Stockton Graves is an Oklahoma cowboy who is proud of the state’s rodeo heritage.
He’s also excited to be competing in his capital city for one of the most coveted championships in his sport during the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo at Jim Norick Arena on the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. On Thursday night during the first of five performances, Graves posted a 3.3-second run to take the lead in steer wrestling.
“I think it’s great being able to compete in Oklahoma City for the national championship,” said Graves, 32, of Newkirk, Okla. “I think they’ve done a great job trying to put this rodeo on and bringing it back to where the NFR was for so many years. It’s a rodeo state.”
That it is. The State Fair Arena was home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from 1965-78, though Oklahoma City hosted at the then-called Myriad Arena through 1984, when Las Vegas became the host. So returning this type of championship to central Oklahoma is important for the region and the competitors who are in town competing.
Graves has qualified for the Wrangler NFR six times, while this is his fourth trip to the national circuit finals. He won the national championship in 2006, and his hot start gives him an advantage – half of the 24 contestants in each event competed Thursday, and the other half will compete at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The second round will take place Saturday, with performances scheduled for 1 and 7:30 p.m. The final performance, set for 1 p.m. Sunday, will feature the top eight cowboys and cowgirls from each event and will be pared down to the eventual champions.
“It’s very good to have a good run to start,” Graves said. “It takes some pressure off on the next run. If you don’t place, then you still have a good chance to make it back in the top eight. I always like to do good on my first one, and hopefully it just keeps rolling.”
That’s what helps champions earn the buckles they crave and the titles for which they battle.
“This is the first time I’ve ever ridden that horse,” he said of Maximus, owned by fellow steer wrestler Todd Suhn of Weatherford, Texas. “Horses like Maximus make our jobs easy. You’ve got to ride the best to beat the best.”
He wasn’t the only one who was best Thursday night. Other winners were tie-down roper Brett Flemming of Warden, Mont., 8.2 seconds; bareback rider Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 84 points on J Bar J’s Freckled Doll; saddle bronc rider J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 85 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Firelane; team ropers Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 5.5 seconds; barrel racer Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.24 seconds; and bull rider Ryan Shanklin, Rocksprings, Texas, 86 points on MoBetta Rodeo’s Carter Hou.
1. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 84 points on J Bar J’s Freckled Doll
2. (tie) Dave Worsfold, Queensland, AU, 80
Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 80
4. Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, 76
5. (tie) Bo Casper, Fort Scott, Kan., 75
Clint Lear, Anderson, Calif., 75
1. Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., 3.3 seconds
2. Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., 3.9
3. John Franzen, Riverton, Wyo., 4.1
4. Casey McMillen, Redmond, Ore., 4.4
5. Damian Padilla, Rio Rico, Ariz., 4.5
6. Matt Reeves, Cross Plains, Texas, 4.9
1. Brett Fleming, Worden, Mont., 8.2 seconds
2. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 9.1
3. Grady Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 9.5
4. Wes Arcement, Raceland, La., 10.2
5. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 10.4
6. Carmine Nastri, Ballston, N.Y., 11.2
Saddle Bronc Riding
1. JJ Elshere, Quinn, S.D., 85 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Firelane
2. Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 81
3. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 80
4. Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 78
5. Curtis Garton, New Zealand, NZ, 75
6. Travis Sheets, Hyannis, Neb., 73
1. Charly Crawford, Prineville, Ore./Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore., 5.5 seconds
2. Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 5.7
3. Tom Richards, Humboldt, Ariz./Tyler Getzwiller, Scottsdale, Ariz., 6.8
4. Ross Lowry, Summerville, Ga./Stephen Britnell, Maryville, Tenn., 7.1
5. Ryan Siemsen, Worden, Mont./Ross Carson, Killdeer, N.D., 8.2
6. Jason Arndt, Fort Scott, Kan./Gabe Gwaltney, Carthage, Mo., 8.4
1. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 15.24 seconds
2. Linda Vick, Hesperia, Calif., 15.50
3. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 15.51
4. Jessi Eagleberger, Stringtown, Okla., 15.52
5. Shali Lord, Lamar, Colo., 15.56
6. (tie) Theresa Walter, Billings, Mont., 15.60
Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 15.60
1. Ryan Shanklin, Rocksprings, Texas, 86 points on MoBetta Rodeo’s Carter Hou
2. Shawn Proctor, Tooele, Utah, 85