DUNCAN, Okla. – For decades, the Prairie Circuit has been a hotbed for the world’s best steer wrestlers.
From Gene Ross in 1931 and 1937 to Dean Gorsuch in 2006 and 2010, men from the region encompassing Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska account for more than 30 bulldogging gold buckles. Of course, Roy Duvall and Ote Berry account for seven of those world titles alone.
When it comes to circuit titles, the list of contenders is long and strong. They will all battle for that coveted championship at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20-Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.
“It’s a great title to win,” said Gorsuch, a two-time circuit champion from Gering, Neb. “We’ve got a great bunch of guys in our circuit. Even the guys that haven’t made it in a few years could win the circuit.
“Our circuit is tough, so winning it is a great accomplishment.”
How tough is the steer wrestling race?
Gorsuch sits seventh in the circuit standings with $8,720 earned at rodeos primarily in the region. He would have to nearly double his season earnings just to catch the standings leader, J.D. Struxness of Appleton, Minn., who attends Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva.
But Gorsuch is 18th in the world standings and needs just a little more to secure his ninth qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He is one of three circuit cowboys among the top 20 in the world standings, joined by Struxness and Riley Duvall, a third-generation bulldogger from Checotah, Okla. – Struxness is seventh, and Duvall is 10th.
But there are a whole host of others who are vying for either the circuit title or the average championship at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo – those two spots will advance to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for next spring in Kissimmee, Fla. For the first time in the history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, money earned at the circuit finales will count toward the 2017 world standings.
“Duncan has been a great place for our circuit finals,” said Ryan Swayze, the sixth-ranked circuit bulldogger from Freedom, Okla. “It’s been really good for our circuit finals. The real end prize is going to Florida.
“To win the year-end would be all that I could ask for.”
With just a couple weeks left in the circuit’s regular season, he will have some ground to make up to win that year-end championship; he needs to make up more than $6,500 to catch Struxness at this point. For now, though, he and others are excited about the possibilities of returning to Duncan.
“I’d love to get back there again,” Gorsuch said. “That committee is great, and I enjoy their rodeo.”