The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) moved back to its longtime home in Las Vegas this year. It was held in Fort Worth, Texas last year due to coronavirus restrictions that required a temporary change of facility. The NFR is the culmination of professional rodeo cowboys’ and cowgirls’ hard work all year, and they can earn a bigger paycheck competing in it than they received at other rodeos all year.
Only the top fifteen contestants in each Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event are invited to compete at the NFR, held each December. The seven PRCA events are bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, and bull riding. Cowgirls who qualify in the top fifteen of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) barrel racing event also compete at the NFR. Qualifications are determined by total monies won in sanctioned events held across the country throughout the year.
Veteran bareback rider Kaycee Feild won his sixth World Title last week. At 34 years old, he is one of the older roughstock riders still climbing on bucking horses to earn a living. Feild won $357,419 this year.
Sage Kimzey won his sixth straight bull riding World Championship with annual earnings of $411,465. He is close to tying – and possibly eventually breaking – the current record of seven bull riding championships held by rodeo legend Don Gay.
Tyler Waguespack traveled from Louisiana to take home the steer wrestling World Championship with $289,270 in earnings.
In the team roping event, Kaleb Driggers took home the heading World Championship with $263,266. Junior Nogueira won the heeling Championship after earning $277,611.
Caleb Smidt won the tie down roping World Championship with $318,455 in prize money.
For the second year in a row, 22-year-old Stetson Wright won the All-Around world title, which is earned by contestants who compete in at least two events. He competed in the saddle bronc and bull riding events and won a combined total of $585, 850 for his efforts. Wright also won the saddle bronc riding World Championship.
This year’s NFR paid out over $9 million over the course of the ten-day rodeo. Each night featured a go-round, with winners earning just over $26,000 per night and payouts down to sixth place. Money won during the NFR counted toward the World Champion tally, making the leaderboard change over the course of ten days. Contestants moved up (or down) in the standings during the Finals, so watching it was full of tense, dramatic moments for rodeo fans.
In Round 7, Stetson Wright received two rerides (chances to get on another bull when he was fouled during his ride through no fault of his own), which means he rode three bulls in one night. This was after the cowboy had already ridden a bucking saddle bronc for a full eight second. He finished his third bull ride hanging on by his fingernails and his feet were on the ground when the whistle blew, but he made a qualified ride and earned 90.5 points for his efforts out of a possible 100.
Wright’s perseverance embodies the cowboy way of life and is why fans keep filling the stands and tuning in to watch network coverage of rodeo.