Kaycee Feild left the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo after becoming the PRCA’s all-time leader in bareback riding world titles with six.
A year later, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Feild had an 87.5-point ride on Sankey Pro Rodeo & Phenom Genetics’ Bronc Riding Nation to win Round 1 of the 2022 Wrangler NFR presented by Teton Ridge before 16,929 spectators Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“I don’t care who you are or how good you are when you come to this NFR the first round you always have the jitters, you always have that little buzz and butterflies in your gut,” Field said. “I don’t think you question your preparation but when you get here, and you rode the horse to your expectations it makes the week way more fun. It gives you a lot more confidence.”
Feild, who has won the last two world championships, increased his PRCA record to 28 NFR bareback riding wins.
“It’s weird coming here as many times as I have, and you are focusing on being strong and doing everything perfect,” Feild said, “You have to ride each horse for what they are and wow the judges. They are human and the crowd also plays into it. I’m just going to keep on doing my job each and every round.”
Dating back to the 2021 Wrangler NFR Feild has won five of the last 11 rounds.
Saddle bronc rider Sage Newman keeps rolling into NFR
Saddle bronc rider Sage Newman had a dream regular season earning a PRCA record $253,191.
Well, that definitely wasn’t a fluke.
Newman had an 89-point ride on Big Stone Rodeo Inc.’s Rubels to win Round 1.
“It’s great. There’s nothing better than this place here,” Newman said. “It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and it’s a lot of fun. You can’t beat it.”
With the target on his back as the world standings leader, Newman is keeping things in perspective.
“Oh, yeah for sure. There’s a lot of money to be won here and a lot of good guys behind me so I’m just going out there doing my job, let the chips fall where they may, and keep my steps simple,” Newman said. “I look up to all of these guys. Even though some of them are my same age, the group of talent here this year is unreal. There’s a lot of young guns coming up and it definitely lights a fire in your gut.”
Bull rider Tristen Hutchings makes splash in NFR debut
No matter what bull rider Tristen Hutchings does the rest of his ProRodeo career he will never forget Dec. 1, 2022.
In Round 1 of his Wrangler NFR debut, Hutchings won with a 90.5-point ride on Stockyards ProRodeo’s Party Animal.
“Well, it was only about five minutes ago so I’m still worked up about it,” Hutchings said. “But I’ve been having a blast riding at the Thomas & Mack. It’s crazy here and when you dream about it as a little kid, it’s everything and that.”
Hutchings, 22, acknowledged everything seemed like a blur to him.
“When I climb down in there, it’s just me,” he said. “There isn’t anything that happened before me and there isn’t anything going to happen after me. Another thing here is it’s rolling so fast. I mean, you are in the bucking chutes two (rides) before and they are rolling through it, so I didn’t get a chance to see anyone ride before me. I knew I had to do my job, ride my bull, and you can re-watch it afterwards.
“I never got a good seat on him. If you’re 90 points, it should be pretty wild. It felt like I was getting bucked off right out of there and I just kept cutting him off. It felt good. It felt wild and I guess it looked pretty decent. I never got the chance to see it so I’m excited to go back to the locker room and watch it.”
Steer wrestler Nick Guy returns to NFR with a bang with Round 1 win
Steer wrestler Nick Guy was making his first trip back to the Wrangler NFR in four years and made up for lost time.
“Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to this run for a long time,” said Guy, 38. “Missing it (the NFR) for a few years after you’ve made it quite a few times is a hard pill to swallow. To come back here, the first night, and take the opportunity and try to start the week hot is what my plan was. I talked to a few people today and told them to be ready to go to the South Point (Casino). I had this in my mind, and it all came together. Steer wrestling, you think about, put a plan together, and act. It happens so fast that if you try to make it happen, things go awry.”
Guy, who came in No. 15 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, said it was to get this confidence boost.
“It’s huge. I’ve been here on both sides of the spectrum,” Guy said. “I’ve been here and won the first round before, won 2nd the second round and just kept rolling. And I’ve been here where the first round hasn’t gone well. You just have to take one run at a time. If you’re looking back at the last one, you’re already in your way for the next one. You have to roll with the punches a little bit. You’re not going to win every night, but you have to take advantage when you can and have fun. More than anything, I’m here this year to have fun.”
Team ropers Dees/Lord cash in for Round 1 victory
It didn’t take long for team ropers Jr. Dees/Levi Lord to cash in at the 2022 Wrangler NFR.
The duo recorded a 4.3-second run to capture the Round 1 win.
“It was awesome. I was a little nervous back there,” Dees said. “When you first do it, you don’t really believe it’s happening until it actually comes to you. I wanted to start off this year just trying to turn the steers and not be too aggressive with too much rope out. I aim to give Levi a good shot at it every time.
“I’m pumped about it. I’m just going to keep doing the same thing for ten days. I’m going to show up, on time and be ready.”
Lord also took a moment to talk about his NFR mindset.
“That’s what I said earlier. Everybody just wants to win a check and to win the first-place check is just that much sweeter,” Lord said. “It gets everything on track for the rounds ahead. You come out here with such high hopes and to win X-amount of dollars. To knock out a go-round win like this and to get started like that, can’t beat it.”
Tie-down roper Caleb Smidt keeps on winning at NFR
The Wrangler NFR has basically been a personal playground for tie-down roper Caleb Smidt.
The Bellville, Texas, cowboy has won world championships and NFR average crowns three times each in 2015, 2018 and 2021.
Smidt was back in Vegas Thursday and was as good as ever, clocking a 7.5-second run to take the Round 1 title.
“It felt really good to get this win and start off the NFR this way,” Smidt said. “I was riding Pockets like have been the last seven years here. I have a great horse.”
Being an eight-time NFR qualifier and three-time world champ Smidt knows how to control his emotions on this big stage.
“It is just another rodeo; I try and stay thinking like that. I just keep trying to make good runs and I have a great support team with my family behind me,” Smidt said.
Barrel racer Wenda Johnson grabs Round 1 glory
Barrel racer Wenda Johnson seems to have a liking to Thomas & Mack Center and that was evident Thursday.
Johnson clocked a 13.57-second run to win the Round 1 title.
“Absolutely. I love being everywhere,” she said. “It doesn’t matter the size, the shape. I just enjoy riding horses; I enjoy going fast and Moe did that for me tonight.”
When Johnson prepares to compete at the NFR she aims to focus on the job at hand.
“I’ve learned to block that out a long time ago (the crowd),” Johnson said. “So, that’s not something that is a factor for me. I do believe the horses feel it and now that I’ve developed both of my horses, they both love a crowd. I have definitely noticed this big improvement in front of a crowd that both of them feel that energy, look forward to it, and I think it does feed how quick they run.
“Moe is really easy to ride. He is really quick so if I do have to make any adjustments, it has to be really quick, and I give it back to him quick. That was a nice, smooth run for him. The last runs I made on him over a month ago were an NFR mock race and it felt very similar to those practice runs that I made. Soft, to his points. It’s my job as a jockey to get him all the way around his spots.”
Courtesy of PRCA