LAS VEGAS – The bright lights of Las Vegas have broken some men while paying off others very well.
Consider steer wrestler Kyle Irwin in the latter.
Through three nights at the National Finals Rodeo, Irwin has earned $40,916. He has placed in every go-round so far and has won at least a share of the title the last two. On Saturday night, he scored the fastest run of this year’s championship, a 3.2, to take the title.
“In a humble way, I know I have the ability to be that fast but, sometimes, everything’s got to work out,” said Irwin of Robertsdale, Ala. “That 3.2 is pretty fast when you’re riding animals that are chasing animals. It worked out. Everything came together perfect, and the rest was history.”
Recent history is working out quite well for the 24-year-old cowboy, who attended Western Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University on rodeo scholarships. Now he’s enjoying his first extended stay in Sin City.
“I’ve been 3.2 just a handful of times in my life,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve really set foot in Vegas. I flew into Vegas with Todd Suhn going to a rodeo in St. George, Utah. We got in a rental car and drove to the rodeo, but I never got out. This is the first time I have ever walked around the city.
“It’s been good. I hope it continues.”
If momentum is a key, then Irwin is riding it just as much as he is his steer wrestling mount, Sketch, owned by Tyler Pearson; he also serves as Irwin’s hazer, helping keep the steer in line to help the process.
“Tyler is a heck of a horseman, and he’s a really good hazer,” Irwin said. “The guy is good, and he can read the play. Whatever the steer does, Tyler can react to it. I have no doubts in my mind about his hazing when I run a steer.”
The Alabaman bulldogger’s NFR earnings have pushed his season total to $100,653. He has moved from 10th to third in the world standings and is within $13,000 of catching the leader, Nick Guy. Now Irwin looks like a veteran instead of a first-timer to the sport’s biggest stage.
“That little horse does a good job of getting me up behind those horns real fast,” he said of Sketch. “The biggest deal was the start. I know I need to get the start and get my feet on the ground fast. The rest is the steer doing his part. I knew I had a good steer and a good chance.
“Once I got him, I could slow down, and he did the rest for me.”
Irwin has taken advantage of a great start to the NFR. Now he just needs to finish even better.
“The momentum will build,” he said. “The average money will take care of itself. I’m definitely going to try to win first every time I nod my head, because $19,000 is up for grabs every night. I’ve got that chance seven more times.”