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Gold Buckle Races Head for Photo Finish

Steven Peebles

Dec. 14, 2012 – Bareback Rider Steven Peebles finishes in first place on Vitalix Hell’s Fire Hostage in round 9 of the 2012 Wrangler NFR. Photo courtesy PRCA, photo credit Mike Copeman.

LAS VEGAS – One final night will decide who brings home the gold.

Eight world champions will be crowned on the final night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday night – and not a moment sooner.

While two races have much heavier favorites to win gold buckles than the others at the Thomas & Mack Center, every race except the all-around is still mathematically undecided, including a handful of races that will almost certainly send the statisticians to their calculators.

See all the photo highlights from Round 9 >>

Included in that category is the tie-down roping race, where defending World Champion Tuf Cooper will attempt to hold off Justin Maass – who led the world standings for most of the regular season.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Cooper said after posting his ninth-round time of 7.2 seconds. “Coming in, I didn’t plan on it coming down to the 10th one, but how many times has it come down to the 10th round? It’s going to be an exciting night.

Watch the Wrangler Round by Round recaps here >>

“We’ll come out and give the folks their money’s worth for their tickets.”

Cooper tied for third place in Round 9, extending his lead in the world standings to $16,444 over Maass.

“Earlier, I put myself in a position where I had to go at these [calves] the last couple rounds,” Cooper said. “I had a good calf tonight and the round was fast, so I had to be fast if I wanted to win something.”

Bradley Bynum and Clint Robinson shared the Round 9 victory, posting the fastest runs of the NFR – 6.9 seconds.

“I thought he had that round won outright – it was a heck of a run,” Robinson said. “Sixes don’t happen just regularly; it’s gotta be pretty masterful work.”

GAC is the official broadcast home of the WNFR. Watch all the action live on GAC December 6 – 15 beginning at 10p|9c every night. Check out our special WNFR section for photos, the full schedule and to watch highlights from last year’s WNFR!

Maass is No. 2 in the NFR average race, one spot ahead of Cooper. With a $7,949 difference between second- and third-place money in the average, Saturday night’s runs will decide the world championship.

The race is even tighter in bull riding.

Neither world leader J.W. Harris nor Cody Teel made the eight-second whistle on Friday night, so the lead remains at $2,477. But Teel is one spot ahead of Harris in the average, making the race even more intriguing.

Ardmore, Okla., cowboy Trevor Kastner was the only man to make the whistle in Round 9, meaning he collected $58,894 – $18,257 in official earnings and more than $40,000 more in ground money.

“I think the only person happier than me is my mom,” Kastner said.

The margin between first and second place in the saddle bronc riding is wider than most events, yet the race is far from over.

Jesse Wright holds a lead of nearly $46,000 over Wade Sundell and more than $48,000 over third-place Cody DeMoss, but the latter is the only man who has ridden nine broncs and is in line to collect the $46,821 that goes to the average winner. Sundell is third in the average and Wright ranks seventh heading to the final night.

“Those guys have all been in this situation before and they know what it takes, and I just want to wish them all luck,” said reigning World Champion Taos Muncy, who won Round 9 with an 84-point ride on Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Awesome. “They all ride real good and it’s going to come down to that last horse. To me, all those guys deserve a buckle.”

When he snuck into the warm-up arena at the NFR growing up, steer wrestler Tom Lewis didn’t know if competing at the Thomas & Mack could ever become a reality.

In Round 9, the Lehi, Utah, cowboy accomplished a dream by winning a go-round there, turfing his steer in 3.5 seconds to beat the field by a full half-second.

“I’m a weekend warrior, circuit guy, cracked out [full-time] one year, and to be able to be here and compete with these guys – these guys bulldog so good,” Lewis said. “It’s just awesome. They don’t give these (NFR) back numbers away. My family has sacrificed and it takes a lot to get here.”

Lewis is out of the race for the gold buckle, which will be up for grabs on the 10th night. Three-time World Champion Luke Branquinho leads the way and will be looking for back-to-back titles in the event for the first time since Ote Berry in 1990-91.

Les Shepperson continues to lead the NFR average race, but he’ll need to place to have a chance at joining his father, Frank (1975), as a bulldogging world champion. And there are plenty of others still hoping to have a say.

The same can be said in team roping, though odds are the race will come down to the final runs by the two teams that held the top spots in the world standings when the rodeo began.

Trevor Brazile – who has sewn up his 10th all-around crown – and teammate Patrick Smith continue to lead the way over Chad Masters and Clay O’Brien Cooper, though neither team placed on Friday.

If the year would have ended after nine rounds, a split world championship would have occurred with Masters and Smith on top. Essentially, the last run of the year will decide the gold buckle winners, and Kaleb Driggers and Jade Corkill are lurking, hoping for a door to open.

On Friday, it was Spencer Mitchell and Dakota Kirchenschlager posting their second go-round victory of the event, this time in 4.0 seconds.

“I’m just glad we’ve been able to win a little bit, and I want to win that last round tomorrow night so bad,” Kirchenschlager said.

A couple of events aren’t quite as tight, though they’re not over.

The only thing standing between Kaycee Feild and his second gold buckle is a span of eight seconds.

The reigning world champion didn’t place in the ninth round, but holds a lead of nearly $40,000 on the rest of the field and holds a 17.5-point lead in the average race.

Steven Peebles, of Redmond, Ore., overcame an injured hip – which will soon be surgically repaired – to win Round 9 with an 84.5-point trip aboard Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix Hell’s Fire Hostage.

“I’ve been trying not to overdo it and look at the NFR as another rodeo, but one that has 10 head of horses to get on,” said Peebles, a four-time qualifier.

The only other event that is essentially – though not mathematically – locked up is barrel racing, where 53-year-old NFR rookie Mary Walker remains the story. She placed third in Round 9 to extend her advantage to $39,078 in the world standings, and her nearest challengers there appear to be out of the average race heading into the final night.

Oelrichs, S.D., cowgirl Lisa Lockhart won the round with a run of 13.66 seconds.

The final night of the NFR kicks off at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday night.

54th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

Ninth round, Dec. 14, 2012

Bareback riding: 1. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 84.5 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix Hell’s Fire Hostage, $18,257; 2. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, 84, $14,429; 3. (tie) Brian Bain, Culver, Ore.; Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., and Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., 83.5, $7754 each; 6. Bobby Mote, Stephenville, Texas, 83, $2,945; 7. Jessy Davis, Power, Mont., 81.5; 8. (tie) Winn Ratliff, Leesville, La., and Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., 80.5 each; 10. (tie) Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, and Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, 79.5 each; 12. J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., 78; 13. Jared Keylon, Uniontown, Kan., 77.5; 14. (tie) Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, and Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 76.5 each. Average leaders: 1. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 748.5 points on nine head; 2. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 731; 3. Bobby Mote, Stephenville, Texas, 723.5; 4. Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., 722.5; 5. (tie) J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., and Jessy Davis, Power, Mont., 721.5; 7. (tie) Caleb Bennett, Morgan, Utah, and Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 706.5 each; 9. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 706; 10. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., 652.5 on eight head; 11. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, 636; 12. Winn Ratliff, Leesville, La., 561.5 on seven head; 13. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 544.5; 14. Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., 486.5 on six head; 15. Jared Keylon, Uniontown, Kan., 457.5.

Steer wrestling: 1. Tom Lewis, Lehi, Utah, 3.5 seconds, $18,257; 2. (tie) Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore.; K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, and Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 4.0, $10,994 each; 5. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 4.2, $4,712; 6. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 4.4, $2,945; 7. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 4.5; 8. Ethen Thouvenell, Napa, Calif., 4.6; 9. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 4.7; 10. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 4.9; 11. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 5.2; 12. Bray Armes, Gruver, Texas, 6.7; 13. Beau Clark, Belgrade, Mont., 8.3; 14. Les Shepperson, Midwest, Wyo., 9.4; 15. Gabe Ledoux, Kaplan, La., NT. Average leaders: 1. Les Shepperson, Midwest, Wyo., 44.0 seconds on nine head; 2. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 45.2; 3. Beau Clark, Belgrade, Mont., 49.9; 4. Bray Armes, Gruver, Texas, 51.7; 5. K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, 53.1; 6. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 59.0; 7. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 32.6 on eight; 8. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 36.5; 9. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 36.8; 10. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 37.6; 11. Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 39.6; 12. Ethen Thouvenell, Napa, Calif., 44.0; 13. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 46.4; 14. Gabe Ledoux, Kaplan, La., 32.3 on seven head; 15. Tom Lewis, Lehi, Utah, 41.3.

Team roping: 1. Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Dakota Kirchenschlager, Stephenville, Texas, 4.0 seconds, $18,257 each; 2. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 4.5, $14,429; 3. Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 4.7, $10,895; 4. Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 8.8, $7,656; 5. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 9.1, $4,712; 6. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 9.5, $2,945; 7. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., 12.8; 8. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas; Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn./Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont.; Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas; Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore.; Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Paul Eaves, Millsap, Texas; Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar  de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz.; Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., and Brock Hanson, Casa Grande, Ariz./Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Texas, NT. Average leaders: 1. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., 68.2 seconds on nine head; 2. Keven Daniel, Franklin, Tenn./Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont., 59.1 on eight head; 3. Brock Hanson, Casa Grande, Ariz./Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Texas, 63.8; 4. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar  de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 40.5 on seven head; 5. Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 40.7; 6. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 52.5; 7. Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 27.2 on six head; 8. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas, 45.2; 9. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 47.4; 10. Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 50.8; 11. Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Dakota Kirchenschlager, Stephenville, Texas, 27.0 on five head; 12. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 38.8; 13. Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont./Paul Eaves, Millsap, Texas, 46.9; 14. Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 49.3 on four head; 15. Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 31.4 on three head.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 84 points on Wayne Vold Rodeo’s Awesome, $18,257; 2. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 83.0, $14,429; 3. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 78.0, $10,895; 4. Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., 77.5, $7,656; 5. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 76.5, $4,712; 6. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 75.5, $2,945; 7. (tie) Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, and Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 73.5 each; 9. Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, Texas, 69; 10. (tie) Cody Taton, Corona, N.M.; Jake Wright, Milford, Utah; Sterling Crawley, College Station, Texas; Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb.; Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, and Tyrell Smith, Cascade, Mont., NS. Average leaders: 1. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 712.5 points on nine head; 2. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 655.5 on eight head; 3. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 628; 4. Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., 547.5 on seven head; 5. Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., 536.5; 6. Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 512.5; 7. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 502.5 on six head; 8. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 483.5; 9. Cody Taton, Corona, N.M., 476.5; 10. Isaac Diaz, Desdemona, Texas, 464.5; 11. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 456; 12. Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, 413 on five head; 13. Tyrell Smith, Cascade, Mont., 397.5; 14. Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, 390; 15. Sterling Crawley, College Station, Texas, 319 on four head.

Tie-down roping: 1. (tie) Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, and Bradley Bynum, Sterling City, Texas, 6.9 seconds, $16,343 each; 3. (tie) Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas;Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, and Monty Lewis, Hereford, Texas, 7.2, $7,754 each; 6. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 7.7, $2,945; 7. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 8.1; 8. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 8.2; 9. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 8.9; 10. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 9.0; 11. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, 9.3; 12. (tie) Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., and Houston Hutto, Tomball, Texas, 10.6 each; 14. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 12.4; 15. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., NT. Average leaders: 1. Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 79.5 seconds on nine head; 2. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 79.7; 3. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 82.7; 4. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 85.3; 5. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 86.8; 6. Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., 88.1; 7. Bradley Bynum, Sterling City, Texas, 90.4; 8. Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 92.0; 9. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 96.6; 10. Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, 65.2 on eight head; 11. Monty Lewis, Hereford, Texas, 66.6; 12. Houston Hutto, Tomball, Texas, 98.1; 13. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, 66.1 on seven head; 14. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 73.0; 15. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 53.0 on four head.

Barrel racing: 1. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 13.66 seconds, $18,257; 2. Lee Ann Rust, Stephenville, Texas, 13.88, $14,429; 3. Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 13.90, $10,895; 4. (tie) Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., and Christy Loflin, Franktown, Colo., 14.24, $6,184 each; 6. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 14.29, $2,945; 7. Nikki Steffes, Vale, S.D., 14.50; 8. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 18.90; 9. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 18.94; 10. Kaley Bass, Kissimmee, Fla., 18.98; 11. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 19.00; 12. Benette Barrington-Little, Ardmore, Okla., 19.14; 13. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 19.17; 14. Trula Churchill, Valentine, Neb., 20.64; 15. Kelli Tolbert, Hooper, Utah, 23.63. Average leaders: 1. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 127.67 seconds on nine runs; 2. Mary Walker, Ennis, Texas, 129.51; 3. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 130.20; 4. Kaley Bass, Kissimmee, Fla., 130.73; 5. Nikki Steffes, Vale, S.D., 133.22; 6. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 141.41; 7. Trula Churchill, Valentine, Neb., 142.40; 8. Christy Loflin, Franktown, Colo., 144.18; 9. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 144.93; 10. Benette Barrington-Little, Ardmore, Okla., 146.36; 11. Lee Ann Rust, Stephenville, Texas, 150.72; 12. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 151.25; 13. Kelli Tolbert, Hooper, Utah, 154.43; 14. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 165.35; 15. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 116.84 on eight runs.

Bull riding: 1. Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla., 84.5 points on Mo Betta Rodeo’s Bailey Hou, $18,257; 2. (tie) J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas; Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas; Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas;  Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D.; Seth Glause, Cheyenne, Wyo.; Tate Stratton, Kellyville, Okla.; Cody Samora, Cortez, Colo.; Beau Schroeder, China, Texas; Cody Whitney, Sayre, Okla.; Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash.; Clayton Savage, Casper, Wyo.; Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo.; Tag Elliott, Thatcher, Utah, and Brett Stall, Detroit Lakes, Minn., NS. Average leaders: 1. Beau Schroeder, China, Texas, 343.5 points on four head; 2. Seth Glause, Cheyenne, Wyo., 336; 3. Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla., 334.5; 4. Clayton Savage, Casper, Wyo., 326; 5. Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas, 305.5; 6. J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas, 261.0 on three head; 7. Brett Stall, Detroit Lakes, Minn., 249.5; 8. Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash., 244; 9. Cody Whitney, Sayre, Okla., 175.5 on two head; 10. Tag Elliott, Thatcher, Utah, 168; 11. Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., 164.5; 12. Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas, 156; 13. Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D., 76 on one; 14. (tie) Tate Stratton, Kellyville, Okla., and Cody Samora, Cortez, Colo., NS.

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