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Gold buckle dreams

12/13/2009

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LAS VEGAS -- Trevor Brazile not only caught his final calf at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Saturday, he also caught history.

The 33-year-old cowboy from Decatur, Texas, won his seventh all-around world championship to tie Hall of Famer Ty Murray for the most all-around titles in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association history.

He also won his second gold buckle in tie-down roping and finished the season with $346,779, more than $100,000 ahead of second-place Josh Peek of Pueblo, Colo.

Brazile said tying Murray was the accomplishment of a lifelong goal.

"It's been a long time coming, and it's just awesome," Brazile said. "Just because of the cowboy he was and still is and what he keeps doing for our sport just makes it that much more special. I've won as many world titles as he has, but he's still my hero."

Murray, who watched from the front row, said he was happy for Brazile.

"I'm thrilled for Trevor," Murray said. "I got to inspire Trevor the same way Larry Mahan inspired me. Everybody expects me to be mad or sad or bitter. It really doesn't feel that way."

Brazile, a three-event roper, won $55,426 at the NFR in tie-down roping and $2,764 in team roping, far below his past performances and high standards.

"I've had a rough week at the NFR," he said. "It just goes to show you that this sport can humble you so fast. You just have to be ready for every opportunity to win. It's funny, this week I never got down. I wouldn't consider myself a good loser, but I never got down. I look around and I have so much to be thankful for, and I think that helps me keep focused and keep things in perspective. I know I didn't forget how to rope. I'll learn more from this NFR than the previous two."

Brazile said he plans to immediately turn his attention to all-around title No. 8.

"I'm going to take everything I learned this year and make next year the best one I've ever had."

He said dedicating himself to staying in shape is where it will start.

"I'm 33 now," he said. "The competition is not getting any older or slower. I can see that right now, so I've got to work at it."

Bareback
Bobby Mote of Culver, Ore., put an exclamation point on his third world championship.

After trailing Clint Cannon in the world standings all season, Mote won the 10th round and the 10-round average to pass Cannon for the gold buckle.

He clinched it with an 88½-point ride on Wonderland of Beutler & Son Rodeo Co.

Mote won $139,879 at the NFR alone and finished the season with a bareback record $310,219.

Cannon wound up second with $266,585.

Mote, whose previous world titles were in 2002 and 2007, said this might be the most satisfying of them all.

"This one is probably more special," he said. "They're all different. This one, I didn't have Houston. I didn't have the $50,000 [from Houston], and I had a guy ahead of me that was doing outstanding. I rode with a broke foot for about six weeks. There have been some challenges. I wrote it down on paper that I wanted to be the 2009 world champion, and I wanted to win the average. Every mile I ran and every mile I drove, that's what I thought about. It's pretty awesome that I'm here now."

Steer Wrestling
Lee Graves of Calgary, Alberta, won the second world championship of his career in dramatic fashion, moving from third place in the average to first in the final round when both Luke Branquinho and Curtis Cassidy had problems with their steers.

Branquinho, who came in leading the average, took a no-time in the 10th round, while Cassidy, who came in second, barely caught his hard-running steer and took a time of 11.4 seconds.

Graves, who went last among the 15 steer wrestlers, suddenly went from relaxed to high-tension.

"I didn't expect that to happen," he said of Branquinho's and Cassidy's problems. "I thought I'd leave here winning second [to Branquinho], and getting a good average check and say, 'Well, it was a good race and I stubbed my toe and Luke beat me.' But it isn't over until the fat lady sings."

Graves said he thought had he lost his chance for the world championship in Round 7 when he took a time of 11.6 seconds, which dropped him below Branquinho and Cassidy in the average.

"I thought that really stubbed my toe," he said. "I thought, 'Well, that's just the luck of the draw-type deal.' That's rodeo. That's rodeo all year long. All of the sudden it becomes a one-header."

Team Roping
All Nick Sartain of Yukon, Okla., and Kollin VonAhn of Durant, Okla., did on their way to winning their first world championships in their first NFR was rope every one of their steers and avoid the serious trouble that befell their fellow competitors.

They sealed their title in the 10th round with a solid 4.8-second run. When average leaders Luke Brown and Martin Lucero missed their steer in the 10th round, it elevated Sartain and VonAhn to first in the average and gave them the $43,954 bonus that went with it.

It was enough to vault them into the lead.

Both men were stunned at the outcome.

"I can't believe it," Sartain said. "We worked hard for a month getting ready to come out here, and we roped solid. We worked hard all year. We believed that we could do it and we did."

VonAhn gave credit to Sartain.

"When I started roping with this guy next to me here, I believed in what we were doing and that we had the capability to make the NFR for sure, and man, this is just a Cinderella story for me."

Saddle Bronc
Jesse Kruse of Great Falls, Mont., also made his first NFR a memorable one with his first world championship.

He sealed the victory with an 84-point ride on Flying 5 Rodeo Co.'s bronc Spring Planting in Round 10.

Kruse finished the year with $194,465 to hold off Cody DeMoss of Heflin, La., who finished second with $169,739. DeMoss bucked off the bronc Starburst of Kesler Rodeo Co. in the 10th round, which helped Kruse seal the title.

Kruse, who led the world standings much of the season, said he was ecstatic.

"It can't get any better than this," Kruse said. "I just stuck to the basics and I figured it would either happen or it wouldn't. I got lucky, and it fell into place."

Barrel Racing
Brittany Pozzi of Victoria, Texas, won her second world championship in the closest race at this year's NFR.

Pozzi finished with $279,434 to finish ahead of 2008 world champion Lindsay Sears of Nanton, Alberta, who finished with $272,343.

Pozzi, who was the last rider to go Saturday night, knew she just needed to make an error-free run to win the worlds. She said all week she had avoided looking at the standings, but her curiosity finally got the better of her.

"Right before I came to the rodeo, I said, 'OK, I can't take it anymore. I'm going to go figure it out,'" she said. "I knew all I had to do was keep the barrels up. It was exciting. I was excited to be here. I don't want to leave. Let's go do 10 more rounds."

Pozzi, riding her horse Duke, finished third in the average. Veteran Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz., won the average, and Sears finished second by a mere .05 of a second.

Bull Riding
J.W. Harris has a gold buckle and a date with a surgeon on Thursday.

The May, Texas, bull rider suffered a broken hand in the second round while riding the bull Bring It of Flying U Rodeo Co. It forced him to sit out five of the 10 rounds. In the five rounds in which he participated, he bucked off all his bulls.

He was the first bull rider since Bill Nelson in 1971 to win the gold buckle without winning any money at the Wrangler NFR and the first to do it without riding a bull since Freckles Brown in 1962.

Yet no one would doubt Harris was the dominant bull rider this season. He won the bull riding titles at 18 rodeos and came into the NFR with $219,275 in earnings, more than $100,000 ahead of his closest competitor.

Harris said it was his victory at the Reno Rodeo in mid-June that started a monthslong hot streak.

"I won Reno and then went to Pecos, and won Pecos, and it just went on," he said. "It seemed like every time I was getting on I was 90 points and winning rodeos. That really just boosted my confidence to keep going down the road."

He became the first rider to win back-to-back world championships since Blue Stone of Ogden, Utah, did it in 2001 and 2002.

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