SAN ANGELO, Texas – The state of Utah was well represented Friday night during the fifth performance of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo.
The big ride came late in the show, when 19-year-old Stetson Wright matched moves with United Pro Rodeo’s Happy Days for 89 points to tie for the bull riding lead with Aaron Williams, who rode last weekend. Both men are virtual locks to make the championship round, which takes place next Friday, Feb. 15, at Foster Communications Coliseum.
“All they told me about my bull was that he was mean,” said Wright, the third son of two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright. “He felt great. He hipped himself, and after I got sat back down, he felt really good and turned into my hand.”
Oftentimes, animals leaving the chute will bang on the metal post, and that could foul the rider as he tries to make the moves necessary for high scores. Obviously, Wright recovered. But that’s nothing new for the family, which boasts of a host of top-rated saddle bronc riders. Cody Wright led the way, earning his first gold buckle in 2008, then following it in 2010.
Jesse Wright followed with the world title two years later, then Spencer Wright claimed gold in 2014. Along the way, that generation of Wrights includes Jesse’s twin, Jake, and brother-in-law CoBurn Bradshaw as National Finals Rodeo qualifiers. Since then, Cody’s sons, Rusty and Ryder, have played on the biggest stage in the game.
Stetson seems to be following suit, albeit in bull riding. He competes in saddle bronc riding – he was 76 points on Friday night and will not advance to next week’s short round in that event – but he loves the idea of riding both styles of roughstock events. Ryder Wright scored 84 points on United Pro Rodeo’s Red One and is third in bronc riding.
“It’s gone a little bit better in the bull riding, but I can’t complain about either,” said Stetson Wright of Beaver, Utah. “It’s important for me to compete in both.
“All of us starting out doing both events. They call me the stupid one, because they’re all smart enough to focus on bronc riding, and I’m still doing both.”
He made that comment in jest, but he’s making it work. He’s excited that he’ll be back in this west Texas community in a week to battle for the prestigious title. It’s the first time he’s competed in San Angelo.
“That was awesome, because that crowd was crazy,” Wright said. “There aren’t many rodeos that have fans as crazy as these guys.
“I’d say making the short round is really important. I didn’t have much confidence heading into tonight, because I’ve been struggling. Now I feel like I have all the confidence back. It takes one ride to boost your confidence and one ride to take it away.”
Caleb Bennett knows that well. Born in Ogden, Utah, he lived in the Beehive State all of his life until moving to Corvallis, Montana, recently. He’s ridden the big waves of success and the deep dives the sport can bring … all in a single season.
On Friday night, Bennett rode United Pro Rodeo’s Pow Wow Rocks for 85.5 points to move into second place in bareback riding. He also is a virtual lock to return to the championship round. Two months ago, he was in a very tight race for the 2018 world championship with eventual titlist Tim O’Connell.
“It was awesome in a sense, being in that race and being in the position I was in – battling 1-2 with Tim – was something you always look forward to,” said Bennett, 31, a seven-time NFR qualifier. “I can look at the winter run I had last year and the way the year went clear up to the finals was what I’d dreamt of doing in my career.
“Looking back on it, you realize it wasn’t meant to be. For what ever reason, I wasn’t meant to capitalize. I was down about it for a little while, but now it just sends me in a different way to look at it. I look at all the ways I can improve so if I’m in that position again, I can capitalize.”
That’s the approach he had Friday. This won’t be his first time advancing to the short round at the stock show and rodeo.
“San Angelo is one of the bigger rodeos this time of year,” he said. “If you can have a heck of a winter run, you can set yourself up for the rest of the winter. To be able to capitalize on a good horse like I had tonight can set the year up.
“The crowd was awesome tonight. I was just taking that in. I stepped back as they were doing the opening, and that pace was packed. I’d say it was standing-room only, and it’s such a cool arena. That atmosphere and energy just runs through your veins and sends chills down your back.”
No wonder the best in the business look forward to competing in San Angelo each February.
San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo
Feb. 1-3, Feb. 8-10, Feb. 13-15
Bareback riding leaders: 1. Bill Tutor, 88 points on Lancaster and Jones’ Highway Man; 2. Caleb Bennett, 85.5; 3. (tie) Taylor Broussard and Jake Vold, 84; 5. (tie) Hunter Brasfield and David Peebles, 83; 7. Zach Hibler, 82; 8. Jesse Pope, 81; 9. Tony Barrington, 79; 10. Grant Denny, 78.5; 11. (tie) Waylon Guy Burgeois, Connor Hamilton and Steven Dent, 78.
Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Tucker Allen, 3.6 seconds; 2. (tie) Don Payne and Josh Clark, 3.7; 4. Sam Shelton, 3.8; 5. Denell Henderson, 3.9; 6. Jacob Talley, 4.0; 7. Dru Melvin, 4.2; 8. Payden McIntyre, 4.4. Second round: 1. Richard Coats, 3.2 seconds; 2. Dirk Tavenner, 3.8; 3. Tom Lewis, 3.9; 4. Tanner Brunner, 4.0; 5. Josh Garner, 4.1; 6. (tie) Jacob Edler, Stephen Culling, Dru Melvin and Cyler Dowling, 4.2. Average: 1. Tucker Allen, 8.2 seconds on two runs; 2. Denell Henderson, 8.3; 3. Dru Melvin, 8.4; 4. Josh Clark, 8.7; 5. (tie) Jacob Edler and Blake Knowles, 9.2; 7. Tyler Pearson, 9.5; 8 Payden McIntyre, 9.6; 9. (tie) Stephen Culling and Cody Devers, 9.7; 11. Mike McGinn, 9.8; 12. Dakota Eldridge, 9.9.
Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 3.6 seconds; 2. Nelson Wyatt/Rich Skelton, 3.7; 3. Levi Simpson/Cole Davison, 3.8; 4. Ty Blasingame/Brandon Bates, 3.9; 5. (tie) Coleman Proctor/Ryan Motes, Manny Equsquiza Jr./Dustin Searcy and Tyler Waters/Brady Norman, 4.0; 8. Anthony Lucia/Wesley Moss, 4.1. Second round leaders: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 3.5 seconds; 2. (tie) Luke Brown/Paul Eaves and Caleb Smidt/Will Woodfin, 3.6; 4. Brandon Webb/Kollin VonAhn, 3.7; 5. (tie) Aaron Tsinigine/Kyle Lockett, Lathen Bryant/Morgan McVay and Shane Phillip/John Phillip, 3.8; 8. Marcus Theriot/Coleby Payne, 3.9. Average leaders: 1. Clay Smith/Jake Long, 7.1 seconds on two runs; 2. Aaron Tsinigine/Kyle Lockett, 8.1; 3. Ty Blasingame/Brandon Bates, 9.5; 4. Marcus Theriot/Coleby Payne, 9.8; 5. Manny Egusquiza Jr./Dustin Searcy, 10.1; 6. Bart Brunson/Trace Porter, 11.5; 7. Lane Santos Karney/Dillon Wingereid, 11.9; 8. Ryan Reed/Monty Joe Petska, 13.4; 9. Cory Clark/Lane Mitchell, 13.7; 10. Jake Miller/Caleb Anderson, 14.1; 11. Nelson Wyatt/Rich Skelton, 15.1; 12. J.B. James Jr./Brock Hanson, 15.3.
Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. (tie) Cody DeMoss, on Lancaster and Jones’ Total Equine Angel Fire, and Colt Gordon, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Sadie’s Gal, 87 points; 3. Ryder Wright, 84; 4. (tie) Preston Burr and Wade Sundell, 83; 6. (tie) Aaron Lide and Wyatt Casper, 82; 8. (tie) Tate Owens, Hawkins Boyce, Jake Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, 81; 12. Josh Davison, 79.5.
Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Jake Pratt, 7.0 seconds; 2. Michael Otero, 7.1; 3. Kyle Lucas, 7.4; 4. Blair Smith, 7.5; 5. Tuf Cooper, 7.6; 6. (tie) Blane Cox, John Douch and Bryson Sechrist, 7.7. Second round leaders: 1. (tie) Justin Smith and Bradley Bynum, 7.2 seconds; 3. (tie) Cimarron Boardman and Jesse Clark, 7.6; 5. Brushton Minton, 7.87; 6. Cody Huber, 7.9; 7. (tie) Rhen Richard, Colt Papy and Michael Otero, 8.1; 4. (tie) Tyson Durfey and Blake Ash, 8.3; 6. Ryle Smih, 8.4; 7. Tuf Cooper, 8.5; 8. (tie) Haven Meged and Riley Pruitt, 8.6. Average leaders: 1. Michael Otero, 15.2 seconds on two runs; 2. Jesse Clark, 15.5; 3. Jake Pratt, 15.9; 4. Tuf Cooper, 16.1; 5. Haven Meged, 16.5; 6. Hunter Herrin, 16.6; 7. Blake Ash, 16.7; 8. Bradley Bynum, 17.1; 9 Trenton Smith, 17.8; 10. Cody Huber, 18.0; 11. Ryle Smith, 18.8; 12. Shad Mayfield, 18.9.
Barrel racing: Second round leaders: 1. Nicole Love, 14.08 seconds; 2. (tie) Teri Bangart and Sherry Cervi, 14.29 seconds; 4. Stevi Hillman, 14.32; 5. (tie) Halyn Lide and Kappy Allen, 14.34; 7. Mindy Goemmer, 14.35; 8. Lois Ferguson, 14.40; 9. (tie) Christy Larsen and Cheyenne Wimberley, 14.44. Average leaders: 1. Nicole Love, 30.20 seconds on two runs; 2. Teri Bangart, 30.59; 3. (tie) Stevi Hillman and Cheyenne Wimberley, 30.62; 5. (tie) Halyn Lyde and Kappy Allen, 30.79; 7. Kynzie McNeill, 30.80; 8. Carman Pozzobon, 30.81; 9. Ericka Nelson, 30.85; 10. Mindy Goemmer, 30.88; 11. Sherry Cervi, 30.89; 12. Jill Wilson, 30.93.
Bull riding leaders: 1. (tie) Aaron Williams, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Tequila Worm, and Stetson Wright, on United Pro Rodeo’s Happy Days, 89 points; 3. Brady Portenier, 87; 4. Rorey Maier, 85; 5. (tie) Cole Meloncon and Riker Carter, 84; 7. Aaron Pass, 83.5; 8. (tie) Dave Mason and Wyatt Edwards, 83; 10. Scottie Knapp, 82.5; 11. (tie) Parker Breding, Koby Radley and Lane Nobles, 82.