LAS VEGAS – Bray Armes has been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo before, and he understands the pressure and the fireworks that come with playing on ProRodeo’s biggest stage.
Now in his second straight qualification to the NFR, he recalls just how nervous he was last December when he walked into the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time as one of the top cowboys in the game. He didn’t realize, however, that those nerves would return with him.
“I don’t think I was near as nervous on the first night this year as I was last year,” said Armes, the 14th-ranked steer wrestler from Ponder, Texas. “If you don’t walk into that building and not get wound up, then something is wrong. I just didn’t control it on the first night.”
That changed Friday during the second go-round. Armes grappled his steer to the ground in 5.3 seconds to finish sixth on the night, collecting $3,005.
“I felt like the second night, I was still kind of charged up and ready to go, but I controlled it,” he said.
It worked out quite well. A year ago during his first trip to the NFR, Armes didn’t find the pay window until the third round. He’s hoping that momentum is the key to success.
“My steer was supposed to be the hardest running steer, but my horse got me there and helped me out,” he said of Ote, a palomino now owned by fellow NFR steer wrestler Matt Reeves. “I missed the barrier a little, and my horse ran him down.”
A bulldogger’s best friend is the horse he rides, and it looks like the palomino is a good fit.
“I need to get a little better start, but I think it’ll take off,” Armes said. “The nice thing about that horse is that you don’t have to worry about being able to catch one because they run too hard, because I know Ote would get him caught.”
During Saturday’s third round, Armes will be one of several NFR contestants wearing Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness in honor of a boy name Taylor Tornado, who is fighting neuroblastoma. Armes hopes to bring awareness to the cause while also chasing his gold buckle dreams in Las Vegas. He knows, though, that the next eight days will feature a great race for the 2013 world championship.
“Bulldogging is so tight; I think it’s going to be a great race,” he said. “As of right now, the world title is anybody’s to grab. We’ve got eight more nights, and you can win $18,000 more each night; I think it’s anybody’s game.”