This week, 96 of the summer's top rodeo cowboys and cowgirls will converge on the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., in hopes of winning one of the year's biggest rodeos, the ProRodeo Tour Summer Finale.
Admittedly, the winner of each event gets a lot — there's the title of Finale champion, the crystal cup and of course, the big cash prizes. There's nearly $400,000 up for grabs.
For many of the cowboys, a big performance at a Finale can be a springboard to the top of the world standings and a berth in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, or an improvement on an already great season. Regardless, they're all there for one reason — to win.
Two-time and reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Will Lowe will be in Omaha to defend his title from last year and to possibly extend his record of five Finale titles with a sixth victory.
Others back in Omaha to defend their 2005 titles are heeler Kory Koontz, saddle bronc rider Billy Etbauer, team ropers Clay Tryan and Patrick Smith, barrel racer Kelly Kaminski and bull rider Matt Austin.
Winners of this season's event will be crowned after two preliminary rounds, an eight-person semifinal round and a four-person championship round.
Topping the bareback riding Tour standings along with leader Lowe are Andy Martinez, Larry Sandvick and Royce Ford. Martinez has two Finale titles to his name, including the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out earlier this year, and Ford and Sandvick each have one title.
In steer wrestling, Tour standings leader Shawn Greenfield is looking for his first Finale title. Other top points-earners during the Summer Tour were Jason Lahr, Tommy Cook and Dru Melvin. Lahr has two Finale titles under his belt, while Melvin and Cook are chasing their first titles.
Team ropers David Key and Kory Koontz wrapped up their Finale berth early in the Tour, and now Key is hoping for his first Finale win while Koontz looks to defend his title. Other headers who will make a run for the title in Omaha are Shain Sproul, Matt Tyler and Matt Sherwood. Sproul earned a title in Omaha in 2004. Tyler and Sherwood are hunting for their first Tour victories.
Heelers at the top of the standings with Koontz are Cory Petska, Kinney Harrell and Walt Woodard. Petska has never won a Finale, Harrell has one title and Woodard is hunting his first title.
In saddle bronc riding, the red-hot Rod Hay won his first title at the Chute-out this year, and Cody Wright has one victory to his name. Other challengers include Bradley Harter and Bryce Miller, who are both looking for their first win.
Tie-down roper Cody Ohl won his first Finale title in 2004 and is looking to add a second. Other ropers he'll contend with include Doug Pharr and Brad Goodrich, who have never won a Finale title and Blair Burk, who has two titles.
Bull rider Dustin Elliott hopes to pick up his first Finale victory in Omaha, and he will have plenty of competition from D.J. Domangue, reigning World Champion Matt Austin and Cooper Kanngiesser. Domangue hasn't won a title, Austin has one on his resume and Kanngiesser is searching for his first victory as well.
Barrel racers Brittany Pozzi, Shelly Anzick, Brandie Halls and Brenda Mays were the tops in the points standings this summer and will battle for the Finale title.