Irwin rebounds to catch big cash

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LAS VEGAS – Kyle Irwin wasn’t a big fan of the steer he had drawn for Sunday’s fourth round of the National Finals Rodeo.

That didn’t stop him from taking care of business. Irwin stopped the clock in 3.7 seconds to finish as the runner-up in the round, pocketing $20,731 in the process. He has moved up six spots to eighth in the steer wrestling world standings.

“That wasn’t the steer with the most action, but we are professionals at a professional level,” said Irwin, 28, a four-time NFR qualifier from Robertsdale, Ala. “I slowed down and made a good, clean run. We’ve got to remember that, to not be in a hurry and not worry about what everybody else is doing.

“You can get caught up in that, but you can take steers you don’t like and make good runs on them if you do it right. Last night was a good reminder.”

It was a nice recovery from his Round 3 no-time. After placing in the opening round Thursday, he made a solid run Friday. Saturday, though, provided a bit of a hiccup.

Kyle Irwin
Kyle Irwin

“It was good to rebound from the night before,” he said. “It was good to put some money in my pocket and build on the momentum. I’d just had two good rounds, then I struggled, but that’s the first time I’ve ever placed in the fourth round.

His Sunday night run pushed his NFR earnings to more than $44,000 and scooted his season money to nearly $120,000. That’s a nice start, and he knows he has six more nights to wrestle more Las Vegas cash.

“That money is where we want to be,” said Irwin, who attended Western Oklahoma State College and the Northwestern Oklahoma State University on rodeo scholarships. “I would love to win second the rest of the time. I don’t want to sound greedy, but I’m going to get greedy and win as much as I can while I’m out here.

“When we get to Vegas, we’re pretty much broke even, and this is where we make our money. Right now, I’m about $34,000 in the green, and I’d like to be $134,000 in the green by the time we’re done, so we’ve got a long way to go.”

Things are considerably different for him than they were four Decembers ago, when he arrived in Sin City for the first time. He’s now a married man and a father to Tripp, who will turn 2 in mid-January, and Ellie, who I just 2 months old. Thankfully his wife, Randa, and both mothers have been big helps during their first week in Las Vegas.

“This is a lot different than the first trip,” he said. “My mother just went home, and my mother-in-law is staying all 10 rounds. They’ve been a tremendous help for Randa and me, especially Randa. Having two kids under 2 in Vegas is a handful.

“One of the differences I really like is like the night I missed the steer. Randa sent me a video of Tripp in the stands, and he was cheering for me, even though I missed my steer. When I got back to the room, he was wearing his back number. … It keeps me grounded, and it reminds me of home. Nothing’s changed, and that’s the way I like it.”

It doesn’t hurt that he’s riding Scooter, the reigning two-time Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year that he and fellow bulldogger Tyler Pearson own together.

“He’s like one of the guys,” Irwin said of the talented sorrel gelding. “He’ll have fun. Last night he and one of the other horses we brought were nipping at each other and playing with each other. When we start to saddle him, he gets in a zone. He gets relaxed. When we get on him and start warming him up, you can feel him get stronger, and you can hear him breathing. It sounds like a freight train.

“He cuts up and has a good time, but when it’s time to get serious, he does.”

Las Vegas is the perfect place to do both for cowboys and their horses.


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