HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Stan Branco makes no bones about his 2015 ProRodeo season.
“I just wasn’t bulldogging good enough,” said Branco, a 29-year-old steer wrestler from Chowchilla, Calif.
He kicked off his 2016 season on the right foot Thursday night with a 4.1-second run to take the early lead at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead.
“I rodeoed most of ’15 and came home early,” he said. I wasn’t winning like I needed to. If I start off winning now, it’ll hopefully start the year off right and I won’t be home in December next year.”
Each regular season runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, and only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. It’s not only the cream of the crop in the sport, but it also features the biggest purse in rodeo.
“That’s where you make money,” said Branco, who earned a spot among the elite steer wrestlers at the NFR in 2013 and finished the season ninth in the final world standings. “It took a lot of money to make it to the NFR this year. The money is really spread out, and a lot of guys can dang sure bulldog.”
In fact, steer wrestling might be one of the toughest events in which to qualify for the finale, so getting an early start is key. Of course, competing in top form is also a must in the discipline, where proper technique often is matched with powerful men.
“Bulldogging used to be the place to get the aggression out,” he said. “I’m trying to get some of that back. I roped calves and team roped my whole life, and bulldogging is something more like football.”
Standing 6-foot-4, Branco weighs in at 260 pounds, and he looks like he could easily fit into an NFL lineup.
“The biggest thing for me before was the fight of it,” he said. “I need to get some of that back.”
It seems as though he’s well on his way.
Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Winn Ratliff, 82.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Touched By An Angel; 2. Matt Bright, 80; 3. Richmond Champion, 78.5; 4. Scotty NeSmith, 78; 5. Kody Lamb, 77.5; 6. Anthony Thomas, 74.
Steer wrestling: 1. Stan Branco, 4.1 seconds; 2. Cody Doescher, 4.2; 3. Logan Glendhill, 4.4; 4. Clayton Hass, 5.0; 5. Wade Steffen, 5.1; 6. Shayde Tree Etherton, 5.5; 7. Wyatt Carney, 6.3; 8. Daryl Joe Elliott, 7.0.
Team roping: 1. Cord Crowell/Trey Carter III, 5.2 seconds; 2. Clayton Hass/Cody Doescher, 5.5; 3. Tyler Waters/Steve Northcott, 5.6; no other qualified times.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Sam Spreadborough, 77 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Sky Bow; 2. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Alex Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, 73; no other qualified rides.
Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Ace Slone, 10.0 seconds; 2. Trent Walls, 16.0; 3. Riley Lambert, 26.4; no other qualified times.
Barrel racing leaders: 1. Brittany Grant, 15.40 seconds; 2. Tiffani Sonnier, 15.44; 3. Shelby Garcia, 15.68; 4. Jennifer Epps, 15.71; 5. Jill Tanner, 15.74; 6. Susan Liggitt, 15.88; 7. Lauren Davang, 20.63; 8. Sydni Blanchard, 21.21; 9. Sherrylynn Johnson, 22.24.
Bull riding: 1. Tim Bingham, 83.5 points on Lancaster & Pickett Rodeo’s Cash Daddy; 2. Ardie Maier, 79; no other qualified rides.