LAS VEGAS – Like every cowboy who has laid his head to sleep, Hunter Cure has dreamed of winning a world championship.
His dream came true Saturday night when he clinched steer wrestling’s gold buckle, punctuating it by placing in the seventh round of the 10-night Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – he scored a 3.9-second run to finish fourth, and that helped push him to the No. 1 spot in the world standings with $173,355.
“I believe this is the dream of any kid that has ever picked up a rope or bulldogs a plastic steer-head dummy, so I’m blessed to be here at the moment,” said Cure, 30, of Holliday, Texas. “I felt like I was better prepared having the experience of one NFR under my belt coming into this week, and my horse continued to work better as the week went on.”
It all contributed to an outstanding championship. In all, Cure earned $108,348 in Las Vegas. Most came in the go-rounds – he won both the fifth and eight rounds – but he added the $30,649 bonus for finishing third in the average race, finishing with a 10-run cumulative time of 53.1 seconds. Of course, he credits his horse, Charlie, and hazer Riley Duvall.
“Riley did a phenomenal job,” he said, noting that Duvall also hazed for Matt Reeves and Bray Armes, who finished second and third in the world standings, respectively. “We were first, second and third for him; that speaks volumes for how good he truly is.”
Riding Reeves’ hazing horse, Beemer, Duvall collects 6.25 percent of each cowboy’s earnings. That means he earned $6,772 from Cure. Since Reeves owns Beemer, he gets 6.25 percent, too.
“They have to share that hazing percentage, but I think Riley will have a bonus coming his way,” Cure said.
Like any elite athlete, cowboys competing at the NFR must handle the pressure that comes with a championship competition. In Cure’s case, he was one of four cowboys who had a shot at the gold buckle heading into Saturday’s final night of the 2013 season. He made the move that was needed, but he also received a little bit of help when two-time world champion Dean Gorsuch failed to score a time; Gorsuch’s steer got away from him, so the title slipped away.
“We just tried to put back on the hard hat and go back to work tonight,” he said. “I felt like any one of the four of us who won the most money in the round tonight was most likely going to be the world champion.”
He was right. Cure had the best finish of any of the four, and he grabbed the gold buckle.
“My hat’s off to Dean Gorsuch; what a tough way to end the week,” he said. “Nerves weren’t so much of the factor. I needed to have an excellent start tonight, and I got a good start, but not quite as aggressive as I was hoping to be right there.”
It worked anyway, and he will be the toast of the town when he returns to Holliday this week.
“My phone … it gets 45 text messages a day,” Cure said. “My hometown support has been phenomenal. It’s been a huge stepping stone as far as mentally knowing that everybody back in Texas is behind me.”
So is the rest of the world.