LAS VEGAS – Rocker Steiner’s second-consecutive trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo couldn’t have started any better Friday night.
“I was a little worried about my draw, but it seems like when you’re worried is when you do the best,” Steiner said. “I watched a video from earlier this year, and it turned back and jumped high in front of the chutes. I knew if it did that tonight it was going to be a big score and I could win.”
With the $30,706 first-place payout, Steiner jumped from seventh to third in the PRCA | RAM World Standings with $183,830. This was Steiner’s second career NFR Round win as in 2022 he won Round 6 with an 88.5-point ride with on Wayne Vold Rodeo’s True Grit.
And Steiner’s latest triumphant had a special meaning.
“Yeah, it’s actually my dad’s birthday today,” said Rocker, whose father Sid was the 2002 PRCA Steer Wrestling World Champion. “A year ago today, I was getting bucked off a horse and tonight it’s a different story, coming back with a win and heading down to the South Point (Casino) for his birthday dinner.”
The Las Vegas Events Board of Trustees and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board of Directors announced Thursday morning that the first round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo® would take place Friday. To maintain the tradition of the 10 rounds of the NFR, an additional make up-round has been added on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 10 a.m. (Pacific Time) There will be no public access to this round.
Due to the tragic events that occurred on the UNLV Campus on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the original starting date – Dec. 7 – was cancelled. The Wrangler NFR will now run through Saturday, Dec. 16, with the ten full rounds set to determine the PRCA World Champions. The original $11.5 million purse will remain in place and be paid out in full over the nine days of competition and ten rounds.
As for the younger Steiner, he’s ready to keep things rolling.
“Honestly, I’m not stressed out about the next nine rounds or really anything,” he said. “I’m here to prove that I am the best bareback rider in the world and show people that last year was not a symbol of who I am.”
Steer Wrestler Dalton Massey shines in Round 1
It’s a safe bet that Dalton Massey will never forget the 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Massey, who was making his NFR debut, took things to the next level by winning his first round of competition ever in the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Hermiston, OR., cowboy made memories by winning Round 1 with a 3.5-second run.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I knew when I walked in the building that it was going to be electric and it was,” Massey said. “I just tried to back in there, make my run, and stop the clock quick. It was good.
“I’ve waited my whole life for this moment, so it really is a dream come true. But there’s ten rounds and you have to back in there and do it every night. I tried to tell myself that. When I backed in the box, there were obviously some butterflies that come with this arena, but I just tried to go at the barrier, and it all worked out.”
As cool as this moment was for Massey, he’s keeping things in perspective. Massey, who came in as the season leader after setting the PRCA regular-season steer wrestling earnings mark before the NFR at $193,430, now sits atop the world standings with $234,136.
“There are ten rounds here, so it’s a marathon and a heavyweight fight all at once. I’m just going to prove myself here every day,” he said.
John Douch is tops in tie-down roping in Round 1
The third trip of the NFR started off in grand fashion for John Douch.
Douch clocked a 7.7-second run to capture the Round 1 win. It was the Huntsville, Texas, cowboy’s first career NFR round victory.
“It feels really good. You’re going against the Top 15 in the world, a heavyweight fight. It means a lot to get the first go-round win and I’m looking forward to the next nine rounds,” Douch said.
With his first-place win, Douch moved up from 13th to seventh in the world standings with $155,761.
“You’re up against guys that have been roping well all-year long. I’ve been roping well, and I just wanted to go out and make a good run and see where I end up.
“It’s good to get the early win because it takes a lot of the pressure off. I’m excited to go out there and compete here in the next few rounds.”
Ky Hamilton captures Round 1 bull riding title
Ky Hamilton has become a standout PRCA bull rider, and no one stood out more than the Mackay, Australia, cowboy.
Hamilton wowed the crowd with his 86.5-point Round 1 victory ride aboard Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix Theodore.
“I knew that bull could go either way and I didn’t really know what he was going to do at the start, but I knew if I stayed in the middle of him, he would take me wherever. It’s an awesome bull and it was special to get the first round out here,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton took a determined approach into Round 1.
“Well, not many other people thought I had the bull to win but I did, so that’s all that matters. I mean if you stay on and do your job, the judges and everything else will take care of itself,” he said.
Despite his Friday success, Hamilton knows he has to have a short-term memory about that result.
“No one remembers what you did yesterday so (Saturday) is the same mindset as tonight. Just show up, do your job, and the rest of it will take care of itself,” Hamilton said. “I can’t wait (for the final nine rounds). I’ve been waiting for this for the last two months. I’ve been ready to get here and ride great bulls, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Team ropers Summers/Long take Round 1 title
In a star-studded NFR team roping field, it was Clint Summers/Jake Long who shined the brightest on Friday night.
Summers/Long took home the Round 1 victory with a 4.2-second run.
“Jake and I have been practicing quite a bit back at the house with the ring setup and we’ve put together quite a few runs just trying to get ready for this moment,” said Summers, who is making his third NFR appearance. “It moves fast here, and I think if we continue to make our run, it’s going to be a great week.”
Long, a veteran of 13 NFRs, was glad to his part in the win.
“Well, like Clint said we got to rope a lot back at the house and truthfully it was the first time in my career that our practice rounds were harder there than they were here,” Long said. “I didn’t get around quite like I wanted to, but Clint made him really easy to heel and we got a really good finish.”
Summers is hopeful the duo can use this as a springboard for more success in Vegas.
“If we can just do our run that we’ve worked at so hard, it will be a great week. Coming off a great run during the Cinch Playoff The Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, S.D., at the end of the year, it gave me a lot to build off. The start is fast and as long as I do my part setting him up, I have full faith in my partner to have a great week,” Summers said.
Zeke Thurston, Kade Bruno split saddle bronc win
Thurston had an 86.5-point ride on Legacy Pro Rodeo LLC’s Vein Reflections and Kade Bruno had the identical score on Brookman Rodeo’s Ragin’ Lunatic to split the Round 1 win.
“It was so fun, and I love it here. I couldn’t wait to nod my head in the yellow bucking chutes and just jump out and hit him in the face, let him know you’re here. It’s a good Round 1 win and I’m real excited for the rest of the week,” Thurston said.
A year ago, Thurston won his third career PRCA Saddle Bronc Riding World Championship and took home the Top Gun Award by earning $256,078 in Vegas. That was the most of any single-event competitor at the 2022 NFR.
“Super nice horse from the Legacy (Pro Rodeo LLC),” Thurston said. “I got on her a couple of years ago when she was younger and now, she’s grown up and really come into her own. Yeah, it was an electric, good-riding horse.”
Bruno, who was making his second career NFR appearance, captured his first career NFR round win.
“I was really excited to get on that horse. I’ve never been on it before but when I saw the draw, I was happy with my matchup,” Bruno said. “On top of it, to split the win with Zeke (Thurston) is special. I’ve always looked up to him and never thought I would be riding alongside him let alone splitting the go-round win.”
Sissy Winn zooms to barrel racing victory in Round 1
Barrel racer Sissy Winn is far from an NFR veteran, but the cowgirl rode like one in the opening round of her second career appearance in Vegas.
The Texas cowgirl clocked a 13.71-second run to claim the Round 1 glory.
“When I came out of that tunnel, I knew it was going to be a good run, but I didn’t know how good it was. I heard the time, and I started bawling like a baby,” Winn said.
“I want to enjoy every bit of this moment and this whole night. My family and everyone around me have sacrificed so much throughout my career to help my dreams come true and I like to say that my dream is now their dream too. It just shows that all the hard work paid off.”
Winn knows this is just night one in the marathon that is the NFR.
“Well, it’s a long nine days. I just want to stay smart and smooth on Snoop by keeping him comfortable and happy,” Winn said. “But I also need to be the best I can to compete against this field.”