Success has come in bunches for team ropers Wade Wheatley and Kyle Lockett.
The two, who grew up roping together in Modesto, Calif., were the champions at the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour's first championship event in 2000, won the first go-round of their first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo together, also in 2000, and later set a ProRodeo regular-season record for money won at a rodeo when they earned $35,130 each in winning the title at the Summer Tour Finale in Dallas in 2002.
Inexplicably, the pair spent the first seven months of this season with different partners, and with diminished results. Heading into the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo, the pair realized their skills were best suited for each other, and their seasons have taken flight since.
They're winning in bunches again.
In the past two weekends, the Wheatley-Lockett ticket has earned $4,725 after snagging victories in Pahrump, Nev.; San Dimas, Calif.; Banning, Calif.; and most recently in Industry, Calif. While Wheatley has improved on his position in the Top 15 of the Jack Daniel's World Standings, Lockett still has work to do as he enters ProRodeo's final month of the regular season at No. 16 just one spot away from qualifying for the Wrangler NFR.
"It seems like we have trouble winning with other people," Wheatley said. "We've been best friends since we were little and he was the best man at my wedding earlier this year. Our two styles fit each other and we're on the same page. We have a chemistry, and he's my go-to guy."
Wheatley knows success at the Wrangler NFR in December hinges on his partner being there. That's his goal over the next month.
"I'm roping more relaxed because I know I have the Finals made," said Wheatley, who is ranked No. 9 and has roped in the Thomas and Mack Center the past four years the first three with Lockett. "I'm trying to get him there, and I know I can win in Vegas if I get to rope with Kyle. Our goal is to win all we can."
Lockett also needs solid performances and a little luck to reach Las Vegas for a seventh time. While Wheatley has qualified for the Pace Picante ProRodeo Classic (Nov. 12-14) in Dallas, Lockett didn't, and he will be forced to sweat it out and see how the final standings stack up.
"It seems like when we know we have to win, we do," Lockett said. "We've both been catching well. I just hope it lasts another three or four weeks. I don't worry where I'm sitting [in the standings], but I know I just have to go out there and win as much as I can. I need to get ahead of a few guys before Dallas.
As for the short-term separation, Lockett has no regrets or explanations.
"I really don't know why we did it other than to try something different," Lockett said. "We did that, but at Caldwell, we decided it would be easier and make more sense if we started roping together again."
Lockett just hopes there's enough time to make up the difference. At the same time, the season might be a week too long for him to meet his partner in Las Vegas.
"It's hard to say what could have happened had we roped together all year," Lockett said. "It just happened that way. We'll just see how it goes."