LAS VEGAS – Every cowboy knows how important a good horse is to his business.
Stockton Graves appreciates his mount, Gunner, owned by Jesse Peterson, because, well, Gunner can do things most steer wrestling horses can’t. It’s worked out very well for Graves, a seven-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Newkirk, Okla., cowboy has placed in the first two go-rounds of this year’s finale and earned $9,808.
“I should’ve won the round tonight or at least finished second, but I’ll take it,” said Graves, who grew up in Ponca City, Okla. “It’s my fault. I missed the barrier. Actually, if I hadn’t been riding Gunner, I wouldn’t have been 3.9 at all. It was all horse.”
Nonetheless, he knows what it means to perform at his best on the biggest stage in the sport.
“It’s important to do well here, because you work all year to get here,” said Graves, who recently was named rodeo coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “Everybody thinks you get here that you’re going to rich, but you still have to bulldog and bulldog well.
“You’ve got to do the best that you can do and not worry about anything else.”
Graves’ 3.9 finished in a tie for fourth place with 2007 world champion Jason Miller, but the round was extremely fast. Oregonian Trevor Knowles won the round with a 3.3, followed by Luke Branquinho’s 3.4 and Sean Mulligan’s 3.6.
“The main thing is coming in here making money,” Graves said. “Everybody comes to win a gold buckle, and it takes money to win the gold buckles. First thing is to win. If it comes down to the 10th round and you’re in the running for the gold buckle, then you’ve just had a great finals.
“There’s nothing for me to lose. I need to run at it every night.”