Add another line to the ever-growing impressive resume of Stetson Wright.
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Wright, with his 88-point winning bull ride on Dakota Rodeo’s Pookie Holler, became the youngest cowboy in PRCA history to surpass the $2 million dollar mark in career earnings.
Wright, who is 23 years-old and 240 days, upped his unofficial career earnings to $2,050,520.
“Every goal to me is just as important. To cross that $2 million dollar mark, it’s special,” Wright said. “I’m speechless. When I hear something like that, it makes me emotional. I’m the luckiest guy on the planet and I can’t be thankful enough for how these last four years have gone.”
Wright, who joined the PRCA in 2018, has won five world titles – three in all-around (2019-21) and one in bull riding (2020) and one in saddle bronc riding (2021).
Wright earned $49,666 with his bull riding victory and $7,462 by placing fifth in saddle bronc riding with his 85-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Cancun Moon.
“He’s a good bull, he’s an awkward build and bucking bull so you have to ride him really funky,” Wright said. “I’ve never had to ride a bull the way I rode him.”
“It gives you a lot of momentum and the confidence is everything. This was the eliminator pen for us. For Ky (Hamilton, who had a 77-point ride) and me to ride these top-ranked bulls, it gives you the thought that ‘you should be able to ride all of the bulls.’ Right now, I feel 10-feet tall and bulletproof. I’m sure Ky feels the same way.”
Tie-down roper Caleb Smidt makes it two in a row
Tie-down roper Caleb Smidt keeps on winning. After capturing Round 1 with a 7.5-second run he added the Round 2 victory with an even quicker 7.2-second run.
In two nights, Smidt has earned $57,827 and is second in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $217,343. He trails leader Shad Mayfield by $19,016.
“There’s truly no words to describe it, there’s no other feeling like it,” said Smidt about his winning ways.
After winning Round 1, Smidt was able to slow everything down.
“I just came back tonight and did my job, I tried not to think too much about it,” said Smidt, 33.
Smidt was to the point when talking about his game plan for the remainder of the NFR.
“I’m going to do the same thing I did the last two nights,” he said. “As long as I keep having fun and keep my steps simple, it’ll be a lot of fun here.”
Bareback rider Leighton Berry gets first career NFR round win
At the 2020 Wrangler NFR, Leighton Berry was on the cusp of a round win placing second three times.
Berry doesn’t have to wait any longer for NFR glory.
The Weatherford, Texas, cowboy had an 86.5-point ride on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Top Egyptian to win Round 2.
“Man, it feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Berry, 23. “I won second in Round 2, 3 and 4 in Arlington (Texas, at the 2020 Wrangler NFR) and I have just been craving to get one of those buckles and to finally have one means the world to me. It feels great to win (a round in Las Vegas). I have been dreaming of this since I was a little kid.”
Berry was no stranger to Top Egyptian.
“What’s funny is I was first out on the San Angelo (Texas) Chute-Out (in April) on that horse, and I thought I made an even better ride then and I was only 86,” Berry said. “That horse is phenomenal. Cullen Pickett, I can’t say enough about him, he raises such great bucking horses and takes time with them. Every time I have one by my name, I get full of jitters. I love getting on Cullen Pickett bucking horses.”
Veteran steer wrestler Hunter Cure grabs Round 2 victory
Steer wrestler Hunter Cure is no stranger to NFR success as he has walked away with PRCA World Championships in 2013 and 2015.
Cure, of Holliday, Texas, returned to the Wrangler NFR for the first time since 2019 and was taking a victory lap after Round 2 with a 3.7-second time.
“I got such an aggressive start, I felt like I broke out and at most rodeos, I would have,” said Cure, a six-time NFR qualifier in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2018-19. “The steer got out fast and really didn’t have a chance to build up a lot of speed, so he didn’t handle it as well as some of the others, but it worked and first is first and now on to the next one.”
Cure, a savvy veteran, believes he now has his emotions in check.
“The first round always seems to get to me, not sure what it is but otherwise, nerves aren’t an issue,” Cure said.
Saddle bronc rider Lefty Holman captures first career round win
The charismatic Lefty Holman couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
The Visalia, Calif., cowboy was grinning ear-to-ear after winning Round 2 with an 87-point ride on Four Star Rodeo’s Wall Street.
“It truly is the best feeling in the world,” Holman said. “When you work so hard to get here and then you are able to succeed here, it’s the best. I’m blessed with a great support system and super grateful for it.”
Holman was riding Wall Street for the third time which helped his cause.
“Yeah, that’s a California buckin’ horse. It’s a cool deal that is going on and definitely a win I will never forget,” Holman said.
Holman made his NFR debut in 2022 in Arlington, Texas, and he was thrilled to be in the yellow bucking chutes in Vegas.
“Everything is just right on top of you. The energy in there is something that I’ve never felt,” Holman said. “My heart was pounding when I got off. I looked up and my parents were hollering. It just feels like there’s people breathing down your neck. It’s the craziest feeling in the world.”
Team ropers Smith/Long top Round 2
Team roping header Clay Smith broke his right leg on June 28, but he was bound and determined to qualify for the Wrangler NFR with his then recently acquired partner Jake Long.
That mission was accomplished and on Thursday the duo added a Round 2 win to their accolades.
“It’s good. Good to catch one. There’s enough money to where every round means something so it’s good to get it started,” Smith said.
Long is thrilled to be teamed up with Smith, a two-time world champ in 2018 and 2019.
“Well, I think a great header like him (Clay Smith) isn’t going to miss very often,” Long said. “I was as shocked as anybody when that first one (rope) didn’t stay on (in Round 1). I wasn’t very worried about it happening too often.”
After an injury-riddled regular season, Smith pointed out the reasons to his late-season surge.
“I had a horse that really helped and Jake that didn’t mess up so that was the key,” Smith said.
Long, a 12-time NFR qualifier, is excited to be roping in the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Well, I think it’s always fit me because I like to be aggressive,” he said. “As a heeler, it’s about getting out there and getting to your spot fast enough. To get into a spot where you can do it fast enough without affecting the steer, that’s the challenge.”
Smith has mapped out a strategy moving forward.
“That’s something we’ve talked about. I’m going to try my best to give him something to win on the 10th round because since I’ve been here, it’s always come down to the last steer,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to be pretty aggressive from here on out. I’m just hoping I set him up.”
Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel takes Round 2 victory
Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel flexed her muscles with a 13.61-second run to take the Round 2 crown.
“It’s always a great crowd on a Friday night at the Thomas & Mack. I just changed a couple of things about my approach into the first barrel and everything else stayed just about the same. We got in the flow, and it felt good.”
The margins in barrel racing are razor thin so she made adjustments for Round 2.
“It does just a tiny bit. It feels enough out-of-whack that you have to jump over an additional hump. Luckily, we smoothed that out tonight. My horse (Sister) is so fast and she allowed me not to make many mistakes. She pushes me to be better every night.
“It’s special, it’s tiny, and it’s a lot of energy packed into one little place. It’s a rush like you’d never feel anywhere else.”
Bull rider Reid Oftedahl suffers injury in Round 2
Bull rider Reid Oftedahl was injured during Round 2 while aboard Rafter H Rodeo Livestock’s Under the Influence. Oftedahl, who is Raymond, Minn., was thrown forward and hit the bull’s head and tossed to the arena dirt.
Oftedahl, who was wearing a helmet, was diagnosed with a closed head injury by the Justin Sports Medicine Team and was transported for further evaluation.
Courtesy of PRCA