LAS VEGAS – There is tremendous pressure when contestants arrive in the Nevada desert for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
It’s intensified greatly when it’s an athlete’s first trip to ProRodeo’s championship event. None of that seems to matter for Jacob O’Mara, a 20-year-old bull rider from Prairieville, La. During the second go-round on Friday night inside the Thomas & Mack Center, O’Mara matched moves with the Classic Pro Rodeo bull Junior Bonner for 86 points, good enough for third place on the night and a check worth $10,673.
That’s a nice step for the young cowboy making his first trip to the City of Lights and riding for his share of the $6 million purse that’s available.
O’Mara – who credits his relationship with Tony Lama Boots, Cinch and the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino for helping him down the rodeo trail all season long – failed to mark a qualifying eight-second ride in the opening round on Thursday. But he posted a nice score Friday after the judges rewarded him with a re-ride when things didn’t work out well with his original draw, Growney Brothers Rodeo’s Cash Money.
Instead, O’Mara took advantage of the situation and put himself back in the money. Of course, he’s got a long road ahead of him if he hopes to claim that elusive world championship; he trails world standings leader Shane Proctor of Grand Coulee, Wash., by about $85,000. But this is the NFR, where all contestants hope to get their hands on a big share of the $6 million purse.
Go-round winners will earn a check worth $17,885 each of the 10 nights, so O’Mara has the opportunity to make up significant ground. Luck will play a role in it, especially in bull riding, where cowboys are matched with some of the most amazing athletes, which, by chance, weigh upwards of 1,600 pounds.
But these are the cards O’Mara has been dealt. He’s proven over the course of the season that he belongs in this arena with the elite bull riders in the sport. His goal is to make a hefty income in just 10 days and prove why he’s ready to fight for a world title at such a young age.