It’s been 10 years since I walked into the Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
I was transitioning into the role of rodeo correspondent for The Oklahoman newspaper, shadowing Bryan Painter, whom I was replacing on the rodeo beat. He was showing me around the International Finals Rodeo, the season-ending championship of Oklahoma City-based International Professional Rodeo Association.
That night, Bryan introduced me to Ricky Huddleston, Sam Duvall and Dale Yerigan, all steer wrestling veterans, and Ronnie Fields, a relative newcomer at the time, but a cowboy who’d already made a name for himself in the IPRA.
I also met a couple of outstanding young brothers, Jet and Cord McCoy, known to most of the world as the cowboy brothers from “The Amazing Race.” Jet was 21, Cord 20, and they were battling for the all-around title that season.
Much has changed in the past decade. Fields turned his attention to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, where he has qualified for three Wrangler National Finals Rodeos – and won the 2004 average title. Yerigan is now in charge of the IPRA. Huddleston and Duvall still lend their experience and understanding to young bulldoggers, while the McCoys have become even more popular, thanks in large part to reality TV.
IFR 41 will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with subsequent rounds taking place at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
It’ll be a championship for many. It’ll nostalgia to me.