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Brody Cress is about to become a world champion.

The saddle bronc rider from Hillsdale had an 85.5-point ride Friday in the ninth round of the National Finals Rodeo and took the lead in the average after previous leader CoBurn Bradshaw failed to mark his horse out. Cress enters Saturday’s final round at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with 755.5 points on nine head, which gives him a 13-point lead on Sterling Crawley.

Ryder Wright won the round with an 87 and has nearly a $47,000 lead on Jacobs Crawley in the world standings. Cress moved up to fifth in the world standings while former Sheridan College cowboy and defending world champ Zeke Thurston had a no-score, dropping him to 11th in the average and sixth in the world standings.

Cowley bareback bronc rider JR Vezain tied for fifth in the round with an 85, marking the fourth time in five nights he finished in the money. Vezain is now third in the average and sixth in the world standings.

Defending world champ Tim O’Connell all but secured his second title Friday as he now leads Tanner Aus by more than $93,000 in the world standings and has a seven-point lead over Richmond Champion in the average race.

Former Gillette College steer wrestler Chason Floyd tied for fourth in the round with a run of 3.7 seconds.

Also Friday, team ropers Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira tied the arena record with a 3.3-second run, vaulting them into the lead in the world standings.

Barrel racer Hailie Kinsel won her third round of the NFR with a 13.43-second run, Shane Hanchey took the tie-down roping win with a run of 6.8 seconds and Canadian Scott Guenthner had a 3.3-second run to win steer wrestling. In bull riding, Trey Benton III and Boudreaux Campbell both posted 88-point scores to tie for the top spot. They were the only two riders with qualified rides so they each pocketed more than $42,000. Benton now holds a 17-point lead on three-time defending world champ Sage Kimzey in the average, while Kimzey leads Benton by more than $60,000 in the world standings.

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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