LAS VEGAS – Kyle Irwin and Tyler Pearson have done a lot of things together.
The two steer wrestlers travel together through the regular season, work together and co-own Scooter, the 2017 Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year. This year they qualified for the National Finals Rodeo together for the first time.
And on Wednesday night, they shared second place during the seventh go-round of this year’s championship, downing their steers in 3.6 seconds and pocketing $18,192 each.
“That was a good pen of steers, and the right guys had the right steers,” said Irwin, now in his third appearance at ProRodeo’s grand finale. “I think everybody showed out tonight. It goes back to what I say about this, and it’s the best guys in the world. I think tonight proved that.”
It was the third time in seven days that Irwin has earned cash in Sin City. He finished in a tie for third place in Round 2, then followed that the next night with the round victory. After three nights of not placing, Irwin found some relief in the words of a friend, Luke Branquinho, a five-time world champion.
“I saw Luke today, and he said I was overthinking it,” Irwin said. “He could read it all over my face. I knew it, too. He said, ‘Slow down and do your job,’ and that’s what we did tonight. We have three more chances to do our job, and I’m excited about it.”
It helped, too, that he had a solid steer. The previous bulldoggers had finished their runs in 4.3 seconds and 3.8 seconds, so the Robertsdale, Ala., cowboy knew he had a great opportunity. He rode Scooter through the run, exited as necessary and thought he had a chance to break the arena record – the existing mark is 3.0 seconds set by Steve Duhon in 1986 and Bryan Fields in 2001.
“What let me have hope in being fast is I knew he was going to stop, but I knew he was very friendly after,” Irwin said. “I think he was just behind me enough that if he jumps to the right there, it could be dirty fast.
“It’s fun, and when you get your feet on the ground fast in this building, it’s really fun. I’m grateful for tonight.”
He has earned $67,750 in seven nights of this year’s finale. He has earned $147,434, which is good enough for fifth place in the world standings. He also sits third in the average race with a cumulative time of 32.5 seconds on seven runs. Should he remain in that position at the conclusion of the NFR on Saturday night, he would add $43,154 to his take.
He owes a good portion of that to Scooter. In addition to Irwin and Pearson, Irwin has been the driving force for standings leader Ty Erickson and the No. 3 man, Tyler Waguespack. All four men, combined with others, have all worked to take care of the 12-year-old sorrel gelding through this rugged 10 days in the Nevada desert.
“He feels outstanding, and he worked great again,” Irwin said. “Wag was the fourth guy on him tonight, and he still placed. Scooter feels great and he’s working great. As long as we do our job the horse is going to do his.”