It’s only fitting that on Tough Enough to Wear Pink night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, cancer-survivor Jhett Johnson took a victory lap. Teamed with header Turtle Powell, the duo turned in a 3.8-second run to win Round 5 in front of 17,242 fans on Monday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Just moments after the team’s winning run, it was announced that the Tough Enough to Wear Pink program has generated $12 million toward the battle against breast cancer since the program’s inception.
Johnson survived a battle with testicular cancer in the 1990s and is now cancer-free. He’s also having his best Finals in his fifth trip to Las Vegas. Likewise, Powell has had his best Finals in six trips. Powell was 13th and Johnson 12th when they arrived in Las Vegas. Since that time, they’ve placed in all five rounds – including a split of first place in Round 3 – and won $61,587 each for their efforts. (That total has already established a new personal best for Powell at the Finals.) They’ve moved to third in the world and are second in the average race.
“Turtle had it on him so fast; but the steer kind of moved away from me, and I didn’t get around him as far as I would like,” Johnson said of the Round 5 run. “I had to kind of float a loop around his hip, but luckily I was able to set it in there.”
A previous team took a no-time in Round 2 on the steer that Powell and Johnson drew, but Powell wasn’t worried.
“That steer had been missed the first time he went this week, but he looked pretty good,” Powell said. “I must have gotten a great start because the steer was right there when I came across the line. Then the steer kind of fell into me and hung up for a second, and Jhett made a great shot and got him before we got hung up against the wall.”
In his 53rd career run at the Finals, Powell got his first win in Round 3.
“Maybe I broke the ice with that first one, and now they’re going to come a lot easier. I wouldn’t mind taking a few victory laps before the week is over.”
While Powell planned to give the Round 3 buckle to his father, Johnson had to hold on to his – for a short time.
“I said I was going to hold on to that one because it was the second one I had won, and I have three sons,” Johnson said. “So now that I have three, they are each going to get one.”
As for surviving cancer, Johnson had some supportive words for those who might face a similar scenario.
“It’s not a death sentence anymore,” he said. “So, if there’s someone out there who has just gotten that diagnosis, maybe seeing me and hearing I’m a survivor can help them a little.”
GAC is celebrating the union of rodeo, country music and Wrangler in December by broadcasting the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo live, December 1-10 at 10/9c each night. Plus, eight-time All-Around Champion, Trevor Brazile plays host to Suzanne Alexander and Joe Nichols on his ranch, deep in the heart of Texas in our special, Inside the WNFR 2011. Whether you are new to the sport or a die-hard fan, this must-see show gives you the 4-1-1 on all the rodeo event categories from Steer Wrestling and Barrel Racing, to the death-defying Bull Riding event.
California bulldogger Luke Branquinho has won a check in every round at the 2011 Wrangler NFR, but he finally collected the $17,885 first-place check – plenty of reasons to do his traditional arena dance – with a 3.5-second run on Monday.
With the win, he maintained his lead in both the average and world standings as he looks to corral a gold buckle to go with his championships from 2004 and 2008.
“This is by far the best Finals, placing in all five rounds and finishing no worse than third,” Branquinho said. “I think it’s a dream just to be able to do that. The horse has been working good, the steers have been good and hopefully it will keep through the end of the Finals.”
Branquinho’s banked $153,653, has a $13,000-plus lead on Jason Miller – who has won two rounds already this week – and leads Miller by eight-tenths of a second in the average race. The round win is Branquinho’s 19th at the Finals, which ties him with three-time World Champion Roy Duvall for second all-time in steer wrestling. He trails leader Ote Berry by just a single victory and has five more rounds to tie or pass Berry’s record of 20 round wins.
Barrel racer Carlee Pierce of Stephenville, Texas, a Wrangler NFR rookie, and her horse Dillon set a new arena record with a run of 13.46 seconds – three-hundredths of a second better than the previous record set by Sherry Cervi in 2010. Overall, it was a fast round in which seven barrel racers turned in times under 14 seconds.
“It wasn’t in my goals to come out here and set an arena record at all, but I’ll take it…every night if I can,” Pierce said. “Dillon’s feeling great. My mom’s here, who’s my equine massage therapist, and he gets a massage every night when he gets home, no matter how late it is. He’s eating good, feeling good and every day he comes, he drags me to the arena. He can’t wait to be here.”
For the first time in eight years, the Wrangler NFR produced a round where it took 90 points or better to win each of the three roughstock events. Three-time defending World Champion Bull Rider J.W. Harris turned in a 90.5, while bareback rider Ryan Gray and saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright each turned in 90-point rides of their own. That last time that happened was in Round 5 of the 2003 Finals.
Despite riding with a fractured right foot that he can barely walk on, Harris rode his way to 90.5 points on Burch Rodeo’s Zombie Zoo. He’s now ridden in three straight rounds and moved to first in the average race. While he’s second in the world standings, he’s in a virtual dead heat with Shane Proctor in the world-championship race.
“My goal is to ride the rest of them and win every go around that’s left,” Harris said. “I messed up in the first two rounds, so I’ve got an extra fire lit under my rear, and it’s all business from here on out.”
Six years after he last won a round at the Wrangler NFR, Gray finally found his way back to the winner’s circle with a ride that also provided some redemption for the Cheney, Wash., cowboy.
Gray topped Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night for 90 points to win Round 5 and moved to fourth place in both the average and the world standings. Gray took a turn on that same horse at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb., in September and managed just 77 points. On Monday night, however, he made the most of the draw.
“In 2005, my first year here, I won two rounds,” he said. “Haven’t done it since. It’s harder than you think to win a go-round, believe me. I’ve won second a lot. Settled down a little tonight and let the horse do her thing. Was able to stay right with her and be aggressive. Last time, I overdid it and was all over the place. It worked out a lot better tonight.”
Also in bareback riding, Steven Peebles suffered a fractured right fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle when he went to get off after an 86.5-point ride in Round 5. He split fourth in the round, but is out for the remainder of the Wrangler NFR and will undergo surgery in the coming days.
Burns Rodeo’s Chugwater Blue carried Wright to a 90-point ride as he maintained the lead in the pivotal average race. He’s still fourth in the world standings, but he saw his brother, Cody, move into the top spot with an 87.5-point ride and a second-place finish in the round. Younger brother Spencer Wright also won the PRCA Permit Holder Challenge as part of Benny Binion’s World Famous Bucking Bull and Horse Sale over the weekend, so it’s a good week to be a Wright brother.
“Winning always feels good,” Jesse Wright said after topping Cody’s ride, “but I kind of feel like I stole the glory from him. But he’s happy for me, just like I’m happy for him. He made a really good ride, and I enjoyed watching him.”
Matt Shiozawa tied down his calf one-tenth of a second slower than he did Sunday afternoon, yet he picked up his second consecutive round victory with the 7.4-second run on Monday. He’s now earned $55,673 at the NFR and jumped to fourth in the world standings and fourth in the average.
“Coming in, my approach was different; I didn’t try to just practice and hammer it out. I did a little more out of the arena exercising, and there’s the mental aspect of believing that when I can walk in there, I can win,” Shiozawa said of his success so far.
53rd annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nev.
December 5, 2011
Bareback riding: 1. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., 90 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s MGM Deuces Night, $17,885; 2. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 88, $14,135; 3. Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., 87, $10,673; 4. (tie) Tilden Hooper, Carthage, Texas, and Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 86.5, $6,058 each; 6. (tie) Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., and Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 86.0, $1,442 each; 8. (tie) Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., and Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 84.5 each; 10. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 78.5; 11. Cody DeMers, Kimberly, Idaho, 78; 12. Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 76.5; 13. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, 72.5; 14. Jason Havens, Prineville, Ore., 72. Royce Ford, Briggsdale, Colo., did not compete.
Steer wrestling: 1. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 3.5 seconds, $17,885; 2. Shawn Greenfield, Lakeview, Ore., 3.7, $14,135; 3. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 3.9, $10,673; 4. Jason Miller, Lance Creek, Wyo., 4.0, $7,500; 5. (tie) Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., and Jake Rinehart, Highmore, S.D., 4.1, $3,750 each; 7. Olin Hannum, Malad, Idaho, 4.4; 8. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 4.9; 9. Seth Brockman, Wheatland, Wyo., 5.0; 10. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 5.1; 11. Sean Mulligan, Coleman, Okla., 5.9; 12. Blake Knowles, Heppner, Ore., 7.0; 13. Mickey Gee, Wichita Falls, Texas, 8.7; 14. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 13.7; 15. Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., NT.
Team roping: 1. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Jhett Johnson, Casper, Wyo., 3.8 seconds, $17,885 each; 2. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 4.0, $14,135; 3. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 4.1, $10,673; 4. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 4.3, $7,500; 5. Matt Sherwood, Pima , Ariz./Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz., 4.6, $4,615; 6. Brady Tryan, Huntley, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 5.3, $2,885; 7. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, 5.6; 8. Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 9.1; 9. Jake Barnes, Scottsdale, Ariz./Walt Woodard, Stephenville, Texas, 9.2; 10. Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., 18.7; 11. (tie) Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas; Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Broc Cresta, Santa Rosa, Calif.; Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Brad Culpepper, Poulan, Ga.; Brandon Beers, Powell Butte, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., and Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/York Gill, Memphis, Tenn., NS.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 90.0 points on Burns Rodeo Company Chugwater Blue, $17,885; 2. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 87.5, $14,135; 3. (tie) Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, and Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 83.5, $9,087; 5. Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D., 83.0, $4,615; 6. Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., 82.5, $2,885; 7. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 81; 8. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 78.5; 9. Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 78; 10. (tie) Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La.; Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La.; Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas; Tyler Corrington, Hastings, Minn.; Ty Atchison, Jackson, Mo., and Sam Spreadborough, Snyder, Texas, NS.
Tie-down roping: 1. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, 7.4 seconds, $17,885; 2. (tie) Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, and Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 7.5, $12,404 each; 4. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 7.7, $7,500; 5. (tie) Clint Cooper, Decatur, Texas, and Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 7.8, $3,750; 7. (tie) Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., and Jerrad Hofstetter, Portales, N.M., 8.0 each; 9. (tie) Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La.; Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., and Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 8.9; 12. Timber Moore, Aubrey, Texas, 9.3; 13. Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., 9.4; 14. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 9.7; 15. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, NT.
Barrel racing: 1. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 13.46 seconds (breaks the arena record of 13.49, Sherry Cervi, 2010), $17,885; 2. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 13.79, $14,135; 3. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 13.82, $10,673; 4. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 13.88, $7,500; 5. Jody Sheffield, Ogden, Utah, 13.90, $4,615; 6. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 13.92, $2,885; 7. Angie Meadors, Blanchard, Okla., 13.98; 8. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 14.05; 9. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.06; 10. Britany Fleck, Mandan, N.D., 14.10; 11. Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, 14.17; 12. Jane Melby, Backus, Minn., 14.21; 13. Jill Moody, Letcher, S.D., 14.52; 14. Tammy Fischer, Ledbetter, Texas, 18.96; 15. Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan., 19.40.
Bull riding: 1. J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 90.5 points on Burch Rodeo Company’s Zombie Zoo, $17,885; 2. Jacob O’Mara, Prairieville, La., 88, $14,135; 3. L. J. Jenkins, Porum, Okla., 79, $10,673; 4. (tie) Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash.; Wesley Silcox, Santaquin, Utah; Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla., Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo.; Clayton Foltyn, El Campo, Texas; Chandler Bownds, Lubbock, Texas; Clayton Savage, Cheyenne, Wyo.; Tate Stratton, Kellyville, Okla.; Tyler Willis, Wheatland, Wyo.; Seth Glause, Cheyenne, Wyo.; Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, and Cody Whitney, Asher, Okla., NS.