LAS VEGAS – As a veteran saddle bronc rider, Chet Johnson knows a thing or two about his discipline.
He knows quite a bit about horses, too, so he knew his match-up with Sankey Rodeo’s Hermit was going to be something special for Thursday’s first go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Johnson’s traveling partner, fellow NFR qualifier Tyler Corrington won the rodeo in Great Falls, Mont., on the bronc with an 89-point ride.
Unfortunately, Hermit’s anticipation of a strong performance resulted in a foul when the powerful horse slammed into the chute gate upon leaving the starting line. The result was Johnson getting another shot on The Cervi Brothers’ Multi-Chem War Glory.
Johnson and the bronc matched moves for 78 points, which earned the Sheridan, Wyo., cowboy a share of sixth place on opening night – he finished tied with two-time world champion Taos Muncy and five-time NFR qualifier Wade Sundell, and all three cowboys earned $1,002.
While the earnings aren’t much considering the magnitude of the NFR, any check is important in the sport. This is the fourth qualification for Johnson, a Canadian champion who credits his sponsor relationship with Wyoming Tourism and RodeoAustin as keys to his success. He has finished the season as high as 11th in the world standings, doing so the first year he earned the right to play in Las Vegas.
Now Johnson sits 14th in the world standings, and he has nine rounds remaining in ProRodeo’s championship event. The Wyoming cowboy’s goal heading into the NFR was to win the coveted average championship by having the best cumulative score through 10 rides. With one qualified ride accomplished, he’s well on his way to achieving a watermark event in his long career.