LAS VEGAS — Maybe this is the year Rod Lyman finally conquers the demons that have haunted him at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Fifteen times, the Victor, Mont., cowboy has ridden into the Thomas & Mack Center, and on each occasion, he left without the ultimate prize — a world steer wrestling championship gold buckle. But no one is bulldogging better than Lyman through three rounds of the 2003 Wrangler NFR. On Sunday, Lyman won his second round in a row, a 3.5-second run that moved him into third place in the Jack Daniel's World Standings, just $4,139 off the lead.
Lyman has won a Wrangler NFR-best $37,303 in three days. During the 2003 regular season, he earned $53,249.
"This is the best start I've ever had," Lyman said. "I drew three good steers, and my hazer is doing a great job. It's great to have a good start, then I can have fun the rest of the week."
By placing in the first three rounds of his event, Lyman is hoping to duplicate the feat Sid Steiner accomplished at the 2002 Wrangler NFR. The flamboyant bulldogger placed in the first three rounds and ultimately claimed the aggregate and world titles.
Only the top rodeo athletes in the world qualified for the $5 million Wrangler NFR. On Sunday, 17,327 fans watched as cowboys and cowgirls competed for world titles, which will be awarded following the 10th round on Dec. 14.
Round 4 is set for 7 p.m. (PST) Monday.
Two years ago, Cody Ohl accepted his world all-around and tie-down roping world champion saddles on crutches, one night after suffering three torn knee ligaments during his ninth-round run. And after missing most of the 2002 season in rehab, Ohl rounded back into form this year. On Sunday, he returned to the winner's circle by roping and tying his third-round calf in a blistering 7.0 seconds. He leapfrogged Blair Burk into second place in the world standings — still $18,000 behind six-time and reigning world tie-down roping champion Fred Whitfield.
"It was exciting to ride back in the box again," Ohl said. "I have changed my approach, and I'm taking a little bit more of a gamble at the start. If you keep winning in the rounds, that can pay as much or more than the aggregate."
Team ropers Daniel Green (Oakdale, Calif.) and Kory Koontz (Sudan, Texas) matched the arena record with a 3.8-second run, good for their second round victory. Three other teams also recorded a 3.8, including six-time and reigning world champions Speed Williams and Rich Skelton in 1998.
Darren Clarke (Denton, Texas) claimed the bareback riding round victory with an 88.5-point ride on Bar T Rodeo's Smokeless Red Lady.
Saddle bronc rider Cody Wright (Milford, Utah) took his first victory lap Sunday after riding Bar T Rodeo's Robin Hood Snuff for 88 points, while Myron Duarte (Auburn, Wash.), the bull riding runner-up in 2002, claimed the round victory by scoring 92 points on Bad Company's Smokeless Satan's Own.
Barrel racer Jackie Dube (Giddings, Texas) clocked a winning run of 13.67 seconds to win the third round.