LAS VEGAS – When the starting quarterback goes down, every team must then trust the next man in line.
J.D. Struxness is about to begin the second half of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and he’s already reached for his backup, a solid gray horse named Max, owned by 16-time NFR qualifier Todd Suhn. It paid off rather well during Monday’s fifth round, as Max guided Struxness to a 4.1-second run, worth $11,000
“Max has been out here a couple of times, and guys have done good on him,” said Struxness, who has moved up from 13th to fifth in the world standings, thanks to the $54,761 he has earned in the first five nights of the 10-round grand finale. “A couple of guys ride him, so I knew he’d work good.
“We had a good steer drawn, so I just needed to get that start. It doesn’t matter what you’re riding; you still have to get the start. That horse works good, so we got a good start and had a good run.”
He has pushed his season earnings to $131,203, and this is a great place to do it. Struxness won the fourth round, pocketing $26,231, so he has a chance to really cash in while he is in Sin City. So far, he has placed in three rounds.
“It’s nice that we are still rolling and doing good,” said Struxness of Appleton, Minn. “We will see what happens the rest of the week on whatever horse I’m riding. Hopefully we can keep rolling.”
Unlike most professional sports, there are no guarantees in rodeo. In order to get paid, cowboys must finish better than most of the others. There are 15 steer wrestlers competing in ProRodeo’s championship, and only the top six earn paychecks each night.
Horsepower is also the key. For most of the season, he has leaned on his solid horse, Peso, but the sorrel gelding has been running a fever. That’s why Max became the starter on Monday night.
“That’s why we brought him out here,” Struxness said of the gray. “There are problems that come up with horsepower right before the finals with a couple of guys. There wasn’t going to be very many horses to ride, so we made a good decision to bring him out here. I’m glad we did. I had a good horse to ride, and we placed on that steer.”
It takes a solid team to find success at a rodeo like the NFR. He leans on his hazer, Jacob Shofner, and Shofner’s solid hazing horse, Redbone.
“Jacob does a good job over there,” Struxness said. “He’s keeping those steers straight so we can catch them up fast without having to ride over too far. He makes it all happen over there.”
Now the Minnesota cowboy hopes to remain aggressive and see what happens in the second half of ProRodeo’s grand finale.