LAS VEGAS — Zeke Thurston had a night to remember in the 10th and final round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The former Sheridan College cowboy capped a memorable 10-night run by tying for the win in the round with an 89.5-point ride on Andrews Rodeo’s All or Nothin. The ride gave the Canadian saddle bronc rider the average title with 876.5 points on 10 head and helped him secure his third world championship.
“This one was probably the hardest one I have ever had,” Thurston said. “I had to work for this one. The other 14 guys in the room are crazy talented and ride awesome.”
But none of them were better than Thurston throughout the 10 days. He finished in the top three in eight rounds and placed in nine. He won Round 4 in addition to tying for the top spot on Saturday.
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Thurston won the Top Gun award, which goes to the competitor who wins the most money in a single event at the NFR, by finishing the rodeo with $256,078. His season total of $399,401 was the most ever won by a saddle bronc rider in a single season.
Thurston, who also won world titles in 2016 and ‘19, entered the NFR No. 6 in the world standings.
“I had quite a bit of money to make up coming in here,” he acknowledged. “But I knew if I just made the best ride I could on every horse and kept placing in the rounds I would give myself a fighting chance. And that’s what I did.”
Hillsdale’s Brody Cress finished third in the average and sixth in the world. NFR rookie Tanner Butner from Daniel finished No. 14 in the world and dropped to ninth in the average after a no-score in Round 10.
- Buffalo bareback bronc rider Cole Reiner came into the NFR leading the world standings, but finished in the money in just three rounds — winning Round 4, placing fifth in Round 3 and tying for fourth in Round 9 — and fell to seventh in the final world standings.
Jess Pope finished in the money in eight rounds, including winning Round 3 and Round 7, on his way to winning his first world title as well as his third average title. Six-time world champ Kaycee Feild won the round with a 92.0 and finished as the reserve champ.
- Stetson Wright capped a record-breaking season by winning the bull riding and all-around titles for his sixth and seventh gold buckles. The Milford, Utah, cowboy set the the single-season PRCA earnings record ($927,940), all-around single-season record ($758,829), bull riding single-season record at $592,144 and bull riding earnings at the NFR at $271,545.
“This year has been the best and the hardest year I have had in the PRCA,” said Wright, who missed time during the season with injuries. “I had to learn a lot of patience. I had to trust everything my mom and dad said when I needed to sit out. I learned that if you wait and get healthy, you will do a lot better.”
- In team roping, header Kaleb Driggers and heeler Junior Nogueira won their second consecutive world title and finished second in the average behind Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith, who were the only team with 10 timed runs.
Former Casper College cowboy Trey Yates and heading partner Tyler Wade tied for the Round 10 win with a 3.7-second run and finished eighth in the world standings and 10th in the average.
- Tyler Waguespack took advantage of Round 10 miscues by Stetson Jorgensen and Will Lummus to win his fourth steer wrestling world title. Lummus entered the night leading the average, but broke the barrier and finished with a 14.6-second run. Jorgensen had with a no-time.
Waguespack finished third in the average to win nearly $47,600 while Lummus dropped to fourth, which earned him nearly $35,000. That proved to be enough to lift Waguespack to the world title with $268,881, with Lummus finishing second with $266,188.
- Tie-down roper Caleb Smidt won his fourth gold buckle and his fourth average title. The Bellville, Texas, cowboy won the first two rounds and was a model of consistency throughout the NFR, finishing with a 10-run time of 82.5 seconds on his way to winning a single-season record $374,737.
- Barrel racer Hailey Kinsel also won her fourth world title, finishing with $302,172 on the year. Shelley Morgan won the average with a 10-run time of 137.28 seconds.