DODGE CITY, Kan. – Rusty Wright is 28 months older than the next oldest sibling, his saddle bronc riding world champion brother Ryder.
They’ve been close since that March day in 1998 when the younger brother was born to two-time world champion Cody Wright and his wife, ShaRee. They have three younger siblings, one of whom is Stetson, who just turned 20 this week and leads the all-around and bull riding world standings.
On Friday night, the No. 1 son held that same spot at Dodge City Roundup Rodeo after Rusty’s 90-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Let ’Er Rip to lead first round of bronc riding with one preliminary day of competition remaining. By the time the final bull bucks on Saturday night, Sunday’s championship round will be set.
And there’s a good chance the Wrights will be at the top of the leaderboard in their chosen event.
“I’ve been on this horse three times here in Dodge City,” said Rusty Wright, 23. “I was 86 on him once, he bucked me off last year in the short round, so I was really nervous today getting on him.
“I just thought to myself, ‘Stay back and lift on your rein; that horse will damn sure buck, so make sure you throw your feet and spur.’ That, honestly, is the best I’ve ever felt on that horse. I just kept things rolling. It felt awesome, and I’m really excited about it.”
He should be. It’s the second time in less than a week that Rusty Wright has scored at least 90 points – last Saturday night, he was 91 points to win in Eagle, Colorado.
But here’s the thing: He’s just one point better than his little brother, who posted an 89 on Frontier’s Molly Brown and is a close second place heading into the short round on the final night of Roundup Rodeo. He also has a couple of other advantages: He won the coveted gold buckle two seasons ago, while Rusty’s best finish was third place; Ryder also leads the world standings with nearly $185,000 in earnings.
“It’s never a bad day when you’re in the top spots,” said Ryder Wright, 21. “I’ve seen that horse a bunch; Rusty’s been on him three times, and (uncle) Spencer (Wright) has been on him. When I saw that I had him, I was happy. I wish I could take that horse with me everywhere.”
While there is good reason to celebrate – Stetson Wright sits second in the first round of bull riding – there is also the cause for concern. After his qualified ride Wednesday night, Stetson and 4L & Diamond S Ranch’s Last Cigarette met bull-head-to-Wright-chin. The end result for Stetson was multiple jaw fractures that required surgery in which four plates and numerous screws were placed in the cowboy’s face.
“The getting-hurt aspect of rodeo … you don’t want to think about it and you want to keep it out of your head,” Rusty Wright said. “But when your little brother’s laying in a hospital bed and you’ve been sitting there with him for two days, it’s hard to get it out of your head.
“If anybody knows Stetson, he’s in good spirits all the time no matter what. We couldn’t quit laughing all day today He’s got a broken jaw making everybody laugh like he always does. He keeps us in a good attitude and a positive mindset, so he made it better on us.”
Stetson Wright was transported from Dodge City to a Wichita hospital. His older siblings made the overnight drive from Sidney, Iowa, to Wichita that night. On Thursday, Rusty and Spencer made the round trip to Phillipsburg, Kansas, to compete at that rodeo and return to the hospital. After seeing Stetson off to surgery, they made their way to Dodge City for the largest rodeo in the state.
In addition to traveling together, Ryder and Rusty travel with Spencer, one of two world champion uncles. All three will likely compete in Sunday night’s championship round, but they have other business to tend to first: They left on a 13-hour drive to Sentinal Butte, North Dakota, to compete Saturday night before making the reverse trip to battle for the Dodge City title
“People talk about the Fourth of July being tough on us rodeoing, but usually the Fourth of July doesn’t seem as bad as these last two months (of the season),” Ryder Wright said. “We’re really busy with a lot of all-night driving, just trying to get all the rodeos in before the season’s over. I think the last two months are busier.”
It’s a mad dash, because the ProRodeo regular season ends Sept. 30; only the top 15 contestants on the money list in each event advance to the National Finals Rodeo. While Ryder is a virtual lock to compete at the grand finale, Rusty still has a bit of work to do – he is 10th in the world standings with more than $69,000 in earnings. He’ll add to that just by doing so well in the first round, and he expects a plenty of electricity come Sunday night.
“Frontier’s got so many good horses,” Rusty Wright said, noting that Let ’Er Rip has been a fixture in the short round for years. “That goes to show you how awesome Frontier is; they can buck that awesome of a horse in the long round and still have a whole pen of buckers in the short round.
“You know when you come to any of their rodeos, you better have your hammer cocked, because you’re going to get on a bucker. If it’s not a bucker, it’s going to be a nice one you can place on.”
Dodge City Roundup Rodeo
Dodge City, Kan.
July 31-Aug. 4
Bareback riding leaders: 1. Tilden Hooper, 87.5 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Medicine Show; 2. Steven Dent, 86; 3. Leighton Berry 85; 4. (tie) Zach Hibler and Logan Patterson, 84; 6. Mason Clements, 82.5; 7. Paden Hurst, 82; 8. Wyatt Bloom, 78.5.
Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Aaron Vosler, 3.7 seconds; 2. Dakota Eldridge, 3.8; 3. (tie) Nick Guy, Clayton Hass and Tyler Waguespack, 3.9 each; 6. (tie) Blake Mindemann, Levi Rudd and Denell Henderson, 4.2 each. Second round leaders: 1. Nick Guy, 3.7 seconds; 2. (tie) Dakota Eldridge and J.D. Struxness, 3.9; 4. Denell Henderson, 4.1; 5. Tyler Pearson, 4.2; 6. Riley Westhaver, 4.3; 7. Blake Mindemann, 4.8; 8. (tie) Kyle Eike, Jarek VanPatten and Jacob Edler, 4.9. Average leaders: 1. Nick Guy, 7.6 seconds on two runs; 2. Dakota Eldridge, 7.7; 3. Denell Henderson, 8.3; 4. Blake Mindemann, 9.0; 5. Jacob Edler, 9.3; 6. Clayton Hass, 9.7; 7. Kyle Irwin, 10.0; 8. Trever Nelson, 10.2; 9. J.D. Struxness, 10.9; 10. Dean Stermer, 11.3; 11. Brody Cleveland, 12.5; 12. Maverick Harper, 14.1.
Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Caleb Smidt/Ty Arnold, 5.0 seconds; 2. Chad Masters/Joseph Harrison, 5.1; 3. David Key/Rich Skelton, 5.4; 4. Garrett Tonozzi/Dustin Davis, 5.5; 5. (tie) Cory Clark/Douglas Rich and Cory Kidd V/Kory Koontz, 5.8; 7. Lane Ivy/Cesar de la Cruz, 6.5; 8. J.D. Yates/Trey Yates, 6.6. Second round leaders: 1. (tie) Luke Brown/Paul Eaves and Garret Chick/Ross Ashford, 4.3; 3. Nick Becker/Dawson McMaster, 5.3; 4. Clayton Van Aken/Cullen Teller, 5.6; 5. (tie) Garrett Tonozzi/Dustin Davis and Chad Masters/Joseph Harrison, 5.7; 7. Cory Kidd V/Kory Koontz, 5.8; 8. Bubba Buckaloo/Shay Dixon Carroll, 6.1. Average leaders: 1. Chad Masters/Joseph Harrison, 10.8 seconds on two runs; 2. Garrett Tonozzi/Dustin Davis, 11.2; 3. Cory Kidd V/Kory Koontz, 11.6; 4. (tie) Clayton Van Aken/Cullen Teller and Nick Becker/Dawson McMaster, 12.4; 6. Bubba Buckaloo/Shay Carroll, 12.9; 7. Luke Brown/Paul Eaves, 17.2; 8. Butch Levell/J.W. Beck, 17.2; 9. Cory Clark/Douglas Rich, 17.5; 10. Cale Markham/Brye Crites, 17.8; 11. Coy Rahlmann/Ryan Von Ahn, 18.9; 12. Tanner Green/Jake Clay, 24.0.
Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Rusty Wright, 90 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Let ’Er Rright, 89; 3. Tegan Smith, 87; 4. Jacobs Crawley, 86; 5. Wade Sundell, 84.5; 6. Spencer Wright, 83.5; 7. Dean Wadsworth, 82.5; 8. Dalton Kingery, 82.
Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Adam Gray, 9.0 seconds; 2. Ryan Thibodeaux, 9.2; 3. Colt Papy, 10.3; 4. Trell Etbauer, 10.8; 5. (tie) Blake Ash and Cooper Martin, 10.9; 7. Chase Williams, 11.0; 6. (tie) Trent Creager and Clay McCuistion, 12.4. Second round leaders: 1. Bryson Sechrist, 8.9 seconds; 2. Westyn Hughes, 9.6; 3. Adam Gray, 9.7; 4. Garrett Busby, 10.0; 5. Colt Papy, 10.1; 6. Trell Etbauer, 10.3; 7. (tie) Trent Creager and Luke Potter, 10.3. Average leaders: 1. Adam Gray, 18.7 seconds on two runs; 2. Colt Papy, 20.4; 3. Trell Etbauer, 21.0; 4. Trent Creager, 22.7; 5. Luke Potter, 22.8; 6. Ty Baker, 22.8; 7. Westyn Hughes, 22.9; 8. Blake Ash, 23.1; 9. Ryan Thibodeaux, 24.1; 10. Treg Schaack, 25.6; 11. Cooper Martin, 27.0; 12. Bryson Sechrist, 28.7.
Barrel racing: First round leaders: 1. Michelle Darling, 16.70 seconds; 2. Cindy Smith, 17.24; 3. Shelley Morgan, 17.29; 4. Shali Lord, 17.31; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 17.32; 6. Leslie Smalygo, 17.36; 7. Sara Cheeney, 17.37; 8. Kiley Dalchow, 17.40; 9. Maggie Carter, 17.49; 10. Amber Scales, 17.50. Second round leaders: 1. Jessica Routier, 16.93 seconds; 2. Shannnon Lillard, 17.01; 3. Janie Johnson, 17.11; 4. Shelley Morgan, 17.20; 5. Kynzie McNeill, 17.23; 6. Hollie Etbauer, 17.26; 7. (tie)Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Jana Bean and Leslie Smalygo, 17.28; 10. Michelle Darling, 17.29. Average leaders: 1. Michelle Darling, 33.99 seconds on two runs; 2. Shelley Morgan, 34.29; 3. Leslie Smalygo, 34.64; 4. Jeanne Anderson, 34.76; 5. (tie) Shannon Lillard and Hollie Etbauer, 34.77; 7. Sara Cheeney, 34.79; 8. Kiley Dalchow, 34.92; 9. Janie Johnson, 34.81; 10. Christine Laughlin, 34.88; 11. Maggie Carter, 34.92; 12. Kynzie McNeill, 34.94.
Bull riding leaders: 1. Koby Radley, 87 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Master Charge; 2. Stetson Wright, 86; 3. (tie) Wyatt Rogers and Dustin Martinez, 85.5; 5. Hayden Harris, 84.5; 6. (tie) Elijah Mora and Cordell Curtis, 83; 8. Jeff Askey, 81.