Rookies are winners in Round 1 of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Wrangler NFR first-timers Joe Gunderson (bareback riding), Billy Bugenig (steer wrestling), Colby Lovell (team roping - heading) and Clif Cooper (tie-down roping) all took home checks

December 3, 2010–Rookie Night at the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is slated for Dec. 7, but Round 1 was the night for Wrangler NFR rookies at the Thomas & Mack Center. Wrangler NFR first-timers Joe Gunderson (bareback riding), Billy Bugenig (steer wrestling), Colby Lovell (team roping – heading) and Clif Cooper (tie-down roping) all took home checks for $17,512 after winning the opening round of the 52nd installment of the “Super Bowl of Rodeo” in front of a sold-out crowd of 17,021.

Gunderson, of Agar, S.D., rode Brookman Rodeo’s Good Times for 88 points to win the round by 1.5 points ahead of three-time and reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Bobby Mote. He was thrilled to be able to fight through the nerves of appearing in his first Wrangler NFR and earn a go-round buckle.

“This whole year has been a dream come true for me, and I’ve been fortunate with the way everything’s gone,” Gunderson said. “I don’t have anything to complain about, and the way the Finals have started, it can’t get any better than that.”

Gunderson got along just fine with Good Times even though he’d never ridden or seen the horse before.

“I’d heard a lot about him, and he’s been around forever,” Gunderson said. “He used to buck in the saddle bronc riding, and they switched him to the bareback riding. I’ve heard a lot of talk about him, but never really ever knew what he was.”

Bugenig – riding the 2010 AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year, Wick, owned by Wade Sumpter and Ken Lewis – stopped the clock in 3.4 seconds to edge Trevor Knowles by two-tenths of a second. The Ferndale, Calif., bulldogger also was able to fight through first-round jitters and take advantage of his horsepower.

“I was a little nervous before, but when you back into the box, you focus in on the steer and everything feels better,” Bugenig said. “Then you’re doing what you’ve done at practice and at other rodeos. (Riding Wick) helps a bunch. You know that if you do your job, he’s going to do his job every time, no matter what. With Ken Lewis hazing, it’s the same way. You don’t have to worry about anyone over there.”

Lovell, of Madisonville, Texas, and 17-time Wrangler NFR qualifier Kory Koontz won the team roping in 4.1 seconds, five-tenths of a second ahead of the team of Charly Crawford and Russell Cardoza.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Lovell said. “Last night, I was in my room thinking about it, and I was hoping it would go well because I’ve had so many Facebook messages, so many texts, so many calls, so many people from back home are backing me. This was the first year I tried to make the NFR, and the first year I headed at any pro rodeos, so I was hoping I could start out with a bang and show everybody that I do belong here.”

Koontz, of Sudan, Texas, was pleased to be able to help his Wrangler NFR rookie partner earn a win in his first run in Las Vegas.

“It’s always nice to win,” Koontz said. “Colby kind of reminds me of me when I was young; he doesn’t lack for confidence. But, I know it will help his outlook on the whole week. Sometimes when you don’t do well, it starts to get to you. His enthusiasm has put a spark in me all year long. I kind of needed that to get me going again.”

In the tie-down roping, Wrangler NFR rookie Clif Cooper – one of three Cooper brothers competing in the tie-down roping in Las Vegas – won Round 1 with a 7.9-second run. The Decatur, Texas, cowboy’s time was a full second faster than Trent Creager and earned Cooper a go-round championship buckle.

“Man, I was telling my brother out back right before I roped that I wasn’t nervous, for some reason,” said Cooper, who rode his 14-year-old horse, Money, in Round 1. “It really surprised me, because I thought I’d have those jitters, those butterflies. I prepared really, really hard, and I felt good. My only weakness is with short runs like this, where you have to run at the barrier. With that short run, you’ve got to run at it really fast, and I just tried to turn that into something I’ve become comfortable with.”

Saddle bronc rider Jesse Kruse knows all about excelling at his first Wrangler NFR. The Great Falls, Mont., cowboy won his first world title a year ago in his first qualification, and he picked up right where he left off by winning Round 1. Kruse scored 87 points on D&H Cattle’s Lipstick & Whiskey, just a half-point better than Wade Sundell’s score.

“It feels great to get it done, especially in Round 1,” said Kruse, who crossed the $100,000 mark in season earnings ($102,840) with his $17,512 winner’s check. “It was a great horse. J.J. Elshere was about the only one who knew anything about it. He said it was really good, and it turned out really good. I ended up doing my part.”

Sundell, of Boxholm, Iowa, moved ahead of Bradley Harter into the No. 1 spot in the PRCA World Standings thanks to his $13,840 second-place check. After Round 1, Kruse has $116,777, while Harter is second with $106,808. Kruse moved to fifth in the world standings thanks to his win.

Seven-time World Champion All-Around Cowboy Trevor Brazile moved closer to a record eighth all-around gold buckle by finishing third in the team roping with Patrick Smith in 4.8 seconds and earning $10,451. His lead over second-place Curtis Cassidy – who is competing in the steer wrestling in Las Vegas – grew to $169,401, and Brazile could potentially clinch the all-around title with a strong showing in Round 2. A no-time in Round 1 reduced Cassidy’s potential total earnings for the 10-day event to $202,518.

Brazile’s team roping check moved him to $306,862 in total all-around earnings for 2010, giving him a record five consecutive seasons with at least $300,000 in earnings.

In the bull riding, D.J. Domangue of Houma, La., rode Andrews Rodeo’s Black Cat for 88.5 points to win the round by one point over two-time and reigning World Champion J.W. Harris and Chad Denton. Domangue, who won the final Seminole Hard Rock Xtreme Bulls Tour event of the year in Ellensburg, Wash., on Sept. 4, crossed the $100,000 mark ($104,617) with the opening-round triumph.

“I can’t wait to go to the South Point (Hotel), Casino & Spa and receive that go-round buckle,” said Domangue, who moved from ninth to fifth in the PRCA World Standings thanks to the win. “There is nothing like making the Wrangler NFR, but to win a round is really great. I had some hard luck the last time I was here (in 2006), so we’re starting off great, and praise God for a victory in the arena in the first round.”

Domangue took a hard hit after his winning ride.

“I hit the ground really hard on my shoulder,” he said. “It just kind of knocked me stupid. I remember my ride, so it is probably just a mild concussion, but I did see stars for a while.”

The bull riders won the “battle against beast” in Round 1, riding 11-of-15 bulls for an average of 82 points.

Lisa Lockhart, a four-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, won the barrel racing in 13.84 seconds, eight-hundredths of a second faster than Nellie Williams. The victory may have come as a surprise to some, as Lockhart had to go to her backup horse, a 7-year-old buckskin gelding named Louie, after her main horse, Chism, had a fall during practice this week.

Lockhart, of Oelrichs, S.D., is on a two-round winning streak, as she also won Round 10 of last year’s Wrangler NFR.

“It’s just a life-changing event to win a round here,” Lockhart said. “In the warm-up, (Louie) was really nervous. Coming down the alley, I was just thinking, ‘Please see the first barrel.’ He felt locked on, and it felt like it should’ve felt. He did his job.”

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Bareback riding: 1. Joe Gunderson, Agar, S.D., 88 points on Brookman Rodeo’s Good Times, $17,512; 2. Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., 86.5, $13,840; 3. (tie) Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, and Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 84.5, $8,897 each; 5. (tie) Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., and Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 82, $3,672 each; 7. Jason Havens, Prineville, Ore., 81; 8. (tie) Kelly Timberman, Mills, Wyo., and Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., 80.5; 10. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 79.5; 11. Dusty LaValley, Bezanson, Alberta, 79; 12. D.V. Fennell, Neosho, Mo., 77.5; 13. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., 76.5; 14. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 74.5; 15. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, NS.

Steer wrestling: 1. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 3.4 seconds, $17,512; 2. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 3.6, $13,840; 3. (tie) Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., and Kyle Hughes, Olney Springs, Colo., 4.1, $8,897 each; 5. Jule Hazen, Ashland, Kan., 4.2, $4,519; 6. Ethen Thouvenell, Napa, Calif., 4.3, $2,825; 7. (tie) Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., and Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 4.5; 9. Cody Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, 4.6; 10. (tie) Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D.; Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, and Nick Guy, Sparta, Wis., 4.9; 13. Dane Hanna, Berthold, N.D., 6.0; 14. (tie) Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, and Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., NT

Team roping: 1. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 4.1 seconds, $17,512 each; 2. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 4.6, $13,840; 3. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, 4.8, $10,451; 4. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Broc Cresta, Santa Rosa, Calif., 5.0, $7,344; 5. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 5.2, $4,519; 6. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 5.3, $2,825; 7. Brady Tryan, Huntley, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 9.1; 8. Luke Brown, Rock Hill, S.C./Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 9.3; 9. JoJo LeMond, Andrews, Texas/Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz., 9.4; 10. Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn./Caleb Twisselman, Santa Margarita, Calif., 9.6; 11. Chad Masters, Clarksville, Tenn./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 9.8; 12. Britt Williams, Hammond, Mont./Bobby Harris, Gillette, Wyo., 10.3; 13. Ty Blasingame, Ramah, Colo./Cody Hintz, Spring Creek, Nev., 14.7; 14. (tie) Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, and Nick Sartain, Yukon, Okla./Kollin VonAhn, Durant, Okla., NT.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 87 points on D&H Cattle’s Lipstick & Whiskey, $17,512; 2. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 86.5, $13,840; 3. Shaun Stroh, Dickinson, N.D., 86, $10,451; 4. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 84.5, $7,344; 5. (tie) Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, and Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., 81.5, $3,672 each; 7. (tie) Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., and Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 81; 9. (tie) Jeff Willert, Belvidere, S.D.; Dustin Flundra, Pincher Creek, Alberta, and Sam Spreadborough, Snyder, Texas, 79; 12. J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 76; 13. Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, 75; 14. Scott Miller, Boise, Idaho, 74; 15. (tie) Rod Hay, Wildwood, Alberta, and Jesse Wright, Millford, Utah, NS.

Tie-down roping:1. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 7.9 seconds, $17,512; 2. Trent Creager, Stillwater, Okla., 8.9, $13,840; 3. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 9.1, $10,451; 4. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 9.5, $7,344; 5. Ryan Jarrett, Summerville, Ga., 9.8, $4,519; 6. Jerome Schneeberger, Ponca City, Okla., 10.0, $2,825; 7. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 10.1; 8. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 10.7; 9. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 11.6; 10. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 15.6; 11. Clint Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 17.8; 12. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 18.0; 13. Joseph Parsons, Marana, Ariz., 18.2; 14. Stran Smith, Childress, Texas, 19.8; 15. Jerrad Hofstetter, Portales, N.M., NT.

Barrel racing: 1. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 13.84 seconds, $17,512; 2.Nellie Williams, Cottonwood, Calif., 13.92, $13,840; 3. Sydni Blanchard, Albuquerque, N.M., 14.00, $10,451; 4. Jill Moody, Letcher, S.D., 14.03, $7,344; 5. Tana Poppino, Big Cabin, Okla., 14.05, $4,519; 6. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.09, $2,825; 7. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 14.21; 8. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 14.23; 9. Benette Barrington, Lubbock, Texas, 14.25; 10. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 14.30; 11. Angie Meadors, Blanchard, Okla., 18.86; 12. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 18.89; 13. SherryLynn Johnson, Henryetta, Okla., 19.22; 14. Kelli Tolbert, Hooper, Utah, 23.94; 15. Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan., 24.19.

Bull riding: 1. D.J. Domangue, Houma, La., 88.5 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Black Cat, $17,512; 2. (tie) Chad Denton, Berry Creek, Calif., and J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 87.5, $12,145 each; 4. Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, 86, $7,344; 5. (tie) Clayton Williams, Carthage, Texas, and Corey Navarre, Weatherford, Okla., 85.5, $3,672 each; 7. Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., 81.5; 8. Tyler Smith, Fruita, Colo., 80.5; 9. Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D., 80; 10. Dustin Elliott, North Platte, Neb., 73; 11. Cody Whitney, Asher, Okla., 68.5; 12. (tie) Wesley Silcox, Santaquin, Utah; Shawn Hogg, Odessa, Texas, Seth Glause, Rock Springs, Wyo., and Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., NS.

Attendance: 17,021.

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