December 10, 2022 | Airdrie, AB | Thurston Wins Third World Title
Canadian bronc riding legend, Zeke Thurston, continued to fashion a story book career as he won his third World Championship. The second generation Big Valley, Alberta cowboy capped off a brilliant week by splitting the go-round win with Canadian teammate Kolby Wanchuk and Stetson Wright. Thurston placed in all but one round over the ten days, to accumulate an Average score of 876.5 points to capture that honour as well.
On winning his third championship, Thurston offered, “Honestly, this might have been the hardest one to get. I had a lot of ground to make up and the other fourteen guys in that dressing room are the bronc ridingest sons of guns you will ever see… I really had to work for this one.” Thurston was also the recipient of the Top Gun award that goes to the top money earner in a single event at the NFR.
A third member of the Canadian contingent, Logan Hay, competing at his first NFR, wound up second in the average and third overall. The other three members of the strong Canadian bronc riding representation were Dawson Hay, Layton Green and Kole Ashbacher.
It took them awhile to find their mojo, but team ropers, Jeremy Buhler and Rhen Richard, came alive with a vengeance in the final two rounds. Buhler, the 2016 World Champion Heeler, from Arrowwood, Alberta Canada, and his Utah heading partner were 3.8 for the win in round nine and 3.7 for a three way split of top spot in round ten. There was never much doubt about the 2022 World Champions. Kaleb Driggers, from Hoboken, Georgia, and the talented Brazilian, Junior Nogueira, made it back to back World titles, finishing second in the average and topping$340,000 in season earnings for the year.
Jess Pope has won the average at the last two Wrangler National Finals Rodeos. Each of those years, the World Champion was Kaycee Feild. Pope, who hails from Waverly, Kansas, won the average a third time in 2022, but this time, he added the elusive World Title to his resume. Pope ended up with 860 points over the ten rounds for the Average win and won $390,620 in season earnings en route to the Championship. In round ten, Feild, the six time world titleist, won the final go-round with a magnificent 92 on Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Night Crawler. Another former World Champ, Clayton Biglow, was second in the round with a 90 point effort on OLS Tubs Stevie Knicks from the Macza Pro Rodeo firm. The lone Canadian in the bareback riding field, Orin Larsen, went out after the fourth round with a thumb injury that will require surgery.
One of the biggest surprises of the entire NFR took place in the final round of the steer wrestling. What was thought to be a two man race between Will Lummus and Stetson Jorgensen, ended when Lummus broke the barrier and Jorgensen took a no time, leaving the door open for Tyler Waguesback to ride through and claim his fourth gold buckle. Waguesback, the Gonzales, Louisiana hand, was four second flat in the final round to split 4-5 to end up third in the average and earn $268,881 to edge Lummus by just $2700. Baker City, Oregon cowboy, Jesse Brown, won the final round in a rapid 3.4 to finish second in the average behind Kyle Irwin from Robertsdale, Alabama. Both Irwin and Brown rode Canadian Curtis Cassidy’s award winning bull dogging horse, Tyson.
In most cases at the National Finals Rodeo, the average plays a huge part in determining the eventual champion. Not so in this year’s barrel racing competition where Cotulla, Texas cowgirl, Hailey Kinsel, collected her fourth title despite hitting two barrels and finishing only eighth in the lucrative average to collect just $7000 in average money. Kinsel and her amazing mare, Sister, won four go-rounds, the second, third, ninth and tenth, and split 1-2 in the fifth round, in authoring a spectacular ten days that led to her win. Shelley Morgan was one of only two barrel racers to keep the barrels standing through all ten rounds and her consistency led to her winning the average. Popular South Dakota veteran, Lisa Lockhart, a four time Canadian Champion, rode her way from fourteenth place at the outset of the Finals to third in the average and fourth overall.
Unlike the steer wrestling, there were no surprises in the tie-down roping event. Caleb Smidt locked down his fourth Championship and added the Average title as well in a brilliantly consistent 10-round performance that saw him win $374,736, leaving him more than $100,000 ahead of second place finisher Shad Mayfield. The tenth round was won by San Angelo, Texas roper Ty Harris with a final round 7.2 second run. Harris won his first Canadian title just a month ago.
Stetson Wright’s Bull Riding Championship was the result of one of the most dominating performances in NFR history. Wright, from Milford, Utah, rode eight of ten bulls in capturing the Average and finishing with $592,143 in season earnings. It was one of two titles for Wright as he was, once again, the All Around Champion as well establishing new Season Earnings records in both the bull riding and All Around. Tristen Hutchings pocketed all $93,270 in tenth round prize money as he was the lone cowboy to make the eight second horn. Wright was bucked off in round ten by OLS Tubs Sunny from Macza Pro Rodeo. Two time Canadian Champion, Jared Parsonage, competing at his first NFR, ended a frustrating ten days at the Thomas and Mack arena by bucking off ‘Time For Magic’ from Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics.
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association(CPRA) with headquarters in Airdrie, Alberta is the official sanctioning body for Professional Rodeo in Canada. The CPRA approves 55 events annually with a total payout exceeding $5.7 million. The organization oversees the SMS Equipment Pro Tour Finals each fall in Armstrong, BC, holds their premiere event – the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) – at Westerner Park in Red Deer, AB in early November and endorses the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals as part of Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, SK. Follow the CPRA on Twitter @prorodeocanada and Instagram @prorodeocanadaofficial, ‘Like’ Canadian Professional Rodeo Association on Facebook or online at RodeoCanada.com.
For more information:
CPRA Communications and Media
Mobile: 403 625-9225
- Interview quote courtesy of the The Cowboy Channel