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WNFR Journal: Round 9

12/14/2003

The last two rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo are a blur. The dust barely settles after Round 9 and it is time to go again.

The conclusion of Saturday's action did very little to solve the hardest of mysteries at the Wrangler NFR. Steer wrestling is one header. Rod Lyman starts Round 10 ranked second in the world, but there is very little chance he will finish the day there. The aggregate advantage leans heavily on Teddy Johnson or and Birch Negaard. These two will back in the box, nod, and the world championship will hang in the balance.

Dan Mortensen and Glen O'Neill are also in a sudden-death situation. Mortensen split first in the round last night and collapsed O'Neill's lead to less than $4,000. Mortensen has drawn Firecracker. O'Neill's last dance will be with Ginger Snap Snuff. Mortensen has an edge in the aggregate and Butch Knowles, ESPN rodeo analyst, gives him the nod in the draw category too. Casey Tibbs may have company in the record book at the end of the day.

Fred Whitfield and Cody Ohl have traveled hard all year and as we enter the final rodeo performance for 2003, they are basically in a dead heat. If the rodeo had ended after nine rounds Ohl would have won the world title by $33.56. Consider all the miles they have traveled, all the stock they have roped, and the fact they are still basically dead even; this is a rivalry for the ages.

Janae Ward is the cardiac kid for 2003. She made the Wrangler NFR in the 12th hour at the Pace Picante Classic in Dallas — the last day of rodeo's regular season. If she holds on to the top spot in the aggregate today, Ward will make well over $100K in 10 days. The money is great but what Ward will remember is how she climbed from 14th to first and won her first world championship.

Terry Don West has a one bull formality before he wins his second world championship. But this is not just any bull. Blender Head chewed West up and spit him out at the Pace Picante Challenge in Omaha. The September wreck really put the Henryetta, Okla., cowboy in a tailspin for the rest of the regular season. Is it a shot at redemption? Maybe. I see a spankin' coming and it will be West who gets the last laugh here.

Round 10 is a dream round for rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. It is here where world championships are won and lost. There are a lot of clichés you can throw in at this point. I think Texas country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker says it best, "Spread your arms, hold your breath, and always trust your cape."