LAS VEGAS – Steer wrestler J.D. Struxness has a lot of faith in the horse he’s riding at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and well he should.
“He worked good,” Struxness said of Peso, a 14-year-old sorrel gelding he owns. “He remembered being back in the building. I feel like we got a pretty good start. He ran all the way through there and gave me a chance to make a good run at the end of the arena.”
The Appleton, Minn., cowboy stopped the clock in 4.3 seconds, finishing Thursday’s first round in a five-way tie for third place. He earned $7,531 and pushed his earnings to just shy of $94,000. The biggest thing, though, was that he moved up three spots to No. 10 in the world standings.
“I knew that steer was going to run a little bit, so I just tried to get a good start,” he said. “We were able to make a good run to break the ice for in our first run.”
With fellow steer wrestler Jacob Schofner hazing, Struxness has the confidence in himself, his horse and Schofner as he makes his runs at his second straight NFR. A year ago, Struxness earned nearly $129,000 in Las Vegas and finished fourth in the 2016 world standings.
“Hazing is probably the hardest part of bulldogging out here,” Struxness said. “He kept the steer straight for me, and we were able to make good run on him.
“This is where we make our money at the end of the year. To get a good start, it just helps motivate you to have a good 10 days from here on out.”
With a purse of $8 million, the NFR is the world’s richest rodeo. Go-round winners will earn more than $26,000.
“Being out here is still exciting,” said Struxness, who attended Missouri Valley College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University on rodeo scholarships, winning the 2016 college championship while at Northwestern. “I think it’s just as exciting as it was last year. It’s a fun, electric building to be in. All the money we get to run at this week is awesome. I couldn’t be more excited to be out here again.
“At this point, we’re just going to work with what steers we have. The biggest goal is to get them all thrown down this year and just try to win as much as we can when we can.”
He’s well on his way.