LAS VEGAS, Nev. He came, he roped, he conquered. Trevor Brazile, who arguably entered the 49th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Dec. 6-15, with the most pressure on him of any contestant, hung on to win the tie-down roping world title in Round 10 and complete the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association's first Triple Crown since Roy Cooper in 1983.
Brazile, who won his second straight steer roping world title on Nov. 3, wrapped up his fifth all-around gold buckle after Round 8, leaving just the tie-down roping world title between him and the elusive Triple Crown.
Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, had some trouble in the final round before 17,828 at the Thomas & Mack Center, missing with his first loop and recording a 15.4-second time. Despite that trouble, his fifth-place finish in the average gave him $189,920 in tie-down roping earnings and the gold buckle by just $4,277 over Houston Hutto.
"It's awesome," said Brazile, who finished the season with a PRCA single-season record $425,115 in earnings. "You're talking about (Triple Crown winners) Roy Cooper and Jim Shoulders, and they're the greatest cowboys to ever live. Anytime you're on the same page as those guys, it's a great accomplishment, and it just means a lot to me."
Cody Ohl, the 2006 World Champion, had a chance to overtake Brazile by winning the average and Round 10, but finished with a 14.0-second time to finish out of the money in the round. Ohl, of Hico, Texas, still won the average with a 10-head time of 90.8 seconds, seven seconds ahead of Stran Smith, but finished third in the world standings with $183,117, $6,802 behind Brazile.
Missing his first loop in Round 10 was definitely not part of Brazile's plan.
"It was just sheer panic," Brazile said of his final tie-down roping run. "I went over everything that was about to happen tonight, and that wasn't any part of it. I was just trying to get my composure and get it done as fast as possible. I'm just tickled to death that it worked out the way it did. When it's all said and done, I didn't win $189,000 on that 10th calf. I've had a great year, and I've been blessed from start to finish."
Hutto, of Del Rio, Texas, finished third in Round 10, but his fourth-place finish in the Wrangler NFR average was not enough to propel him past Brazile, and Hutto finished the season with $185,643 in earnings.
Cooper, who was the first roper to ever achieve a Triple Crown triumph, praised Brazile's accomplishment.
"He deserves it, and I'm proud of him," Cooper said of Brazile. "I watched him work hard at it, and I pulled very hard for him to win it. I didn't realize what it really meant (to win the Triple Crown) at the time when I did it, but it'll mean more to him than anything when he gets older."
As with most events at this year's Wrangler NFR, the race for the bareback riding gold buckle came down to Round 10. In the end, Bobby Mote won his second career world title along with 2002 after scoring 82.5 points on Burch Rodeo Company's Lunatic Fringe to finish tied for fourth in the Wrangler NFR average. Mote finished the year with $207,183 in earnings, $55,000 of which came in Las Vegas during the last 10 days, to finish $16,551 ahead of three-time World Champion Will Lowe.
Mote was all smiles after claiming his first gold buckle in five years.
"It's been five years in the making, so it feels good," Mote said. "Every year I've come here I've tried, and I ended up second again last year. So, to finish it off is great, especially with this field of bareback riders. I don't know if there's ever been such a good group of bareback riders. It's hard not to be anxious, but I felt confident and just felt like I was challenged.
"It was a great opportunity. Not many people get to be in a situation where it comes down to the 10th round and you've got to do your best or your whole year is down the drain. This is the third time I've been in this situation, and I've handled it well twice."
Lowe, of Canyon, Texas, entered this year's Wrangler NFR ranked 10th in the world standings, but rode his way to the record books and the average title. Lowe rode 10 horses for a Wrangler NFR record 846 points to win the average race by 16 points over Jessy Davis and put an exclamation point on his season by tying the Wrangler NFR record with a 91.5-point ride on Mosbrucker Rodeo's Magic Wars to win the final round. Lowe finished with $116,214 in Wrangler NFR earnings, with Davis second with $81,442
In steer wrestling, Jason Miller proved that each of the 15 bulldoggers in this year's Wrangler NFR field had a shot to win the gold buckle. The Lance Creek, Wyo., cowboy who entered the Wrangler NFR 13th in the world standings tied for third place in the final round to win the average with a total time of 42.7 seconds on 10 head, finishing 2.2 seconds ahead of Sean Mulligan in the average race.
The $42,043 he earned for the average crown propelled him to the world title with $178,768, with Canada's Lee Graves, the 2005 World Champion, finishing second with $164,703.
"It feels good to win any rodeo, but to win this one is just unbelievable," said Miller, who was competing in just his second Wrangler NFR this year. "I never looked at the numbers or the money all week long. I didn't want to know because I didn't want to get caught up in it all. I just wanted to get a good start and do well in the round, just like all the other nights. Tonight, I didn't think about the average, and rather than safety up and do something dumb, I just got a good start and tried to win something in the round."
Miller earned an event-best $116,434 in steer wrestling at the Wrangler NFR, with Graves second with $70,292 in Las Vegas money.
For the second straight year, the world champions in team roping compete on separate teams. Header Chad Masters finished second in the Wrangler NFR average with partner Allen Bach to win $34,111 in average money and win his first career world title. Masters, of Clarksville, Tenn., finished the season with $183,102, winning the gold buckle by just $2,682 over 2005 World Champion Clay Tryan.
"I'm still trying to sink it all in right now," said Masters, who finished as runner-up to the world title last year. "I'm sure it'll be different when I see my family and stuff and probably be pretty emotional. (After finishing the run) I actually thought that Clay (Tryan) and Walt had both won it themselves. It was really, really close."
The heeling race wasn't quite as close, with 1981 World Champion Walt Woodard setting the PRCA record for longest span between gold buckles at 26 years. Woodard, of Stockton, Calif., finished fourth in Round 10 with partner Tryan to end up third in the average race and win the world title with $177,132. Woodard won the gold buckle by $11,342 over Cesar de la Cruz.
"It's great, and I'm excited," said Woodard, who earned an event-best $94,487 along with Tryan. "I wish my partner (Clay Tryan) could have won it, just like Chad wishes that. It's kind of bittersweet when you win it and your partner doesn't. But Chad and I were both in that situation last year our partners won. And this year we turned it around, but we've been in that position before. We know our partners aren't dead, we can come back with them next year and win with our partners. I'm tickled to death to win it, and Chad couldn't be a better guy, so it's great that a guy like that won it."
Youth was served in the saddle bronc riding, with 20-year-old Taos Muncy winning his first world title at his first Wrangler NFR after his two closest competitors, Cody Wright and Cody DeMoss, had trouble in Round 10. Wright, of Milford, Utah, entered the 10th performance leading the world standings, but missed his horse Smith, Harper and Morgan's Painted Feathers out of the chute and did not receive a score for the round. He fell to seventh in the Wrangler NFR average and fourth place in the world with $180,221.
DeMoss, who had finished second in the world standings each of the last three years, was bucked off Kesler Championship Rodeo's Cool Alley in Round 10 to finish fourth in the average and third in the world standings with $185,780. Canada's Rod Hay, who began the rodeo ranked eighth in the world, rose to a second-place finish in the final standings behind Muncy with $187,595 after winning the Wrangler NFR average by finishing as the only rider to cover all 10 of his horses.
Hay, of Wildwood, Alberta, won the Wrangler NFR in record style, amassing 826 points on 10 head to easily outdistance Muncy (651.5 points on eight head) and claim $42,043 in average money. Hay broke the previous Wrangler NFR average record of 825 points on 10 head set by his brother-in-law Glen O'Neill during O'Neill's world championship season in 2002.
Muncy, of Corona, N.M., was ecstatic after winning the gold buckle.
"It's unreal. I can't explain it," Muncy said of being world champion. "I was a nervous wreck every round. I was just trying to hide it from everybody, and I just didn't say anything. I don't know what to say. I just got really lucky and drew good horses. I was just honored to be here riding with all my heroes."
Hay earned $113,570 in 10 days in Las Vegas, with Muncy taking home $91,755 at the Wrangler NFR.
Last year, Brittany Pozzi-Pharr came about as close as a person can come to winning a world title and not doing so. This year, however, she didn't come up short. The Victoria, Texas, cowgirl, rode the 2007 AQHA/PWBR Barrel Racing Horse of the Year Stitch to the Wrangler NFR average crown and also her first gold buckle. The $42,043 she earned for winning the average gave her a record $259,713 in season earnings, $28,916 ahead of Canada's Lindsay Sears.
Sears, who won five rounds at this year's Wrangler NFR, needed to win the 10th round and have Pozzi-Pharr run into trouble in order to knock her out of the top spot, but neither thing happened. Pozzi-Pharr finished fourth in Round 10 in 13.93 seconds, with Sears finishing fifth in 13.94 seconds, giving Pozzi-Pharr the world title.
"My horse (Stitch) is phenomenal," said Pozzi-Pharr, who has not tipped over a barrel in her last two Wrangler NFRs. "I think this is the toughest NFR that I've been to. It ended up being five girls not to hit any barrels, that's phenomenal. This has been the toughest Finals I've ever seen. (Stitch and I) may not have had the fastest runs, but we were definitely the most consistent."
Pozzi-Pharr won the average with a 10-run total time of 140.18 seconds, with Canada's Deb Renger in second in 141.00 seconds. Pozzi-Pharr earned $95,192 in Las Vegas to clinch her gold buckle, with Sears pocketing an event-best $119,255 to keep the world-title race tight.
In the bull riding, 2006 World Champion B.J. Schumacher entered the final round atop the world standings, but was bucked off Frontier Rodeo's Nervous Waters and was passed by Wesley Silcox in the race for the gold buckle. Silcox, of Payson, Utah, rode Growney Brothers' Wolf Can Do for 91 points to win Round 10 and clinch his first career gold buckle with $228,942 in earnings. Kanin Asay, the 2007 Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour National Champion, finished second with $218,597.
"It's a dream come true," said Silcox, who rode seven of his 10 bulls at this year's Wrangler NFR. "This is what I've worked for. I was reserve champion last year, and I just kept trying to improve myself. When I stood up (after getting off the bull), I knew I had it. I finally did it this year."
Schumacher, who rode eight of 10 bulls a year ago en route to his world title, covered just two of his 10 bulls in 2007. Silcox's win in Round 10 also gave him the Wrangler NFR average title with 596 points on seven head, with Chance Smart finishing second with 502.5 points on six head.
For more information on the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo visit prorodeo.org