LAS VEGAS – Jacob O’Mara was thrown off his first bull during the first round of his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He hasn’t hit the ground early since, and on Saturday night during the third go-round of ProRodeo’s championship event, O’Mara matched moves with the bull Big Iron for 88.5 points for the best score on the night and a winner’s paycheck of $17,885.
“That bull … I’ve been watching him go all year, and I couldn’t wait to see him next to my name,” said O’Mara, 20, of Prairieville, La. “I’ve been waiting for it all year, and just having him here at the finals with as much excitement as there is here, it couldn’t have worked out any better. It’s awesome.”
So is O’Mara’s appearance through the NFR’s first three nights of the 10-round marathon. He finished third in the second round, and has earned $28,557 so far. He leads the all-important average race with the best cumulative score – he’s ridden two bulls for 174.5 points and leads the race to the NFR average title by five points over Wyoming cowboy Bobby Welsh.
“I’m happy, but there’s a long road ahead,” O’Mara said. “We’ve got seven rounds left. Praise God it’s went this good so far, and just keep the ball rolling.
“It’s just awesome to be here and be this successful and just being able to fulfill my dreams.”
O’Mara has moved up one spot to third place in the world standings, yet still trails leader Shane Proctor by more than $67,000. But this is the richest rodeo in the world, with a $6 million purse. O’Mara has a chance to make a significant amount over the course of his 10 nights in the City of Lights.
“I’ll just try to take care of business,” O’Mara said. “I’ll do what I know how to do and have fun. I don’t want to get to thinking too much.”
The Louisiana cowboy has been one of the hottest bull riders going over the last few months, winning the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., and the All American ProRodeo Finals in Waco, Texas. Even though he was bucked off that first bull on Thursday night, he realizes nerves might’ve had something to do with it.
“It had to be first night jitters, because that’s a bull I should ride, or anybody should ride, any day of the week,” he said. “I’m just glad I got that out of the way and can just keep the ball rolling this week.”