Dec. 30, 2005 — The 2005 rodeo season came to a dramatic close December 11 at the 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas. After 10 days of grueling competition at the Thomas & Mack Center, nine contestants left with gold buckles that signify a world title. Of those contestants, six were first-time world champions, two had a least one title already and one was a repeat champion.
Ryan Jarrett of Summerville, Ga., took the reins as the new all-around champion and became the second youngest all-around champion in the sport’s history. He collected his first world title at the age of 21. Ty Murray was the youngest at 20 in 1989.
Jarrett turned in impressive performances in steer wrestling and tie-down roping in front of sold-out crowds every night that totaled 174,869. He won the average title in tie-down roping with a total time of 89.0 seconds on 10 head. Jarrett won a total of $114,718 at the Wrangler NFR, $34,201 in the steer wrestling and $80,517 in the tie-down roping.
He edged Lee Graves of Calgary, Alberta, for the title by more than $50,000. Graves, however, picked up his first steer wrestling world title and became the first Canadian to win the title since Blaine Pederson of Amisk, Alberta, in 1994. Graves won the average title with a total time of 39.2 seconds on 10 head and captured his first world title with a record total of $206,415 in earnings. He set a new Wrangler NFR earnings record for bulldoggers with $126,412, a record that was previously set by Rope Myers in 2001 with $117,774.
The team roping was an up-and-down affair, but in the end it was Clay Tryan and Patrick Smith, who entered the Wrangler NFR as the team to beat, walking away with the gold buckles. Tryan, of Billings, Mont., and Smith, of Midland, Texas, set a new Wrangler NFR record and tied the world record with a 3.5-second run in the ninth round en route to their first world title.
Eight-time world champions Speed Williams and Rich Skelton ended their partnership in fine fashion. Williams and Skelton, of Llano, Texas, won the 10th round with a 3.9-second run. Williams plans to rope with Clay O’Brien Cooper in 2006, while Skelton will team with Trevor Brazile, who finished third in the 2005 all-around race.
Saddle bronc rider Jeffery Willert joined the list of world champions from South Dakota. Willert, of Belvidere, who entered the 2005 Wrangler NFR as the top ranked bronc rider, set a new single-season earnings record of $278,169 en route to the title.
Five-time saddle bronc riding champion Billy Etbauer might not have added another gold buckle to his resume but he did break his own record of most money won in the saddle bronc riding at the Wrangler NFR. Etbauer, of Edmond, Okla., won $120,775, breaking his 2004 record of $117,745.
When the dust had settled, it was Fred Whitfield who claimed the tie-down roping title by a mere $4,000 over four time world champion Cody Ohl, who won the 10th round with a smoking run of 6.7 seconds despite a strained right groin. For Whitfield, of Hockley, Texas, this marked his seventh tie-down roping title and eighth overall.
Barrel racer Kelly Kaminski was the only one to successfully defend her world title at this year’s Wrangler NFR. Kaminski, of Bellville, Texas, won an event best $107,019 to capture her second title and finish more than $30,000 ahead of Linda Vick.
Bull rider Matt Austin grew up idolizing his father, Lonnie, who competed in all three roughstock events, and wondering if
he would ever be good enough to qualify for the Wrangler NFR and become a world champion. Austin, 23, doesn’t have to wonder any longer as he has proven to the Professional Rodeo world that he is beyond good.
Austin, of Wills Point, Texas, turned in a record breaking year in the PRCA en route to his first world title. By the first of
August, Austin had already surpassed Terry Don West’s regular season earnings record of $150,376 set in 2003 and by October he had broken West’s single-season earnings record of $211,879 with the $5.25 million Wrangler NFR still two months away. As the curtain fell on the 2005 Wrangler NFR, the PRCA record books were being re-written. Austin set a new record for highest single-year earnings with $320,766 surpassing Ty Murray’s record of $297,896 set in 1993.
Rookie Steve Woolsey, the overall and bull riding Resistol Rookie of the Year, set a new record for most money won in a rookie year with $202,128 in bull riding and saddle bronc riding. Woolsey, of Spanish Fork, Utah, finished behind Austin with $197,646.
Other records that were set in 2005 included Ricky Canton’s 6.3-second world record run in the tie-down roping at the Strathmore (Alberta) Stampede and steer roper Scott Snedecor’s world title victory by $1.67 over 18-time world champion Guy Allen. Snedecor’s margin of victory was the closest ever in any single event.