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CNFR Saturday Finals

Casper College's Trey Yates rides out of the arena following his team roping event with Gillette College's Kellan Johnson during the College National Finals Rodeo short go-round on June 16 at the Casper Events Center.

The Fourth of July holiday marks the ceremonial birthday of the United States from sea to shining sea. It also serves as a beacon to Cowboy Christmas, the time of year where cowboys and cowgirls can hit the optimal amount of rodeos and collect big checks in order to improve their standings in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association standings.

In Wyoming that means the Cody Stampede, which began with the Xtreme Bulls on Saturday and the first go-round on Sunday. The Stampede is a preferred rodeo by most because of its one-performance format. That has opened the door for many returning champions and familiar faces to compete this year. Rusty Wright of Milford, Utah, leads the saddle bronc going into Tuesday night’s performances. His brother, current world champion Ryder, sits in second.

Defending Cody Stampede bareback bronc champion Tyler Nelson sat tied atop the standings going into Tuesday night with current world champion Tim O’Connell. A big check out of this week would do wonders for O’Connell, who currently sits second in the world standings.

In addition to the Cody Stampede there are rodeos in St. Paul (Oregon), Killdeer (North Dakota), Red Lodge (Montana), Mandan (North Dakota), Belle Fourche (South Dakota), Prescott (Arizona) and Greeley (Colorado), to name a few. There were 13 total rodeos in progress as of Tuesday night and only two of those did not continue through to Independence Day.

Former Casper College Thunderbird bulldogger Jake Fulton sits first in the average with a time of 3.4 seconds at the Home of Champions Rodeo in Red Lodge with half of the performances completed. Rusty Wright and Ryder Wright, who are currently sixth and eighth, respectively, in the saddle bronc world standings, sit first and second, respectively, at that rodeo as well.

Rodeo legend Trevor Brazile won the first go-round of tie-down roping at the Greeley Stampede going into the final performances on Tuesday night. Brazile sat fourth in the tie-down at the Black Hills Roundup in Belle Fourche halfway through the competition.

The smaller rodeos, which offer smaller winnings, also feature some names more familiar to rodeo fans in Casper. Last year’s national champion in steer wrestling at the College National Finals Rodeo, Denver Berry, leads the Western Stampede at West Jordan, Utah, with an impressive 3.8-second run.

Header Clay Smith and heeler Paul Eaves, the current leaders in the PRCA team roping standings, sit second in the Livingston Roundup at Livingston, Montana. They had a 4.1-second run on Monday night.

Included in a three-way tie for sixth at the Livingston Roundup is the team of Aaron Tsinigine and Casper College’s Trey Yates with a 4.6. They are tied with the father-son duo of Jhett Johnson and his son Kellan Johnson.

Jhett Johnson, the 2011 world champion heeler, is the Casper College coach while Kellan Johnson, who just completed his freshman year at Gillette College, paired with Yates to win the CNFR last month in Casper.

More rodeos lay ahead after the holiday week. The Headwaters Xtreme Bulls in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and Oakley Independence Day Rodeo in Oakley City, Utah, begin on Wednesday night. Cowboy Christmas continues throughout the following weeks, including the Central Wyoming Fair & PRCA Rodeo (July 10-14) in Casper, Sheridan WYO Rodeo (July 11-14) and Laramie Jubilee Days XTreme Bulls (July 12). The hectic rodeo schedule will continue but the end to Cowboy Christmas is, essentially, closed by Cheyenne Frontier Days (July 21-29).

Follow sports reporter Brady Oltmans on Twitter @BradyOltmans

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High School Sports Reporter

Brady Oltmans reports on high school and local sports. He joined the Star-Tribune in July 2016 after covering prep sports and college soccer in Nebraska. He also contributes to University of Wyoming sports coverage. He and his dog live in Casper.

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