Rookie bulldogger Guenthner finishes strong at Wrangler NFR

Scott Guenthner celebrating his 3.3-sec round 9 steer wrestling win. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Dan Hubbell.

LAS VEGAS – Wrangler National Finals Rodeo rookie steer wrestler Scott Guenthner would love to run another 10 rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center.

After winning the ninth performance with a 3.3-second run, the Provost, Alta., bulldogger finished second in the final round in 3.6 seconds in front of 16,954 screaming fans on Saturday to climb to fifth in the average and add $87,338 to his bottom.

His 10-day haul of $87,338 in Las Vegas propelled the 27-year-old to sixth place in the final Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Standings with $186,839.

“I finally figured out the start, and the start is the big deal here,” Guenthner said. “I didn’t really know the start, and it’s unbelievable how fast you can go here.”

Switching to Tom Lewis’ star steed Maverick late in the rodeo was key for the 6-foot-1, 210-pound cowboy.

“I had my mare here, but she’d just come off an injury last year, so she just wasn’t sharp,” Guenthner said. “I probably should have switched horses at the start, but you don’t really know what to do. The horse I got on drills the start and likes to leave real hard, and he’s very good at this setup.”

Overall, Guenthner felt good about his 2017 Wrangler NFR.

“I’m pretty happy, and I think the first few rounds maybe I was a little nervous,” Guenthner said. “I still won a lot of money and moved up a couple spots in the average.

“It makes you really pumped and excited and definitely makes you want to go really hard. I start again in January, and it’ll be nice to go to my circuit finals on an up and not a down, that’s for sure.”

Jake Vold winning round 1 on Kesler Rodeo’s Oakridge with 87.5 points. PRCA/ProRodeo by Dan Hubbell.

This year’s Wrangler NFR will forever be a “what if” situation for Ponoka, Alta., bareback rider Jake Vold. The 30-year-old cowboy was the best in his event through seven rounds, holding a half-point lead over eventual World Champion Tim O’Connell in the average before dislocating his right knee when Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Redigo stumbled leaving the chute in Round 8.

Vold was unable to take his re-ride and had to sit out the final two performances. He said he will soon undergo surgery to repair a torn medial-patellar ligament in the Calgary area and expects to be out three months for rehabilitation.

He fell to seventh in the final world standings with $185,706 after finishing 14th in the Wrangler NFR average.

“Honestly, it’s in the past, and I’m going forward to the future now,” said Vold, a three-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. “That’s rodeo, and it’s not the first time I’ve been X’d out in a good situation. I still had a good week, it was a lot of fun and hopefully, I can get back here again next year and see if I can finish it off.”

The experience will motivate Vold in 2018.

“I came in here with a game plan and didn’t get to execute it all the way,” he said. “I’ll get back, get healthy and try it again. I’m already looking forward to getting fixed up and getting to rehabbing.

“I don’t know all the ins and outs of it yet, but I’ll find out more when I get home and we’ll go from there.”

Orin Larsen scored 86.5 points aboard Frontier Rodeo’s Night Fist to make it a 1-2 Canuck sweep in round 1. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Phil Doyle.

Bareback rider Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, placed in five rounds en route to $71,769 in Las Vegas earnings and an eighth-place finish in the final world standings with $171,009. Cochrane, Alta., bulldogger Tanner Milan won the second and fifth rounds and placed in two others to earn $72,192 at the Finals and finish eighth in the final world standings at $156,266.

Zeke Thurston was the top Canadian saddle bronc riding finisher but fell from second to seventh in the world standings after placing in just two rounds. The Big Valley, Alta., rough stock cowboy banked $29,462 at the Finals to end the season with $199,917.

Wrangler NFR rookie saddle bronc rider Layton Green struggled down the stretch, finishing with three straight no-scores after earning a trio of cheques in Rounds 5-7. The Meeting Creek, Alta., cowboy finished ninth in the world with $156,292 after earning $45,679 in Vegas for a 13th-place average finish in Las Vegas.

Clay Elliott of Nanton, Alta., placed in two of the final three rounds of saddle bronc riding for his only cheques of the Wrangler NFR, finishing 14th in the world ($121,755) and the average ($32,423).

Jordan Hansen from Okotoks, Alta., is the first cowboy to ride Corey & Lange Rodeo’s bull, Tequila for 86 points to win Round 8. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Roseanna Sales.

Okotoks, Alta., bull rider Jordan Hansen bucked off his final two bulls of the Finals but made four trips to the pay window. His 86-point mark on Corey & Lange Rodeo’s Tequila won the eighth round, and the 2016 Canadian champion finished with $84,038 in Las Vegas to finish eighth in the final world standings with $180,295.

Jeremy Buhler, the 2016 world champion heeler from Arrowwood, Alta., had a nightmarish Wrangler NFR a year after winning it all. He and Tom Richards, forced to rope together when their partners failed to qualify, cashed just two cheques against seven no-times at this year’s Finals. Buhler earned  $30,096 at the Finals for a season total of $98,101.and finished 15th in the world standings.

F13 Virgil with Tim O’Connell aboard tying the arena record in Rd 3 with a score of 91.5 pts. PRCA ProRodeo photo by Greg Westfall.

Canadian stock made a big impact at this year’s Finals, with C5 Rodeo’s Virgil earning Bareback Horse of the Wrangler NFR honours after taking world champ Tim O’Connell to a record-tying 91.5 in the third round and Jake Brown to an 86 in Round 8. He tied with Powder River Rodeo’s Craig at Midnight for the top bareback honours.

C5 Rodeo’s Rockstar earned the nod as the top saddle bronc of Round 9 after sending Elliott to the turf shy of the eight-second whistle. Wayne Vold Rodeo bull Heavens Basement (Round 2), Calgary Stampede saddle bronc Yesterdays Delivery (Round 4), C5 Rodeo saddle bronc Double D (Round 5) and Calgary Stampede bull Night Moves (Round 5) were also lauded for their talents during the 10-day rodeo.

2017 ProRodeo World Champions

  •  All-around—Tuf Cooper
  • Bareback riding—Tim O’Connell
  • Steer wrestling—Tyler Pearson
  • Team roping—Erich Rogers/Cory Petska
  • Saddle bronc riding—Ryder Wright
  • Tie-down roping—Marcos Costa
  • Barrel racing—Nellie Miller
  • Bull riding—Sage Kimzey

2017 Wrangler NFR average champions

  • Bareback riding—Tim O’Connell
  • Steer wrestling—Dakota Eldridge
  • Team roping—Erich Rogers/Cory Petska
  • Saddle bronc riding—Brody Cress
  • Tie-down roping—Marcos Costa
  • Barrel racing—Nellie Miller
  • Bull riding—Sage Kimzey

RAM Top Gun Award Winner—Marcos Costa ($195,519 in earnings)

Stock of the Wrangler NFR

  • Bareback riding—(tie) C5 Rodeo’s Virgil and Powder River Rodeo’s Craig at Midnight
  • Saddle bronc riding—Andrews Rodeo’s Brutus
  • Bull riding—D&H Cattle’s SweetPro’s Bruiser

The 2017 PRCA Media Award winner for Excellence in Print Journalism, Neal Reid spent five years as editor of the ProRodeo Sports News and is covering his 14th consecutive Wrangler NFR this year. He has written for USA Today, ESPN, ESPNW, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Las Vegas Review-Journal, as well as Western Horseman, American Cowboy, The Ketchpen and Persimmon Hill. A journalism graduate from Auburn University, Reid spent nine weeks in Russia in 2014 covering the Sochi Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games for the Olympic News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @NealReid21.

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