LAS VEGAS It's been nearly two years, but Cody Ohl finally was able to hear the cheers deserving of a champion Sunday night at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Ohl, the 2001 world champion in the all-around and tie-down roping, reminded a sold-out crowd of 17,327 at Thomas & Mack Center how he won those championships, tying his calf in 7 seconds flat to win the third go-round and put himself back in the thick of the race for the world championship.
The first-place check of $14,335 vaulted Ohl (Stephenville, Texas) into second place in the world standings, about $18,000 behind leader and defending world champion Fred Whitfield (Hockley, Texas).
It gives the 30-year-Ohl the chance for his fourth world championship in tie-down roping. The win also allowed Ohl the opportunity to show he is all the way back from the knee injury he suffered in the ninth round of the 2001 NFR that forced him to miss the 10th round and virtually all of the 2002 season.
"After being gone a year I was just excited to be able to get back in the box," he said.
"Having people remember what you went through, it makes you feel good. I made a decent run on my first calf and last night I had a flashback of how I got hurt, I had to two-loop one. That's just part of it, I got in too big of a hurry. I just came back tonight and refocused and everything went right."
Riding his new horse, which he named Casino, Ohl decided to do a little gambling.
"I changed my approach a little bit and took a little more gamble at the start," he said. "It was pretty much a flawless run. I was tickled with it. It was the best run I've made in the last couple of months. Hopefully it will get me on a roll the next week."
Also tickled, to be sure, was the team roping duo of Daniel Green (Oakdale, Calif.) and Kory Koontz (Sudan, Texas) who tied the arena record of 3.8 seconds in winning the go-round.
"I liked that run," Green said. "I really liked that run. That was fun."
Veteran Rod Lyman (Victor, Mont.) continued his hot start in the steer wrestling.
The 42-year-old Lyman turfed his steer in 3.5 seconds and the $14,335 first-place check helped him jump to third place in the world standings, only $4,000 behind leader Birch Negaard (Buffalo, S.D.).
Lyman said he's just approaching things one round at a time and holding nothing back.
"There's absolutely zero room for any error," said Lyman, who has won $37,302 in the first three rounds. "To be off the barrier and go make a safe run in this building is not really possible."
The roughstock events featured the eliminator pens Monday night the broncs and bulls most likely to buck riders off.
Coming out on top in bareback was Australian-turned Texan Darren Clarke, who rode Bar T Rodeo Company's Smokeless Red Lady for 88.5 points.
"I'd never seen him before, but I talked to Kelly Wardell, the bareback riding director, and he told me that he was a handful. He wasn't wrong, because he sure did buck when he got out there."
In saddle bronc, Cody Wright (Milford, Utah) rode Bar T's Robinhood Snuff for 88 points to win the go-round.
"I've never had this horse before," he said. "I've seen guys that have had him. Cody DeMers [Wright's traveling partner] had him in Spanish Forks [Utah] and they've won quite a few rodeos on him. He bucks a lot of guys off, but I was just lucky enough to stay on."
A lot of riders weren't so lucky, including Ira Slagowski, who was leading the average in saddle bronc heading into the third round. Slagowski was bucked off Powder River Rodeo's Show Me the Cards Dip.
Only two bull riders made the whistle Sunday night.
Myron Duarte (Auburn, Wash.) topped Bad Company Rodeo's Satan's Own for 92 points. Louisiana cowboy Cory Melton was second with an 84.5-point ride on Monster Mash of Rafter H Rodeo Company.
Duarte, riding with his broken left arm (his free arm) in a cast, said he likes the way he is riding this week and his chances for overtaking Terry Don West in the world standings. West (Henryetta, Okla.) was bucked off Big Bend Rodeo Company's world champion bull Smokeless Unforgiven.
"There's still seven rounds to go and anything can happen," Duarte said.
Jackie Dube (Giddings, Texas) had the fast time of the night in the barrel racing, smoking the course in 13.67, more than 2 100ths of a second faster than second-place Janae Ward (Addington, Okla.).
Guy Clifton covers rodeo for the Reno Gazette-Journal. He can be reached at 775.788.6337 or email@example.com.