AUSTIN, Texas — Most college students spend their spring break at the beach or on the ski slopes, but for Texas Tech bareback rider Ryan Gray he used it to take care of business in the professional rodeo arena.
Gray, a senior at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, made every second count at the 69th annual Rodeo Austin, winning the average with a total score of 251 points on three head. The young gun from Cheney, Wash., was second in the first round with an 85-point ride on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Show Biz and followed that with a tie for first in the second round with an 85 on Rafter G Rodeo’s Low Bucks. Gray entered the Tour round in the lead in the average race and clinched the title with an 81 on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Wayward Winds. All totaled he won $9,607.
“I didn’t really know anything about that horse but I liked him,” said the 22-year old. “That is a good horse and he fit that pen really well. He was strong and bucked hard and a guy has to do all the right things on him to make it work. He was a great horse and I wouldn’t mind having him again down the road.”
For Gray, who is majoring in agriculture leadership, it is important to make every rodeo count, especially the Tour rodeos, since he has to constantly juggle his college and rodeo schedule to make it all work.
“I was able to pick up several key Tour points here that will be critical in getting to the Pace Chute-out in Tulsa in May,” said Gray, who picked up 31 Tour points in Austin. “I needed this to bump me up there in the standings and take the pressure off me to make it to all the Tour rodeos this spring, while I continue to go to college. Now if I don’t have a very good draw at one of the remaining Tour rodeos, I don’t have to feel like I need to spend a lot of money to get out there and instead I can stay home and take care of my school work.”
Winning the Wrangler Tour Round was Jason Jeter (Mansfield, Texas) with an 84-point ride on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s No Date Kate. Jeter has been on a roll since returning from an injury and a disappointing 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Tour Round win in Austin was his second victory in three Tour stops. He picked up his first Tour round victory of the year at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo at the end of February after riding Brookman Rodeo’s Hard Luck for 86 points.
His early success has no doubt helped his confidence and erased any thought of walking away from the sport just yet.
“I think in any sport, but especially in rodeo, your mind can be your worst enemy,” Jeter said. “Physically we are all at the same level but we separate ourselves with our mindset. Each one of us has to fight our own demons and for me after the Wrangler NFR the demons were winning. Honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue riding after the Wrangler NFR, but I got healthy and started riding again.
“Since returning I have had a lot of success and you can’t change your mind like success can. Now I look forward to going to the rodeos because deep down inside I feel like I am going to win. Before I was questioning myself but confidence in your riding goes a long way in this sport.”
Jeter finished second in the average with 244 points on three head and picked up a check totaling $7,304.
Rodeo Austin marked the seventh stop on the 2006 Wrangler ProRodeo Winter Tour. Contestants not only compete for money at the Tour rodeos, but for valuable Tour points that qualify them for the Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out upon the conclusion of the Winter Tour.
The Pace Chute-out will be held May 13-14 in Tulsa, Okla. All 12 stops on the Winter Tour will be televised on Fox Sports Network for the first time in history. Check local listings for times in your area.
No PRCA contestant has been hotter in the month of March than three-time all-around world champion Trevor Brazile. In Austin, he added another title to his list of accomplishments and another $8,332 to his bottom line. The 29-year old won the average title with a total time of 27.2 seconds on three head, just two-tenths of a second faster than Matt Shiozawa (Chubbuck, Idaho), who finished with a 27.4.
Brazile has been unstoppable in March, winning $72,000 at the Wrangler Timed Event Championship in Guthrie, Okla.; $9,395 at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho; and $12,123 for the average win at RodeoHouston. Unfortunately for Brazile, his earnings in Houston and Austin are the only ones that will count toward the ProRodeo Cowboys World Standings, but the others have definitely helped his confidence.
“March has been a good month for me to say the least,” said Brazile (Decatur, Texas). “I broke a barrier here to make it back in the team roping. That is the bad thing about working two events because the win is kind of bittersweet. My calf roping has been great and I feel that everything else is going to start looking up.”
Brazile entered the Wrangler Tour Round with nearly a two second cushion over the rest of the field and backed into the box with one goal in mind — to win the average.
“I was definitely shooting for the average tonight,” Brazile said. “Everything seemed to fall apart for the guys who went in front of me, and whether you want it to or not that plays a part in a guy’s run.
“I couldn’t push the barrier with a two second lead because I just didn’t know what that calf was going to do. If you are in the back of the pack you can make a guess and just go for it, but when you are in a situation like that, where it is yours to win, you can’t make any mistakes.”
Making their way to the winner’s circle in Austin was the newly formed team of Matt Tyler and Jade Corkill. Tyler, a 21-year veteran of the sport from Lipan, Texas, has partnered with 18-year old rookie sensation Corkill (Fallon, Nev.) for the 2006 rodeo season. Together they picked up the biggest win of their partnership in Austin with a total time of 17.6 seconds on three head. They clinched the title after stopping the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. scoreboard in 5.6 seconds to collect the Tour round victory.
“This was huge for our partnership,” said Tyler, who is charting new waters and roping with a partner that is 23 years younger. “We struggled early on but now we seem to be getting in a groove and this win will help our confidence. Jade is a very talented roper. He is young but very mature for his age. His talent is unbelievable and he has a great horse, so my experience and his youth, ambition and eagerness is going to make for a good year.”
Corkill, who is being home schooled and will finish high school in May, is living a dream and couldn’t be happier to start his career with someone he has looked up to since the age of 12.
“For me to have the opportunity to start my career roping with someone like Matt Tyler, is like a dream come true,” Corkill said. “When I was growing up Matt Tyler was definitely one of the guys I looked up to, but I never dreamed I would start my rodeo career off roping with him. This win will be a huge confidence booster for us.”
Bull rider Cody Hancock is back to his winning ways that won him his first world title in 2000. Coming off a big win in Houston just one week ago, Hancock (Taylor, Ariz.) entered the Wrangler Tour Round with a ton of confidence. That confidence proved to be very beneficial as the 30-year old rode Broken Arrow’s Chili for 91 points and the average title finishing with 180 points on two head.
“I have wanted to get on that bull since I saw him two years ago,” Hancock said. “My traveling partner, Jason McClain, won the first round at the Tour Finale in Reno last year on him and I talked to him about the bull. He was excited for me and said that was probably the best bull going down the road today. I was really excited to have him and glad it all worked out for me.”
Hancock admits that he feels like he is in the zone right now and the State of Texas has been good to him.
“I definitely feel like I am riding in a zone right now. Being healthy is the main thing after being injured for so long and then drawing good bulls and riding them helps a guy get on a roll. Being able to get on a roll in Houston and now here is awesome.”
Hancock finished as the high-money winner for the rodeo after pocketing $10,064. Utah’s Sonny Murphy, who won the Dodge National Circuit Finals a week ago, finished second in the Tour round with a 90-point ride on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Phantom and was second in the average with 177 points on two head. He won a total of $6,930.
Saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss successfully defended his title in Austin with a three-head total of 246 points. DeMoss (Heflin, La.) also picked up the Tour round win with an 83-point ride on Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Popeye.
“He (Popeye) is usually one of the weaker ones in the pen but today it turned out really well for me,” said DeMoss, who became a new dad on March 6 when his wife, Margie, gave birth to a little girl Darbi Ann. “Looking down the draw, I didn’t think it would turn out that well, but I thank the Lord it did.”
For 2001 World Champion Steer Wrestler Rope Myers his success in Austin would determine his schedule for the remaining Winter Tour. Myers (Van, Texas) entered the Tour round knowing he had a chance to pick up valuable Tour points that would help him qualify for the Pace Chute-out.
In an unusual short round in steer wrestling three guys — Myers, Wade Sumpter (Fowler, Colo.) and Joey Bell (Malakoff, Texas) — all stopped the clock in 4.2 seconds to share the round victory. The story didn’t end there though, as three guys — Myers, Chancey Larson (Manhattan, Kan.) and Dru Melvin (Tryan, Neb.) — tied for the average title with total times of 13.6 seconds on three head.
“I would have sure helped everyone out if I would have been a tenth faster tonight,” Myers said. “This win gave me a lot of Tour points so I will probably have to hit a few more and try to qualify for the Chute-out in Tulsa. The Tour finale is awfully hard not to be at, so I will probably try and go to one or two more. If I can make the Tour finale with just three or four rodeos, that would be pretty good.”
Saving the best for last in the barrel racing was Denise Adams Fea, who rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 14.97 seconds to win the Tour round and the average title with a total of 44.85 on three runs. Adams Fea (Lufkin, Texas) had entertained the idea of retiring her horse Funny after her second run in Houston, but those thoughts were erased on Saturday night with her run in Austin.
“After our second run in Houston, I started thinking it might be time to retire her and bring out the young horse but after what she did here, that thought has vanished,” Adams Fea said. “She seems to be running in a different gear right now. It is like someone turned the light bulb on and she is proving she is not done yet.”
The next Wrangler ProRodeo Tour stop will be the Laughlin (Nev.) River Stampede on April 2.