LAS VEGAS Billy Etbauer probably won't win a gold buckle this weekend, but the four-time world champion still found a way to make his mark on the 45th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Etbauer (Edmond, Okla.), on Tuesday reclaimed the Wrangler NFR arena record by scoring 93 points on Cervi Championship's Cool Alley Dip. The mark eclipsed the 92 points put up by five-time world saddle bronc riding champion Dan Mortensen in Round 9 of the 2002 Wrangler NFR.
That ride broke the previous best in the Thomas & Mack Center of 90, set by Etbauer aboard Cervi Championship Rodeo's Rio Bravo in Round 10 of the 1999 NFR.
"Chances are, it will be broken again tomorrow," Etbauer said. "I'm just glad that everything came together."
Etbauer, 40, is riding in his 15th consecutive Wrangler NFR, a mark bettered by just two other cowboys Mel Coleman and Tom Reeves. He claimed world titles in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2000.
"It's great to be back," Etbauer said. "This is just where a guy wants to be. Hopefully, I will just stay healthy and try to keep riding better."
Only the top 15 contestants in each of rodeo's events qualified for the Wrangler NFR, which is doling out an event-record purse of $5 million. At the conclusion of the 10-day rodeo, world champions will be declared based on 2003 earnings in the Jack Daniel's World Standings.
On Tuesday, a sellout crowd 17,124 packed into the Thomas & Mack Center as the Wrangler NFR hit its halfway point. Round 6 gets under way at 7 p.m. (PST) Wednesday.
Steer wrestler Birch Negaard (Buffalo, S.D.) is making his ninth Wrangler NFR appearance and moved back into first place in the world standings by sharing the round title with Luke Branquinho (Los Alamos, Calif.).
Both turfed their Round 5 steers in 3.6 seconds
Negaard has an advantage of nearly $2,000 over regular-season earnings leader Shawn Greenfield (Lakeview, Ore.) with five rounds remaining.
Negaard also stopped the clock in 3.6 seconds in winning the first round on Friday.
"I'm excited to have another win under my belt," Negaard said. "I broke the barrier (in the third round) and it cost me a ton. I just have to go at 'em every night and see what happens."
Bareback rider Cody De Mers (Boulder, Mont.) also won his second round of the Wrangler NFR by riding Kesler Rodeo's Skyreach Dip for 90.5 points. He, like Negaard, took his first victory lap on Friday.
Tie-down roper Johnny Emmons (Grandview, Texas) did his best to erase bad memories from his fifth Wrangler NFR. After recording just one time in four rounds, Emmons had a change for the better when he won Round 5 by roping and tying his calf in 7.7 seconds.
Bull rider Ryan Brown made his first qualified ride count by scoring 91.5 points on Sutton Rodeo's Smokeless Little Yellow Whale for his first Wrangler NFR round victory.
Team ropers Wade Wheatley (Hughson, Calif.) and Britt Bockius (Claremore, Calif.) claimed the round victory with a time of 4.6 seconds, while two-time barrel racing champion Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz., covered the cloverleaf pattern in 13.98 seconds to claim her first round buckle of the Wrangler NFR.