ARLINGTON, Texas – Tim O’Connell came to the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on a mission to win his fourth world championship.
That goal started slipping away after three rounds, but O’Connell regrouped nicely in Round 4 at Globe Life Field, Dec. 6.
The bareback rider who claimed world titles from 2016-18 had a 90.5-point ride on Fettig Pro Rodeo’s Pop A Top, tying the Round 4 record and capturing the victory.
O’Connell now shares the Round 4 record with Will Lowe (2004) and Ty Breuer (2017).
“That was just exciting. What a fun horse to get my mojo back rolling. I really needed that,” said O’Connell, who has been battling through a sore right (free) shoulder. “My first three rounds were going good but not going the way I wanted them to. What a great animal. He went out and did it from the first jump and just got better and better and better and allowed me to start really going at him.”
With the win, O’Connell stretched his lead atop the PRCA | RAM World Standings. O’Connell has $174,953, while Kaycee Feild is in second place with $146,917.
The win was O’Connell’s first go-round win at the NFR since he took top honors in Round 9 in 2018 with a 90-point ride on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix’s Ain’t No Angel.
“It was only Round 4, but this thing could’ve gotten out of hand pretty quickly,” O’Connell said. “There is a handful of us who are in a dirty knife fight for this gold buckle, and I’m not going out without a fight.”
The grind of competing in 10 rounds at the Wrangler NFR isn’t lost on O’Connell.
“It is tough,” he said. “These are the best horses and best guys and you have to mentally prepare and physically prepare, and it is still going to take something out of you every single night. The mindset is do whatever it takes at the end of the day to get the job done.”
Ryder Wright adds second win of 2020 Finals
There’s no question, Ryder Wright is on a heater.
The Milford, Utah, cowboy has placed in all four rounds and won his second go-round with an 89.5-point ride on Vold Rodeo’s Sun Glow.
Wright also won Round 2 with a 90-point ride on Championship Pro Rodeo’s Feather Fluffer.
Getting the win on Sun Glow was redemption for Wright since the horse bucked him off at the 2018 NFR.
“He’s an awesome horse,” Wright said. “He jumped out of there. I think I got him marked out. He stalled; it’s always a little nerve-wracking when they’re sitting there not really paying attention. He was looking to the inside, but he left clean and good. That’s a big, strong horse. I have a history with him. He bucked me off once, I rode once and lucky to get the upper hand on him.”
Wright is second in the world standings with $194,951. Wyatt Casper is still leading with $207,600. Wright, who won a world championship in 2017, isn’t thinking about the world standings.
“I try and do what I’ve been doing all year, take it one horse at a time,” he said. “Keep it simple. This is just another rodeo. There might be some more fans in here and it might be a little louder in here, but it’s just the same thing I’ve been doing all year. So, I’m trying not to make it any bigger than that. I feel like I’ve done all I can with what I’m drawing. I’m just going to go out and do my thing and let the cards fall where they may.”
Talley claims steer wrestling win
When Jacob Talley arrived at the 2020 Wrangler NFR he was in the hunt for a world title – now he’s leading the world standings.
Talley climbed to the top of the standings when he stopped the clock in 3.4 seconds to win Round 4.
The win gave Talley $26,231 toward the world standings, pushing him in the lead over Matt Reeves’ $102,444.
“I knew the steer. I watched him in Round 1,” Talley said. “He was the very first steer out in this building. I knew they missed the barrier a little bit. I figured if we could sharpen up our start, I knew the steer would be good on the ground riding the horses that we got.”
Talley also qualified for the Wrangler NFR in 2016 and 2018, but this was his first go-round win.
“It’s great,” he said. “I want to keep winning.”
Talley credited his horse Baby for his success.
“She’s amazing,” Talley said. “She’s owned by Sam Dixon, who owns the haze horse also. She’s 10 years old. He’s only had her for two years. She’s been amazing for us and our whole group.”
Defending barrel racing champ wins another round
Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel has not stepped off the gas.
The Cotulla, Texas, cowgirl won Round 1 of the Wrangler NFR with a 17.18-second time. Sunday night and added Round 4 to her go-round victories with a 17.09-second run.
“They’re all special,” Kinsel said of the go-round win. “I’ve never won Round 4, so that’s kind of cool and it’s different. This is the wildest shirt I’ve ever worn, as we’ve addressed, so kind of glad I wore something fun and won a round in it instead of the usual blue or denim or stripes. The ground’s a little bit different and I’m moving back up through the rotation, so I get top of the drag tomorrow, so that’s kind of nice.”
Kinsel is the two-time defending world champion. She’s in good position to make it three-time champ, leading the world standings with $161,653
She credited her star horse, Sister, for her latest go-round win.
“Sis is amazing,” Kinsel said. “She was so gritty. Last night she slipped on the first and the third (turns). I debated what to do as far as working her today, whether I get back on her. She was fine, she was healthy and great and good to go. Thank the Lord she was healthy. But do I get back on her, do I take the chance of her being short or something like that because she’s not sure, and she hesitated a little on the first and second right in the same spot she slipped, but she felt it and she was fine and she’s really smart, really adaptable. She sized it up and went for it.”
Gray wins first go-round since 2014
Adam Gray is making his sixth appearance at the Wrangler NFR (2009, 2011-12, 2014, 2019-20).
The Texas tie-down roper had not won an NFR go-round since 2014, but that changed Sunday when he clocked a 7.8-second run to win Round 4.
It was Gray’s first NFR round win since capturing top honors in Round 5 with a 7.3-second run. With the victory, Gray moved from 15th to fifth in the world standings with $89,851.
“For every round, every competitor tries to win the round,” Gray said. “You go at it, there’s just a lot of variations in the stock we run. I had a good one tonight and I was 12th out, so I got to see how it was done, the times that were set, how aggressive I needed to be and how hard I needed to go at it in order to win.”
Gray’s mindset for the remaining rounds is simple.
“I try to go at them, and I’ve been guilty in the past of being too conservative, so as I get further in my career and realize there’s less and less of that I need to be more aggressive,” Gray said. “There are 10 rounds, and you never know what’s going to happen. There are so many variables so you really try and win as much as you can before the end, don’t just play the average game. I’d like to win a check from every round from here on out.”
Despite his Round 4 win, Gray knows there are no guarantees.
“Confidence is a fickle thing. It helps the confidence, but unfortunately you don’t get to live on yesterday’s success,” Gray said. “Tomorrow is a new day, and Round 5 I’ll have to perform just as well in order to get a new check.”
Bull rider Wallace claims victory with 89.5-point ride
Making his first appearance at the Wrangler NFR since 2017, Ty Wallace is making the most of his opportunity.
After placing second in Round 3, Wallace won Round 4 with an 89.5-point ride on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Lipps on a re-ride.
“I couldn’t get out on that first one, he wasn’t going to give me a good shot and I never had much time to think,” Wallace said. “But they ran the second one in and it just worked out. That bull (Lipps) fit me well, and he was right around to the right, and I really like them to go away from my hand, so it all worked. He tried to pull a bunch of different stuff on me, but I stayed square and did my job.”
Wallace, who entered the Wrangler NFR in ninth place in the world standings, has earned $75,788 at Globe Life Field to move up to second in the world standings with $136,022. Ky Hamilton is the standings leader with $147,677.
It was Wallace’s first go-round win at the Finals since 2015 when he won Round 7 with an 88-point ride on Andrews Rodeo’s Hard Knox.
“Everything was going so fast that I never even heard them announce it,” he said. “Everyone was saying to get on this horse (for a victory lap), so I figured it was pretty good.”
Wallace is having a great Finals. He doesn’t plan on changing anything.
“Just keep it one bull at a time,” Wallace said. “I can’t think about what is going to happen in the 10th round or the eighth round. Tomorrow is No. 5, and I’ll just go at him like I have the last two and just try to be mentally strong, not think too much and have fun.”
Team ropers Hall and Tryan post 4.2-second run
After back-to-back rounds of no times, team ropers Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan were hoping for a change of fortune in Round 4.
That change came, as the pair won the round with a 4.2-second time.
“It was a good night tonight, and the steers were stronger,” Hall said. “There was a 4.8 winning when we went, and I didn’t really know if we could beat that time on that steer since he is pretty strong, so I was going to try to get on him as fast I could and it just worked out for us.”
Hall was quick to credit his partner.
“He does everything to finish the run for us,” Hall said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I’m at. He took a chance a couple of years ago by pulling me out of the woods and taking me rodeoing with him, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. He’s the best partner a guy could ask for.”
Tryan was straight to the point about Hall’s talent.
“He turned him, that says it all,” Tryan said.