SENTINEL BUTTE, N.D. – Saddle bronc rider Kolby Wanchuk boasts two Wrangler National Finals Rodeo berths on his resume. He understands the path to the sport’s premier event can alternate between a toll lane and a slalom course. Because of a slow start this winter, Wanchuk has been navigating twists and turns and jumps and bumps to make his way back to Las Vegas.
He took a huge step in that direction, winning the 67th Annual Home On The Range Champions Ride, in Sentinel Butte, N.D., August 5, 2023. He posted breathtaking scores, walking away with a saddle, rifle, and spurs for his 181.5 points on two-head.
“This win comes at the right time for us. This place, Home On The Range, it is such a cool event,” said Wanchuk, 27, who is inching his way closer to the Top 15. “There is so much history here, so many great bronc riders. It is special.”
The victory came with a $14,980 payday, providing rocket fuel to Wanchuk’s push over the final six weeks. The event started out right, with Wanchuk delivering a 90.5 on Muddy Creek Rodeo’s Bugsy.
“He’s a big stud. I got to get on him at the NFR last year. He came out and got stronger and stronger with every jump,” Wanchuk said. “It’s all a guy can ask for. He had me working for sure. But it worked out.”
To clinch the victory, he needed another stellar ride given the competition from Damian Brennan (178.5), Brody Cress (178) and Sage Newman (177.5). He drank up the pressure like a tall glass of water. He produced a 91 on J Bar J’s Straight Moonshine, a favorite horse of so many bronc riders.
“I got on him at the Xtreme Broncs Finals in Rapid City (S.D.) last year. I had some good luck there. I had a 90.5 there,” said Wanchuk, part of a crew of successful Canadian bronc stars. “I am a big fan of the horse. I had a little bit of a wild start. It took me some time to get caught up. He was strong and kept coming back for more. He’s awesome. He has a big, long mane on him, and he tries as hard as he can every time.”
Montana is up next for Wanchuk. The season has not gone as expected, but his goals remain in sight.
“Getting there is what it is all about. The NFR is a learning experience. It’s 10 days of the best in the world and going up against the best in the world,” Wanchuk said. “The lesson I learned is that you must treat it like any other rodeo. It can go really good or really bad fast on you. You just have to do what you can do.”