LAS VEGAS – Ryan Jarrett knew he needed to kick off his ninth qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in a good way.
He did it on Thursday night with a 7.8-second tie-down roping run, good enough for fifth place in the first go-round and valued at $6,769. Every opportunity to collect a check is vital, especially at the NFR, which features the biggest payout in the sport over 10 nights in the Nevada desert.
“It’s always good to get tapped off right off the bat,” said Jarrett, who was raised in Summerville, Ga., but now lives in Comanche, Okla., with his wife, Shy-Anne. “It sure makes the rest of the week a little easier when you don’t have to worry about it.
“I had a decent calf, but I was a little anxious to ride that horse even though I rode him one round here last year.”
The horse is T.J., a gray horse owned by Logan Bird. Jarrett placed in the 10th round last December on the gelding
“It felt good, and I’m excited to run nine more,” he said.
Over his career, he has had just about every experience possible inside the Thomas & Mack Center. He became the third-youngest all-around world champion after a stellar run in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling in 2005, having earned more than $263,000 that season.
Now he has an opportunity to make almost that much over the course of the NFR, with go-rounds paying winners more than $26,000 a night for 10 rounds. He is focused, and that first-round run provided important confidence for the remaining go-rounds.
“You don’t see many flawless runs ever, so there’s always room to improve,” Jarrett said about his opening-round time. “I don’t really need to make any tweaks to what we did. I just want to make good, solid runs and try to win more money.”
A key to his championship 11 years ago was his winning the average title, which pays a big bonus to the tie-down roper that finishes the championship with the best 10-run cumulative time. By roping a check in the opening round, Jarrett keeps all avenues open for making money.
This marks the Georgia-born cowboy’s ninth NFR qualification in eight years. Besides his inaugural run 11 seasons ago when he was a two-event contestant, he has since returned to ProRodeo’s grand finale in tie-down roping. He understands all that is part of the competition, even in the most coveted arena in the sport.
“I don’t get nearly as nervous as I did that first year,” he said. “I wish I could say I did, but I don’t think people have any idea what you have to put into it to make it work out here. It takes a decade of work to make it all possible.”
And based on the calves that are part of the NFR, he expects every round to be fast. He realizes he needs to be one of the fastest if he hopes pad his bank account. In rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event with the most money won at the conclusion of the finale will be crowned world champions. In Las Vegas, only the top six times earn money.
That’s why he wants to roll his momentum from the first round into a terrific week and a half in the Nevada desert.
“T.J. let me get a good start and handle my slack to help me make the best run I could,” Jarrett said. “It’s important to have all the confidence in your horse and in yourself. Now you just want to ride that streak and keep making money.”
Ryan Jarrett is on the right path.