After experiencing a dry spell at the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, team ropers Clay Smith and Jade Corkill found glory Monday night.
Smith and Corkill stopped the clock in 3.6 seconds at Globe Life Field, which also tied the Round 5 NFR record set in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Smith and Corkill now share the record with Garrett Tonozzi and Kinney Harrell (2006) and JoJo LeMond and Cory Petska (2010).
“The steer was really good, and when he (Corkill) heeled him, it came tight really fast and it was a good finish and there was just enough room to get him turned around and get a good flag,” Smith said. “You prepare yourself for situations like this, but when it comes down to it it’s all reaction; and having the right kind of steer with the right kind of pattern dictates tenths of a second and all it comes down to is just reacting.”
Corkill described what the run looked like from his perspective.
“We had a good steer, and a lot of it comes down to what kind of start the header gets, and he got a really good start,” Corkill said. “It felt like he got it on him right when the neck rope popped off, so I felt like I pretty much just caught. I took an extra swing, but it was fast enough, so it worked out. You get to a point where you’ve done it enough and just let your reactions take over. That’s the best way to do it, if you second guess something then by the time you think of it it’s too long, so you just kind of let Jesus take the wheel.”
Although Smith and Corkill tied the Round 5 record, that wasn’t something that registered to them.
“We were wanting to win the round, and you’re always trying to win the round it seems like, but we felt like tonight was the time to try to make a move,” Smith said. “And we’re not done yet.”
Corkill had a simple response to the win.
“Relief,” he said.
Smith is the reigning, two-time team roping header world champion, and Corkill won three heeling world championships from 2012-14.
Smith and Corkill are both third in their respective world standings with $116,934 each.
“I have no doubt in my partner, it’s going to be good the rest of the way,” Smith said.
Corkill also is ready.
“My partner’s done a good job, but I haven’t done a very good job,” he said. “We went and practiced today, and hopefully we have it lined up for the next five (rounds).”
Wallace wins second consecutive go-round
Bull rider Ty Wallace arrived at Globe Life Field searching for his first Wrangler NFR go-round win since 2015.
Now, the Colorado native has two in a row.
A day after winning Round 4 with an 89.5-point ride on Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Lipps, Wallace won again in Round 5, posting a 91.5-point ride on Rafter G Rodeo’s Freddy Fender.
“I’m just having fun, putting my hand in that bull rope and not thinking about anything,” Wallace said. “I don’t feel any pressure or anything.
“I had seen him (Freddy Fender) a few times before and was excited to have him, and I knew how he was, and what he did fit my style really well. I’m just excited that I sealed the deal and made it work.”
This is Wallace’s fourth career trip to the NFR. He also qualified in 2014-15 and 2017. However, the last two years have been sabotaged by injuries.
“I had a great Finals in 2017, but then after that it was like a snowball that just grew bigger as we went down the hill,” Wallace said. “I broke my leg, a bunch of ribs and my arm, and I was like, ‘Man, what else can I do before this is gone?’ I’m just thankful to be here now. It took me a couple of years to get all that stuff out of the way, and it’s tough coming back from some of those injuries and whatnot and being mentally strong, but I’m over it. I’m physically strong now, probably the best I’ve felt in my whole career and not beat up, and I just feel great.”
Ky Hamilton is first in the world standings with $163,331, but Wallace is on Hamilton’s heels with $162,253.
“It was super important (to win Monday), but it’s more important to just stay on your bulls,” Wallace said. “There are 14 other guys here with more talent than I have, and I give them all the credit in the world. You love to win rounds, but consistency usually goes further in the end. Those guys are there riding their bulls, so I have to put the pedal down and keep riding mine.”
Biglow gets first go-round win of 2020 NFR
A year ago, bareback rider Clayton Biglow had an NFR for the ages.
Biglow won his first bareback riding world and average titles at his fourth Wrangler NFR. He won four rounds and earned $243,891, more than any other Finals contestant in 2019.
On Monday, Biglow was back in the winner’s circle.
Biglow had an 89-point ride on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Top Flight to get the win. Top Flight, 16, was the 2020 Pendleton Whisky “Let ‘er Buck” Stock of the Year in saddle bronc riding.
“That horse feels like a dream and rides like a Cadillac,” Biglow said. “She’s special, and I love to see my name next to her. If you do your job, you’re going to win first.”
Biglow moved up from fifth to third in the world standing with $129,415. Tim O’Connell leads the world standings with $185,953.
“This feels great,” Biglow said. “The mindset has been the same from the get-go. I had some equipment malfunctions the first couple of rounds. I switched back to my old rigging and I got things feeling good again.
“Now, I’m ready to win five more. The average is out of the question unless guys fall, and I don’t see that happening. So I’m going for round wins. I’m shooting from the hip every night and (I’ll) try and make the best spur ride I can.”
Casper extends saddle bronc riding lead
After the first four rounds of the Wrangler NFR, Wyatt Casper saw his lead in the world standings shrink to $12,649.
With the pressure mounting, Casper delivered his first career Wrangler NFR go-round win, claiming the Round 5 victory with a 90.5-point ride on Korkow Rodeo’s Onion Ring.
“This ride really helped tremendously,” Casper said. “I got bucked off last night and hurt me a little bit, not pain-wise, but a little bit in here (head), and we’re glad to get this round win, really needed it.”
Casper leads the world standings with $233,830. Ryder Wright is second at $194,951.
“I got on that horse (Onion Ring) at AT&T Stadium (in Arlington) the first round of (RFD-TV’s) The American (in March). I think we were 91.25 (to win the first round) on him, and to be 90.5 on him today was a dream come true.”
Barrel racer Kinsel wins again
It’s safe to say barrel racer Hailey Kinsel is on a heater.
The Cotulla, Texas, cowgirl won her third round of the 2020 Finals – winning Round 5 with a 16.92-second time, the fastest of this year’s NFR.
“You don’t ever really come into it thinking this is what you’re going to do, being that it’s such a tough field of girls, it being a bigger pattern and not knowing what the pattern is going to be like and if your horse is going to like it,” Kinsel said. “After the first round I had a feeling she was going to have fun out here pretty often. I’m just glad she’s getting faster and faster and still relaxing.”
Kinsel acknowledged her standout horse, Sister, keeps getting better at Globe Life Field.
“She’s one that settles in and when she figures things out, she gets even grittier and grittier,” Kinsel said. “When she came around the first barrel today, I tried to work on relaxing my hand a little bit more and letting her make the turn on her own instead of trying to control every step of it. When she came back around the second, I knew this one was going to be good.”
Herrin captures tie-down roping win
Veteran tie-down roper Hunter Herrin is making his 10th Wrangler NFR appearance and first since 2016.
The Oklahoma cowboy proved he’s as good as ever.
Herrin clocked a 7.4-second run to win Round 5.
“You just get overwhelmed and that’s what’s hitting me right now,” Herrin said. “You work so hard to get here when you’re younger and 100% healthy and then you waste some years that you think you should have won the world title and you didn’t. Your focuses kind of change to just staying on top and then you have an injury. I had to have two hip surgeries. Then in your mind you think, ‘What if I don’t make it back to that level that you were once at.’
“What I’ve learned is to not be Superman coming in here. I used to rely on my athletic ability so much, and I don’t have that any more at 36 and two surgeries. I think what I’ve learned most through the surgeries and in 2018 and 2019 not getting to rodeo, is when you get an opportunity you’ve got to capitalize on it. I’m not going to be as fast or athletic as I was but hopefully my mind is better than it was 10-15 years ago, and I’m going to try and rely on that a bit more.”
Herrin did take a moment to describe his run.
“Last night I had a calf that I was probably supposed to win second on, with the way the round was I was probably supposed to win first,” Herrin said. “But there are other guys who would say the same thing – that things didn’t go the way they wanted them to. I got beat bad at the start. So tonight, I had the same game plan but to not be late. I got a good start, I wasn’t where I wanted to be, but my horse was running and let me reach out and get her, and the rest of it was really good.”
Reeves, Melvin split steer wrestling
Steer wrestler Matt Reeves came into the Wrangler NFR as the leader in the world standings but dropped to No. 2 after Round 4.
Reeves is back leading the world standings after splitting the Round 5 win with Jace Melvin. Each cowboy clocked 3.9-second times.
Reeves, who won the NFR average last year, is chasing his first world championship. Melvin is making his NFR debut.
Reeves is leading the world standings with $125,925. Jacob Talley is second with $116,047.
“It was a good run. That steer is a good steer,” Reeves said. “Will Lummus ran him the first time, won third or fourth. He leads and runs. I got a great start. Got tick-tied, but then Tyson (the horse Reeves was riding) took a nice step, set my feet and I was able to hold what I bit off. He jumped and hit, 3.9, it’s great. I’m pumped to win a round. It’s been a long time. I haven’t won a round (at the NFR) since 2013. One of those things.”
Reeves won Round 7 of the 2013 NFR in 3.1 seconds at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“It was pretty important,” Reeves said about his go-round win. “There are bigger goals there. I had a great winter and a good rodeo year. You’ve got to give yourself a chance, and I’m giving myself a chance to stay where I need to and have a shot to do it. I’m excited. We’ll just keep knocking them down.
“It wouldn’t matter where it was. If I won a world title, it’s not going to matter. Everyone wants to know what it’d be like. It’d be a whole lot better than winning second.”
Melvin was thrilled to check an NFR go-round win off his list.
“Super exciting,” Melvin said. “I’ve been struggling so far, made some good runs, but tonight I had a very good steer. Got a great start, hustled, got a great finish, then had to sweat (waiting for the field to complete the session). All the emotions I could ever put together, it was all out tonight.”
The win was special for Melvin because he spent his college years in Texas – graduating from Vernon College and Tarleton State University.
“South Dakota is home, but this is super amazing,” Melvin said. “Texas, having the NFR here, this is what we live for.”