LAS VEGAS – Most people in Oklahoma would love to make $20,000 over the course of a few weeks.
Stockton Graves has earned $20,192 in just four days of wrestling steers at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but he’s not satisfied. Graves, 33, of Newkirk, Okla., has placed in each of the first four go-rounds in ProRodeo’s grand finale, stopping the clock in 4.3 seconds (tied for fifth in Round 1), 3.9 seconds (tied for fourth in Round 2), 4.6 seconds (sixth place in Round 3) and 3.9 (four place in Round 4).
“I’m not disappointed, but, yeah, it’s time to pick it up and start winning some firsts and seconds,” said Graves, who grew up in Ponca City, Okla. “I can’t complain, because there are a lot of guys who haven’t won anything, but I didn’t come out here to just win fourth and fifth.”
This is rodeo’s championship event, and at the conclusion of its 10-day run, the world champions will be crowned in each event. Only the top 15 in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season earn the right to play for the biggest pay in the sport, a purse of $6 million. Go-round winners will earn $17,885 each night.
Sunday’s round was quite tough for the best wrestlers in the world. It wasn’t easy to get a clean run, meaning everything from the release off the horse to grappling the bovine to the ground goes smoothly. The steers used in year’s championship seem to be a little tougher than years past, Graves said.
“You don’t want something bad to happen, but on the other hand, it’s something you can’t control,” said Graves, who just two weeks ago was announced as the rodeo coach at his alma mater, Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva. “You bulldog and do what you can do, then just see what happens.
“It’s been a very close bulldogging every night. I’ve been 3.9 twice and placed at the bottom, but I’ve been here when 3.9 didn’t place at all. After seeing all three pens of steers we have here, I think 3.9 is going to place pretty regularly, though.”
What is making it so tough?
“I think the steer are fresher,” he said, noting that these animals haven’t been run in competition as much as some steers. “They’re by no means big, but they do try a little more. Maybe the less runs that are on them is why they do try a little more, but I think that’s better than running worn out steers that know what’s going on.
“These guys are the top 15 in the world. Everybody bulldogs great; that’s why they’re here. You just keep running at them every night and try to win money.”