December 4, 2010 -- Bareback rider Steven Dent took the wish of his injured traveling partner and friend Ryan Gray to heart in Round 3 of the $5.875 million Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Saturday night. Reminiscent of a scene from the 1940 movie "Knute Rockne All American," Gray - the previous PRCA World Standings leader who is out for the rest of the Finals with a lacerated liver suffered in Round 2 - gave Dent a simple request when the two talked while Gray lay in a hospital bed.
"Last night, I asked him if there was anything I could do for him, and he said, 'Go win a gold buckle,'" Dent said.
Dent took a big step in that direction by winning the third round in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,207 with an 85-point ride on Carr Pro Rodeo's Big Lights, and the $17,512 first-place check he earned moved him past Gray into the No. 1 spot in the world standings. Dent, of Mullen, Neb., leads with $162,155, while Gray is second with $159,024. The next closest challenger is three-time and reigning World Champion Bobby Mote, who trails Dent by $45,090 heading into the fourth round.
The well-liked Gray had his hopes of a first gold buckle dashed when Beutler & Son Rodeo's Golden Dream stepped on him after he was bucked off the previous night at the Thomas & Mack Center. Dent will be riding in honor of his friend in the final seven rounds, with a golden goal in sight.
"He's going to be all right, and we were all wishing him the best," Dent said of Gray. "There's not a better guy in rodeo, so I'm glad to see he's going to be all right. It's tough to see anybody get hurt, especially this time of the year and in the position he was in. It's hard to see.
"I'm just going to try and win a round tomorrow night. I set the goal of winning a round, and I'm not going to change anything. I'm going to go at every horse like it's the 10th round and I have to win first. I'm going to try not to hold anything back, and hopefully it will all pan out."
Dent, who leads the average standings, finished a half-point ahead of Round 1 winner Joe Gunderson and 2008 World Champion Justin McDaniel for the round win.
For the second night in a row, the saddle bronc riding was a sibling rivalry between Cody and Jesse Wright. Cody, the eldest of the Wright brothers who won a world title in 2008, became the first repeat winner at this year's Wrangler NFR thanks to an 88-point ride aboard Kesler Championship Rodeo's Spanish Pair. That was just a half-point better than Jesse, who also finished second to his brother in Round 2.
"It's awesome anytime you can win a round, but it does feel different this year," said Cody Wright, who extended his world standings lead over Wade Sundell with the win. "For some reason, I don't feel as much pressure this year, maybe because I didn't come into the Finals in first place. I'm really proud of (Jesse) to come out here and do so well in his first NFR in front of all these people. He rode a tough horse tonight, and he handled it like the best of them."
Wright has earned $38,696 so far in Las Vegas and leads the average standings with 256.5 points on three head.
The only world title to elude 12-time World Champion Trevor Brazile is the team roping, but he and partner Patrick Smith are doing their best to remedy that. Brazile - who clinched his record eighth all-around gold buckle the night before - teamed with the 2005 World Champion Heeler Smith to win Round 3 in 4.2 seconds and pocket another $17,512 apiece.
Brazile and Smith, who won the 2008 Wrangler NFR average title, finished four-tenths of a second ahead of Brady Tryan and Jake Long and moved to second in the PRCA World Standings. They lead the Wrangler NFR average again and have won $41,803 in three days in Las Vegas.
Brazile said that clinching the all-time all-around record in Round 2 took some pressure off him going forward.
"It's definitely a relief," said Brazile, who came into this year's Finals ranked eighth in the heading standings. "It doesn't change the fact that they don't give you anything in this sport, you don't get anything for showing up, you have to go do your job every time, but it's definitely a relief. I don't feel like I have a lot left to prove, I just get to go do my job and do what I love every night. That part doesn't change."
Ty Murray, the man who Brazile moved past in all-around titles, was at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday and talked to Brazile before the round.
"He came before the rodeo and congratulated me," Brazile said of Murray. "It was no surprise to me that he did. I would have bet my ranch that he would be here just because he's that kind of guy. He's just first class. He's the kind of guy you would hope to follow in this sport, and I couldn't have dreamed of trying to live up to a better cowboy."
Smith is enjoying the Wrangler NFR with his talented partner thus far.
"We came in so far down, but Las Vegas has turned into such a slot machine as far as rodeo goes that it's anybody's game out here," said Smith, who started this year's Wrangler NFR in the No. 9 position among heelers. "But the last thing we need to do is get caught up in the numbers and try to make something happen. We need to do our job, do the best we can on these ten steers and see where we end up."
Tie-down roper Tuf Cooper, last year's Wrangler NFR average winner, joined his brother Clif as a round winner at this year's Finals after stopping the clock in a rodeo-best 6.9 seconds in Round 3. Tuf Cooper, of Decatur, Texas, inched closer to Brazile's world standings lead by pocketing $17,512 after his blazing-fast run was four-tenths of a second faster than Clif Cooper's and Scott Kormos' times.
"Tonight, I knew I had a good calf, and during that three-minute commercial break, I saw there were a few fast times," Tuf Cooper said. "I've never told myself this back there before, but I told myself that I'm behind $35,000, and if I've got any ground to gain, I've got to do it on this good calf that I have. So, I've got to take advantage of it. Each and every time I get a good calf, I need to make the best run I can, and I think that really stepped it up for me at the end.".
The 20-year-old phenom clearly feels comfortable in the Thomas & Mack Center.
"You know, I might be young, but I've been here with Trevor (Brazile), Clint (Cooper) and Stran (Smith) nearly every year when I was young, and with (father) Roy," he said. "Having their experience has really helped out, and just by stepping into that arena, something sets in that just makes you want to rope."
Another cowboy chasing a world title is steer wrestler Todd Suhn, and he made a big move by winning the round in 3.8 seconds. That time was four-tenths of a second faster than the trio of Curtis Cassidy, Jule Hazen and Dane Hanna, and Suhn pulled to within $1,715 of Cassidy's lead in the PRCA World Standings with the victory.
"It's the third night, so it's our third pen," said Suhn, of Hermosa, S.D. "They said mine was average to average-plus or good, so I took it downtown and blew the barrier out, which helped me a lot. A lot of guys missed the barrier tonight.
"He started to step to my hazer pretty hard, and I just got off. My hazer did a good job to close the gap, brought him to me. (The steer) lifted his head up, so I caught him there, stood up and threw him down. I was 3.8, and no one else went three, so I was lucky."
The 14-time Wrangler NFR qualifier had not won a round since taking the first round at the 2003 Finals, and Suhn had recorded six second-place finishes from 2004-09. He will be in a dogfight for the gold buckle the next seven days.
"Guys keep falling out of the average, and things are up and down, so you've got to keep weathering the storm," Suhn said. "The next seven rounds will be tough. We'll know the steers now, and that first pen will be back tomorrow. I think things will get better. Hopefully, I can keep rolling."
Kanin Asay, who won the Wrangler NFR average last year, won Round 3 of the bull riding with a 91-point ride on Wild Card Rodeo's Pocket Change. In a highly competitive bull riding round where the average score was 88, Asay finished a half-point ahead of Cody Whitney to earn $17,512.
"He leaped in the air and rolled all the momentum to the outside of the spin and tried to get me strung out," said Asay, of Powell, Wyo. "I talked to (bull riding legends) Donnie Gay and Gary Leffew this week a little bit about keeping that (riding arm) shoulder pointed down inside the spin on bulls going into your hand. I thought about that about halfway through the ride. It worked out."
Two-time World Champion Barrel Racer Sherry Cervi became the first single-event competitor to cross $200,000 in season earnings by winning Round 3 in 13.65 seconds. She finished .10 seconds ahead of 2008 World Champion Lindsay Sears for the round win, and the $17,512 first-place check pushed her season total to $200,188, $47,877 ahead of second-place Sears.
"She was focused tonight," said Cervi, of Marana, Ariz., who is riding her 8-year-old palomino mare Stingray in Las Vegas. "That's the one thing about her . sometimes she starts acting like she's on a trail ride. I've run her for two years now, but she'll act like an inexperienced horse. She just happened to do it at the NFR. Any time you can win a round at the NFR, it's just awesome."
RAM TOP GUN AWARD UPDATE: Brazile leads the inaugural Ram Top Gun Award standings with Wrangler NFR earnings of $44,627 in the team roping and tie-down roping through three rounds. The Ram Top Gun Award recognizes the competitor who wins the most money during the 10-day event, and the winner gets a Ram truck, a custom buckle from Montana Silversmiths and a one-of-a-kind Ram Truck Top Gun-branded rifle from Commemorative Firearms. His team roping partner Smith is second with $41,803, and two-time and reigning World Champion Bull Rider J.W. Harris is third with $40,108.
For a complete injury report, log on to ProRodeo.com
ROUND 3 COMPLETE RESULTS
Bareback riding:1. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 85 points on Carr Pro Rodeo's Big Lights, $17,512; 2. (tie) Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., and Joe Gunderson, Agar, S.D., 84.5, $12,145 each; 4. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, 84, $7,344; 5. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 81.5, $4,519; 6. D.V. Fennell, Neosho, Mo., 81, $2,825; 7. Dusty LaValley, Bezanson, Alberta, 80.5; 8. Jason Havens, Prineville, Ore., 80; 9. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 78.5; 10. (tie) Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., and Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 77.5; 12. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 76.5; 13. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 76; 14. Kelly Timberman, Mills, Wyo., 75; 15. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., injured-out.
Steer wrestling: 1. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 3.8 seconds, $17,512; 2. (tie) Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta; Jule Hazen, Ashland, Kan., and Dane Hanna, Berthold, N.D., 4.2, $10,545 each; 5. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 4.3, $4,519; 6. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 4.6, $2,825; 7. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 5.5; 8. Kyle Hughes, Olney Springs, Colo., 5.6; 9. Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., 6.6; 10. Cody Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, 6.8; 11. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 6.9; 12. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 7.1; 13. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 8.4; 14. Nick Guy, Sparta, Wis., 19.0; 15. Ethen Thouvenell, Napa, Calif., NT.
Team roping: 1. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, 4.2 seconds, $17,512 each; 2. Brady Tryan, Huntley, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 4.6, $13,840; 3. (tie) Britt Williams, Hammond, Mont./Bobby Harris, Gillette, Wyo., and Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn./Caleb Twisselman, Santa Margarita, Calif., 4.7, $8,897 each; 5. Luke Brown, Rock Hill, S.C./Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 5.5, $4,519; 6. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 7.0, $2,825; 7. (tie) Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., and JoJo LeMond, Andrews, Texas/Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz., 8.9; 9. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Broc Cresta, Santa Rosa, Calif., 9.0; 10. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 9.4; 11. (tie) Chad Masters, Clarksville, Tenn./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., and Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 10.5; 13. Nick Sartain, Yukon, Okla./Kollin VonAhn, Durant, Okla., 10.6; 14. (tie) Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, and Ty Blasingame, Ramah, Colo./Cody Hintz, Spring Creek, Nev., NT.
Saddle bronc riding:: 1. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 88 points on Kesler Championship Rodeo's Spanish Pair, $17,512; 2. Jesse Wright, Millford, Utah, 87.5, $13,840; 3. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 84, $10,451; 4. Scott Miller, Boise, Idaho, 80, $7,344; 5. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 79.5, $4,519; 6. J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 78.5, $2,825; 7. (tie) Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., and Dustin Flundra, Pincher Creek, Alberta, 77; 9. Shaun Stroh, Dickinson, N.D., 72.5; 10. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 71.5; 11. (tie) Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas; Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La.; Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb.; Jeff Willert, Belvidere, S.D., and Sam Spreadborough, Snyder, Texas, NS
Tie-down roping: 1. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 6.9 seconds, $17,512; 2. (tie) Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, and Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 7.3, $12,145 each; 4. Ryan Jarrett, Summerville, Ga., 7.6, $7,344; 5. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 8.0, $4,519; 6. (tie) Stran Smith, Childress, Texas, and Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 8.3, $1,412 each; 8. Jerrad Hofstetter, Portales, N.M., 8.8; 9. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 9.2; 10. Trent Creager, Stillwater, Okla., 10.4; 11. Joseph Parsons, Marana, Ariz., 12.2; 12. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 14.7; 13. Clint Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 16.1; 14. Jerome Schneeberger, Ponca City, Okla., 18.7; 15. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 18.9.
Barrel racing: 1. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 13.65 seconds, $17,512; 2. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 13.75, $13,840; 3. Jill Moody, Letcher, S.D., 13.83, $10,451; 4. Kelli Tolbert, Hooper, Utah, 13.84, $7,344; 5. Sydni Blanchard, Albuquerque, N.M., 13.96, $4,519; 6. (tie) Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., and Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 14.06, $1,412 each; 8. Nellie Williams, Cottonwood, Calif., 14.13; 9. Angie Meadors, Blanchard, Okla., 14.14; 10. Benette Barrington, Lubbock, Texas, 14.20; 11. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 14.25; 12. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.34; 13. Sherrylynn Johnson, Henryetta, Okla., 18.60; 14. Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan., 18.96; 15. Tana Poppino, Big Cabin, Okla., 19.07.
Bull riding:1. Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., 91.0 points on Wild Card's Pocket Change, $17,512; 2. Cody Whitney, Asher, Okla., 90.5, $13,840; 3. J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 88.5, $10,451; 4. D.J. Domangue, Houma, La., 87.5, $7,344; 5. (tie) Seth Glause, Rock Springs, Wyo., and Dustin Elliott, North Platte, Neb., 85, $3,672; 7. (tie) Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah; Wesley Silcox, Santaquin, Utah; Shawn Hogg, Odessa, Texas; Tyler Smith, Fruita, Colo.; Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D.; Chad Denton, Berry Creek, Calif.; Clayton Williams, Carthage, Texas; Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., and Corey Navarre, Weatherford, Okla., NS.