LAS VEGAS – Steer wrestler Kyle Irwin arrived in the Nevada desert on fire, placing in the first three go-rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
That included sharing the second-round title with four-time world champion Luke Banquinho and winning the third round outright. But the Alabama cowboy found a cool streak among the sandy terrain and cacti – for four nights.
He found the branding iron again Thursday with 3.7-second run, tying him for the eighth-round victory with Montana cowboy Ty Erickson. For that, each cowboy earned $17,010.
“I’m not going to say I have or haven’t had the steers to place or to win go-rounds on, but the draw does play a huge role,” said Irwin, 24, of Robertsdale, Ala. “I have made some mistakes and a lot of that was me, but I got by what I think are some pretty trashy steers … ones that can take you out of it.
“(Thursday) I had one that I knew was going to give me a good chance, and I took full advantage of him. When you get a good one, win on him; when you get an OK one, get by him.”
That philosophy is working well for Irwin, who attended Western Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University on rodeo scholarships. He has earned nearly $58,000 in just eight nights and has pushed his 2014 earnings to $117,431. He is fourth in the world standings.
He also found a little positive karma prior to the performance.
“I took a ride with Joe Beaver today in a cab, and we were talking about everything,” Irwin said. “He said, ‘I’ve been lucky before, so I’m going to shake your hand and rub some off on you.’ I don’t know what Joe’s got going on tomorrow, but we’re getting in a cab and riding around again tomorrow.”
Joe Beaver is one of the ProRodeo’s legends, an eight-time world champion who also serves as an analyst for the NFR broadcasts. His words – and that handshake – helped the first-time NFR qualifier. He collects his third round victory, this time with another NFR rookie in Erickson.
“I think that says a lot about our industry and about the youth coming up,” Irwin said. “No part of me thinks this was a fluke, that I’m here because I deserve to be here, and I put in just as much effort and went to just as many rodeos, paid as many entry fees as everybody else, so I’m going to celebrate this round win. I think Ty should feel the same way.”