yates is hoping to continue his good fortune.
“Getting started on the right foot at the NFR, it definitely helps,” Yates said. “You can get started off on the wrong foot and can feel like you can’t get over the hump. To get the two first rounds in the bag, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward. I’m going to keep going at them (the calves) and do my job. I’m not a very conservative roper, I go at them every time and try and make the most of every calf.”
Team ropers Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves went to the Round 2 winner’s circle in record fashion Friday.
The duo tied the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Round 2 record with a 3.8-second run at Globe Life Field.
Egusquiza and Graves now share the record with Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager, who clocked their time in 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
“I just got a good start and Travis sure heeled him fast and we got a really good finish,” Egusquiza said.
Graves concurred with his partner.
“Dustin did a great job and headed him fast and our run came together well,” Graves said.
Egusquiza is grateful to have a Wrangler NFR to compete at in this COVID-19 marred 2020.
“It’s good to have competition, and this year has been really tough for everyone not getting to go to as many places as we’re used to but we’re thankful they had something for us to go to,” he said.
Graves acknowledged the approach at Globe Life Field is different for him and Egusquiza.
“It’s so big and the score is two feet longer, and that’s changed it a bit and there’s a lot more left, so it is different from the Thomas and Mack,” Graves said. “But it is still roping against the best teams in the world, and we gave it everything we got and are happy to get the win.”
Stetson Wright stays hot in bull riding
Stetson Wright has his foot on the gas pedal, and he’s not letting up.
Wright won his second consecutive round in bull riding with an 88.5-point ride on Powder River Rodeo’s Axel. The Milford, Utah, cowboy won Round 1 with a 90.5-point ride on Stockyards Pro Rodeo’s Silver Lining.
“Keep my hand shut and keep to the basics and try hard, I guess,” said Wright, 21. “My bull was a little tougher and that was about it, and my horse bucked me off, which kind of irritated me a bit to try harder in the bull riding.”
Powder River Rodeo’s Axel was no stranger to Wright.
“I knew a lot about him; nobody had found a way to ride him yet, so I knew I needed to keep my hand shut and try hard,” he said. “I didn’t pay attention to the scoreboard; I was pumped up like a tire as soon as I got off. They didn’t need to tell me a score to get me excited.”
Stetson’s brothers have notched saddle bronc riding wins at the 2020 Wrangler NFR – Rusty in Round 1 and Ryder in Round 2.
“I feel good, and Rusty and Ryder are riding good, which pumps me up in the bronc riding and the bull riding, and I feed off their energy and they just make me want to ride better in bulls and broncs,” said Stetson, who is second in the bull riding with 123,953 points. “… All the support I’ve gotten from Rusty and Ryder all year, they really helped me get down the road, and I just appreciate it more than they’ll ever know.”
Stetson, who also competes in saddle bronc riding, is the first cowboy to qualify for multiple Wrangler NFR roughstock events since Jesse Bail in 2003. Stetson has failed to place in saddle bronc riding but made up for it in bull riding.
Thanks to his two victories, Wright is up to 159,046 points in the all-around PRCA | RAM World Standings. Tuf Cooper, who is competing in tie-down roping at the Wrangler NFR, but has yet to place, is second in the all-around standings at 121,450.
Stetson is trying to become the first cowboy to win back-to-back all-around gold buckles since Trevor Brazile in 2014-15.
Stetson made his NFR debut as a rookie in 2019 and won two rounds. Now, he has four go-round wins in 12 rounds at the Finals and has placed in seven of the 12 rounds he has nodded his head at in bull riding at the NFR.
Ryder Wright wows with 90-point ride
Ryder Wright had a tough NFR in 2019, placing in just three rounds as he fell from first to third in last year’s PRCA | RAM World Standings.
He’s bounced back nicely at the 2020 Wrangler NFR.
After placing third in Round 1, Wright won Round 2 with a 90-point ride on Championship Pro Rodeo’s Feather Fluffer.
“That was an awesome horse,” Wright said. “I’ve seen that horse for the past few years now. I’ve wanted to get on him for so long and was super happy he was here. I was pumped (to draw him). I was super excited. I knew if I did my part, it could be 90.”
Wright said his third-place ride on Harper & Morgan’s Mr. Worldwide in Round 1 was just what he needed to get going.
“I don’t know if people realize how much momentum means here at the Finals,” Wright said. “To be able to draw two good horses in the first two rounds … hopefully, it’ll keep the ball rolling.” Aus rides to win on Wilson Sanchez
Tanner Aus knew he had a great opportunity that he couldn’t let slip through his grasp.
The veteran bareback rider from Granite Falls, Minn., drew Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Wilson Sanchez, a horse that had taken multiple riders to go-round wins at the Finals.
Aus can add his name to that winner’s list after making an 87-point ride to win Round 2.
“It’s definitely a confidence-builder,” Aus said. “Everybody wants to jump out there and win the first round and the second round. It helps to get the momentum going. But it is 10-rounds long. Last year I put myself out of the average in the first round and I scraped my way back into the average by the 10th round. Anything can happen, and you just have to focus on one horse at a time.”
Aus is appreciative to get the chance to compete at the 2020 Wrangler NFR.
“It is awesome,” he said. “I’m so thankful. I’m proud of the (PRCA) for stepping up and putting on rodeos in a year when a lot of things couldn’t happen, and all the committees that stepped up and made it possible. Then for the (PRCA) to turn around and make this happen, thank you to everyone in Arlington and Texas for hosting us. This really means a lot.”
Waguespack, Anderson share steer wrestling win
The steer wrestling Round 2 winners are on both ends of the spectrum.
Tyler Waguespack is aiming to add a third world championship to go with the ones he earned in 2016 and 2018. Bridger Anderson, meanwhile, is making his Wrangler NFR debut.
They shared the spotlight by splitting the win with 3.8-second runs. “I thought I had a really good steer,” Waguespack said. “I had run that steer previously this year in San Antonio. I was 3.8 on him there. We knew the track record on him and got back on the same horse (Scooter) I rode at that time.”
Scooter, the AQHA | PRCA Horse of the Year in steer wrestling in 2017-18, is the same horse Waguespack rode to both his world titles.
“It was a pretty quick decision,” Waguespack said about switching back to Scooter. “(Round 1) I wasn’t comfortable. The horse wasn’t comfortable. We got back on Ol’ Faithful pretty much. We’re going to stick with him the rest of the week.”
Anderson was thrilled with his performance in Round 2.
“We were pretty pumped. It didn’t feel as fast as it was, thankfully,” Anderson said. “We got up and saw 3.8; we were pretty excited and hoped we placed high in the round and fortunately wound up splitting the top.
“Today, we were a little more focused, a little more in sync. Last night, things didn’t happen like we wanted, missed the barrier a little bit. Tonight, we cleaned it up, had a good steer and things felt considerably better.”
Anderson was happy to add a Wrangler NFR go-round win to his résumé.
“We were really looking forward to it, hoping it would happen,” he said. “Hopefully, we can come back here a few times later this week.”
Jimmie Smith takes barrel racing
Barrel racer Jimmie Smith was all smiles after winning Round 2 with a 17.04-second run.
“Last night, I don’t know, I wasn’t nervous, but we couldn’t find the third barrel down there,” said Smith, who is at her first Finals. “Tonight, we had a new game plan and we remembered there were three barrels just like the rest of the year, and she (Lena) was really dialed in and fired super hard.” Smith was quick to credit her horsepower.
“Lena is awesome. She’s tiny but mighty, super powerful. She’s my everything.”
For this and other PRCA rodeo news visit www.ProRodeo.com