Don't blame Matt Shiozawa for being confident heading into last weekend's That Famous Preston (Idaho) Night Rodeo. In five previous times there since earning his PRCA card in 1998, the tie-down roper from Pocatello, Idaho, had left this farming community in the southeastern corner of Idaho with no worse than a second-place check.
Make that six.
Shiozawa continued to warm up for the upcoming Northwest run by winning his event title in Preston, stopping the clock in 8.3 seconds and earning $1,793. For him, it was just another sign that he's right on schedule.
"I'm sure people think I sound overconfident," Shiozawa said. "But Preston is my rodeo. Things just work out here. It doesn't matter what I draw. I always seem to make the run I need. It seems like this time of the year is a little easier for me. It's more of a job. Every day, you're running one for money and you can get in a rhythm."
Shiozawa, 24, who also recently claimed the tie-down roping title at the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho, is ranked 17th in the Jack Daniel's World Standings, a mere $3,000 out of the 15th and final qualifying spot for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
With some of the PRCA's most lucrative events coming into his area Caldwell, Idaho; Hermiston, Ore.; Ellensburg, Wash.; Puyallup, Wash.; and Pendleton, Ore., just to name a few Shiozawa is pinning his Wrangler NFR hopes on his success at these events taking place over the next month.
"In the next month or so is when I'm going to be pushing my hardest," Shiozawa said. "By the end of September and into October, it will be too late. So for the next little bit, I'll be pressing hard. If it goes, it goes."
Shiozawa gives much of his credit to Adalida, a mare he borrowed from longtime friends Randon and Jay Adams (Logandale, Nev.). Shiozawa grew up in the town just northeast of Las Vegas and won the 1998 National High School Finals Rodeo team roping title with Randon.
"She's an awesome mare," Shiozawa said. "She's strong and probably one of the fastest, best-minded horses I've been on. It's nice to say I could borrow her."
Shiozawa traditionally has thrived in the late summer and early fall. Last August, he claimed the aggregate title at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo. He also has an aggregate buckle from the 2002 Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo that wraps up action each Labor Day.
"This time of the year, I warm up."
But Shiozawa has fallen a little short of the Wrangler NFR the past three years 24th last year, 23rd in 2002 and 17th in 2001 when he finished the season just $1,505 shy of getting the invite to the Thomas & Mack Center.
Perhaps his best shot was in 2002, when he qualified for the $750,000 Summer Tour Finale in Dallas ranked 16th in the world standings but couldn't cash in.
Still, those memories only motivate Shiozawa.
"Every year, I come back trying harder," Shiozawa said. "My goal going into Dallas was to have the NFR made before I got there, but it didn't happen. I've gotten better each year. Now, it's the whole mental part and winning and having the right horses."
With the combination of his confidence, winning and a new horse, this might be the year when Shiozawa's year doesn't end before November.