Chris Wilson figured as long as he came all the way from Australia to compete in this year’s Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas he might as well take something home to remember the trip.
Wilson did just that Monday at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, winning the 14-15 division of bull riding with an 83-point ride. The Australian not only won the short go-round but took the average title with a total of 234.5 points on three head.
“I’m on top of the world,” Wilson said. I couldn’t feel any better. I didn’t know anything about that bull, I just had to go out there and do what I do. I knew at about five seconds that I had him covered.”
Wilson was one of three Australian bull riders to qualify for the short go, with Koby Esmar placing third in the 12-13 division and Colby Edgar getting bucked off in the 10-11 division. Wilson is already looking forward to a return trip to the states and winning the 16-18 division next year. And he expects to have some more Aussies joining him.
“We’re going to have our own qualifiers so we can get some more kids over here,” he said.
Cutter Kaylor from Texas finished second in both the average (74.5) and the average (218.0).
While Wilson and his country mates obviously traveled the farthest to get to the Junior NFR, two other bull riding champions also made lengthy trips.
Ryder Carpenetti from Ashville, Alabama, won the 10-11 division and Clay Guiton from Cherryville, North Carolina, won the 12-13 division.
For Carpenetti, who won the short go with a 76 and the average with a three-head score of 216, Monday’s championship ride was one of revenge.
“I’d been on this bull before and he bucked me off,” he said. “I knew he was going to go out there and drag his butt around so I knew I had to stay at the front.”
Guiton, who goes by the nickname “The Ginger Ninja,” had a different mindset with his bull.
“I knew that bull was going to be good,” Guiton said. “They told me, ‘If you’re tipped to one side he’ll go away from you. But if you’re right in the middle of him there’s no telling what he’s going to do.’
“I was stuck right in the middle of him and he jerked on me a little bit, but I got set right back down. And I guess since I was right in the middle of him he didn’t like it too good and he didn’t know what to do.”
The bull came to a dead stop midway through the ride before finally deciding it was OK to keep bucking. That stoppage had Guiton considering a re-ride, but it turned out he didn’t need one as his 71-point ride was enough to earn him the average title with a 223. Jadon Hayes from Cisco, Texas, who tied with Beau Kelley from Coolidge, Arizona, for the short go win at 74.5 points, finished second in the average with a 220.
In the 16-18 division, Chris Villanueva from Mesquite, Texas, defended his world title from last year, winning both the short go and the average. Villanueva’s 86-point ride in the finals was enough to lift him past Wyatt Wells from Hereford, Texas, for the average crown. Dylan Grant from Pavillion, Wyoming, was tied with Villanueva entering the short go but he bucked off.
“It was more never-wracking this year than last year” Villanueva said. “I felt like I had to win since I won it last year. I knew that bull was going to be around to the right, blowing up and I could be 85, maybe even bigger. He definitely made me work at the end.”
Bareback Bronc Riding
Keenan Hayes, Bradlee Miller and Brent Applegarth were locked in a battle for the top spot in the novice division of bareback bronc riding all week. So it only seemed fitting that the short go and average titles came down to those three Monday.
Hayes, who entered the finals in third place, got things started with his best ride of the week, scoring 89 points aboard GF Buckers Hyna to give him 246 points on three.
“I saw him in the first round so I knew he was good,” the Hayden, Colorado, cowboy said. “I just knew I had to do my job and do the best I could. I knew if I could match that horse every move I’d be sitting pretty close to the top.”
Hayes’ ride put the pressure on Miller, who was next out of the chutes.
The Huntsville, Texas, cowboy was up to the challenge, scoring 87 points on GF Buckers Centerfold to tie Hayes for the lead in the average
Applegarth, the last cowboy to ride, needed an 83 to tie. Following two false starts on R and R’s Girls Crush, the Yuba City, California, nodded his head and the chutes opened for a third time. This time, Girl Crush responded and burst out of the gate. Eight seconds later, Applegarth had covered his third horse of the week and waited for the judges’ score … 83 points.
“I was just sitting back watching it happen,” Hayes said.
After coming up short in previous trips to the junior NFR, Hayes was more than happy to share a world title.
“This is my fourth year coming here,” he said. “It took me a minute to get it down.”
Both the junior and senior divisions had cowboys win both the short go and average titles. In the junior division, Kash Loyd from Cleburne, Texas, was the dual winner while Kooper Heimburg from San Tan Valley, Arizona, did the same in the senior division.
The peewee division almost followed the same formula, with Hayes Weinberger from Breien, North Dakota, scoring 73 points to share the short go title with Layn Claxton from West, Texas. Weinberger won the average with a 226.
“I thought I could win it,” Weinberger said. “I knew I just had to go out there and ride.”
Saddle Bronc Riding
Mason Stuller picked a good time to have his best ride of the week in the junior saddle bronc competition. The Venata, Oregon, cowboy had a 70-point ride Monday to not only win the short go but capture the average title as well. Stuller entered the short go one point back of Tate Wells from Cochise, Arizona, but when Wells had a no-score Stuller vaulted to the top of the leaderboard.
Stuller was the only saddle bronc rider to win both the short go and average titles.
In the peewee division, Cy Webb from Byrdstown, Tennessee, scored just 51 points in the short go, but that was enough to give him the average title with 200 points. Webb was in the process of asking the judges about the possibility of a re-ride before being alerted that he had already won the average title, but could lose it if he had a no-score on the re-ride. Webb wisely didn’t follow through with his re-ride request.
Whip Gertner from Canada won the short go in the peewee division with a 78.
Braunson Sims from Evanston, Wyoming, who had the only 90-point ride of the rodeo earlier in the week, won the average title in the junior division with a 230. He also finished second in the short go with a 73, just three points back of Tanner Miller from Canada.
In the novice division, Brandon Lansford from La Salle County, Texas, won the average title with a three-head score of 209 points while Cleve Griffin from Tularosa, New Mexico, won the short go with an 83-point ride.