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Hurts so good

12/9/2009

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LAS VEGAS — Lee Graves' bad back is starting to be a pain for the other steer wrestlers at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Graves, the 2005 world champion from Calgary, Alberta, fought through the pain of a sprained sacroiliac joint for a 3.4-second run and the Round Four victory on Sunday at the sold-out Thomas & Mack Center.

It not only won him $17,139 and leap-frogged him over defending world champion Luke Branquinho back into first place in the world standings, but it also put him securely into first place in the average.

Graves has been getting treatment from a chiropractor before the start of the rodeo and immediately went to the Justin Sportsmedicine room for post-run treatment.

He said it is starting to feel better.

"Tonight, they just iced it for about 20 minutes," he said. "As long as I can bend over and touch my toes, it's good to go."

Another past world champion, Cody Ohl of Hico, Texas showed he's still capable of a blazing run in the tie-down roping.

Ohl, a six-time world champion, roped and tied his calf in 6.6 seconds to pick up his first paycheck of this year's NFR. It was the fastest time this year and only a tenth of a second off the arena record, which Ohl set in 2003.

He said the run was smooth and he knew it was fast.

"I've run so many calves that you just get a feel," he said. "One swing, two swings, the calf handles real fast and everything is just clicking. I knew I was close (to the record). I just didn't know how close. The record wasn't on my mind at the time, just getting a good win and putting myself back in a good position for a world championship."

Meanwhile, saddle bronc rider Jesse Kruse of Great Falls, Mont., competing in his first Wrangler NFR, showed why he's the world standings leader in his event. Kruse not only survived the eliminator pen of broncs on Sunday night, but won the round with a 90-point ride on the Calgary Stampede bronc Hell's Half Acre.

"I got him marked out," Kruse said. "It was kind of a big soggy, strong jump away from a guy. I just hustled my feet and lifted hard and got him rode."

Kruse, who is nursing a sore left knee and foot, said he's happy to get by the eliminator pen.

"Especially after all the trouble I had in the first three rounds, this feels good," he said.

In bareback, Royce Ford of Briggsdale, Colo., took top honors with an 87-point ride on the bronc Peaches and Cream of Three Hills Rodeo Co.

"You've got to capitalize whenever you get an opportunity to get on a bucking horse like that," Ford said. "That mare, she makes your feet fly so high, she's just a neat, neat horse to get on."

Also in bareback, world standings leader Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, took a zero after he was flagged for not marking his horse out properly. Cannon came into the NFR with a sizeable lead over second-place Bobby Mote, but the no score on Friday puts him low in the average and opens the door for Mote ever so slightly.

Cannon still leads by about $55,000.

In team roping, the duo of Travis Tryan of Billings, Mont., and Michael Jones of Stephenville, Texas, who won Round Three, shared the victory in Round Four with Nick Sartain of Yukon, Okla., and Kollin VonAhn of Durant, Okla.

The top barrel racer of the night was Cassie Moseley of Farwell, Texas, who rode her horse, Mitey Man, around the barrels in 13.72 seconds.

She won $17,139 and finished four one-hundredths of a second ahead of defending world champion Lindsay Sears of Nanton, Alberta, who clocked a 13.76.

Moseley said she knew it was a fast run because she couldn't remember it after the start.

"When he came off that first barrel, I knew he was firing," she said. "When I can't remember my run, barrel by barrel, I know that he is really running."

In bull riding, Bobby Welsh of Gillette, Wyo., had the high-marked ride of the night after topping Silent Image of Silverado Rodeo Company for 89.5 points.

He finished a half-point ahead of B.J. Schumacher of Hillsboro, Wis., who scored 89 points on Smilin' Bill of Smith, Harper, Morgan Rodeo.

Welch said he was lucky to make the whistle.

"It was by the grace of God because that bull got the rope out of my hand on the first jump," he said. "My hand was almost halfway open the entire time. I just had faith and didn't quit trying."

Welsh is the only rider to have covered all four of his bulls thus far and he is leading the average. With world standings leader J.W. Harris missing the round with a broken hand and questionable for the rest of the Finals, other riders have a chance to make up ground on Harris, who came in with a lead of more than $100,000.

Harris told PRCA officials that he planned to try to ride on Monday despite the broken hand.

The WNFR will be televised nightly on ESPN Classic and ESPN2. At the conclusion of the 10th performance on Dec. 12th, the contestants with the highest earnings in each event will be crowned as the 2009 world champion.

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