COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – High-stakes drama is waiting to unfold in Las Vegas for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
The upcoming $10 million Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER – rodeo’s Super Bowl – takes place Dec. 1-10 at the Thomas & Mack Center, beginning at 6:45 p.m. (PT) each night.
Cowboys will be competing for gold buckles in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping heading, team roping heeling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, bull riding – and of course the battle for the prestigious all-around cowboy title.
There are several tight races to watch at the Wrangler NFR with the chase for that all-around gold buckle leading the way.
Team roping heeler Junior Nogueira arrives in Las Vegas as the all-around leader with $122,342 in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings. Nogueira and his team roping partner, header Kaleb Driggers, are also atop their respective standings.
“I want to do my job and rope really well, because these are the top ropers in the world, and the guys competing for the all-around are all very talented,” Nogueira said. “Whoever has the best Finals will win the all-around title.”
Nogueira is correct.
Steer wrestler Josh Peek ($116,603) and team roping header Dustin Bird ($109,694) round out the top three in the all-around standings, followed by team roping header Clay Smith ($104,809), team roping heeler Russell Cardoza ($100,233) – Bird’s partner – steer wrestler Clayton Hass ($97,319), Caleb Smidt, the reigning tie-down roping world champion ($89,969) and tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett ($85,127).
Cardoza is the only one of the group who can’t claim the gold buckle because he starts the rodeo $9,000 behind his partner, Bird.
Peek’s best career finish in the all-around standings was second in 2007 and 2009.
The all-around standings leader could easily change during the 10-round rodeo since first place in a round pays $26,231, and first place in the average pays $67,269.
Of the contenders for the all-around gold buckle who will be at the 2016 WNFR, only Jarrett has won the title in the past (2005).