EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the recap from Friday’s first five rounds of the steer roping finals, which appears on the Lazy E Arena’s website. You can find it HERE, too.
It was quite fitting that a couple of Oklahomans shared the spotlight Friday during opening night of the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping at the Lazy E Arena.
J.P. Wickett of Sallisaw was the night’s star by winning two of five go-rounds and placing in two more, pocketing $17,308. In the process, he moved from 15th to fifth in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s world standings. Kim Ziegelgruber, a first-time qualifier form Edmond, won the final go-round and is No. 1 in the aggregate race.
That worked very well until the fifth and final round of the evening. Wickett roped his steer cleanly, dropped it to the ground, but the animal got to his feet, resulting in a no-time.
“That ticks me off,” Wickett said. “I really wanted to rope all five head tonight. I got in a little bit of a hurry, and I rushed the trip. That was my fault.”
It probably hurt a little more that it was his final run of the night, but it doesn’t take away from his tremendous evening. Wickett won the opening round with a 10.5-second run, then followed it up with an 11.0 to be runner-up in the second round. He finished third in the third round with a 12.0, then won the fourth round in 13.2.
“I like to see J.P. do good,” said 14-time world champion Trevor Brazile, the top cowboy in the all-around and steer roping standings. “No. 1, he’s a good friend of mine and was my team roping partner. When you team rope for that long with someone, you’re either good friends or you’re not friends at all.
“He was a great partner, and he’s great for steer roping as our director.”
Even with his no-time, Wickett is fourth in the aggregate with 46.7 seconds on five runs – the average winner at the conclusion of Saturday night’s final performance will earn an additional $15,231, so the consistency through 10 rounds is important to the ropers who make their living doing this. Not only that, but money counts as championship points – the cowboy with the most money won at the conclusion of the 2011 season is crowned world champion.
Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., has been that man the last two years. In fact, he owns the single-season earnings mark set last year with $101,685. Patterson scored the fastest run of the night to win the second round with a 10.4, but was saddled with three no-times. Sitting second in the world standings heading into the championship, Patterson will have to make a bold move on Saturday to earn his third gold buckle.
Chance Kelton of Mayer, Ariz., won the third round in 11.5 seconds. He also placed in the first and fifth rounds. He has earned $11,231 so far. Ziegelgruber scored a 10.7 in the final round of the night; also he placed in three other go-rounds and has increased his annual earnings by $10,308.
“Last year I embarrassed myself, and I didn’t want to do that again,” said Wickett, 42. “This year I worked hard at it. The last three weeks, it’s be a grind. You want to win, but I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so I have to work harder at it than I used to.”
It worked pretty well Friday night.