SAN ANGELO, Texas – Will Lowe was just 19 years old the first time he qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
That was in 2002, and he’s been one of the best bareback riders in the game ever since. He is a 14-time NFR qualifier and, more importantly, a three-time world champion.
He proved every ounce of his ability Friday night during the opening performance of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. He matched moves with First Kiss of the Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo string for 85 points to take the early lead.
“That horse just bucks hard,” said Lowe, 35, of Canyon, Texas. “She jumps and kicks real, and it felt like she kicked straight over her head every time.”
He knows all about that kind of horse. In his career, Lowe has been on thousands of bucking horses, and he owns some of the highest-marked rides in the game, including a share of the world record he earned in 2003 after a 94-point ride.
“San Angelo is cowboy country,” Lowe said. “They always have such a great crowd; they always pack that coliseum. They’re knowledgeable, and they know what’s going on. They get into it.”
Now he hopes Friday’s score will move him to the championship round, which takes place Friday, Feb. 16 – it will feature the top 12 contestants in each event from the preliminary rounds competing for the elusive San Angelo championship.
“There were some really good horses out tonight, and there will be every night,” Lowe said. “I think I should be sitting good to make it back for the short-round. There are a lot of good guys to ride yet, but I think I should be in there.
“San Angelo is one of those rodeos that you hope you can always do good at.”
It helps to have big scores, and nobody competing Friday knew that any better than Trey Benton III of Rock Island, Texas. He took the early bull riding lead after posting a 90.5-point ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Air Marshal.
Benton won the bull riding title a year ago, which was one of the catapults he needed to make it back to the NFR for the fourth time in his career. He finished last year second in the final world standings with more than $322,000.
He’s already making his way toward the top in 2018, and it starts in San Angelo.
San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo
Feb. 2-4, Feb. 9-11, Feb. 14-16
Bareback riding leaders: 1. Will Lowe, 85 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s First Kiss; 2. Dayton Swearingen, 76; 3. Harry Ash, 72; no other qualified rides.
Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Will Lummus, 4.2 seconds; 2. Cody Cabral, 4.3; 3. (tie) Blaine Jones and Billy Bugenig, 4.4; 5. (tie) Tom Lewis and Badger Chambers, 4.8; 7. J.D. Struxness, 5.0; 8. Olin Hannum, 5.1.
Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, 4.0 seconds; 2. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 4.2; 3. Tom Richards/Jake Smith, 4.3; 4. Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler, 4.4; 5. Nelson Wyatt/Trace Porter, 5.4; 6. Bart Brunson/Wesley Brunson, 9.4; no other qualified runs.
Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. James Greeson, 80 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Deuces Wild; 2. Tom Knight, 76; 3. Hardy Braden, 75; 4. Clayton Brum, 70; no other qualified rides.
Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Cory Solomon, 7.7 seconds; 2. Cody Quaney, 8.5; 3. J.D. McQuistion, 9.1; 4. Reno Gonzales, 9.5; 5. Riley Pruitt, 19.4; 6. Randall Carlsile, 12.1; no other qualified times.
Barrel racing: Second round leaders: 1. Kasey Hall, 14.49 seconds; 2. Jimmie Smith, 14.60; 3. Kelly Tovar, 14.62; 4. Lyndee Stairs, 14.65; 5. Shaylyn Hudson, 14.74; 6. Aimee Kay, 14.78; 7. Rachel Rule, 14.81; 8. Savannah Hays, 14.89; 9. Fallon Taylor, 15.46; 10. Lori Todd, 19.39; 11. Kathy Grimes, 19.50; 12. Jacque Woolman, 19.97. Average leaders: 1. Kasey Hall, 30.99 seconds on two runs; 2. Lyndee Stairs, 31.10; 3. Jimmie Smith, 31.11; 4. Kelly Tovar, 31.14; 5. Shaylyn Hudson, 31.31; 6. Rachel Rule, 31.32; 7. Aimee Kay, 31.34; 8. Savannah Hays, 31.46; 9. Fallon Taylor, 31.95; 10. Lori Todd, 35.62; 11. Kathy Grimes, 35.93; 12. Jacque Woolman, 36.44.
Bull riding leaders: 1. Trey Benton III, 90.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Air Marshal; 2. Ednei Caminhas, 85.5; 3. Nate Perry, 82; no other qualified rides.