LAS VEGAS – Riley Duvall has experienced the highs and lows that come with competing at ProRodeo’s grand finale.
He had all the emotions that come with a fantastic start at the 2021 National Finals Rodeo, knocking down his first steer in 3.7 seconds to share the first-round victory with Idahoan Dirk Tavenner on Thursday night.
“It’s crazy, because there’s so much pressure off now, and I don’t know why,” said Duvall, 29, of Checotah, Oklahoma. “I’ve always wanted to win money right off the bat and have a fun week. This year, I snuck in toward the end (of the season) and didn’t think I was going to be here.
“I told my wife and myself that I’m having fun every night win, lose or draw. You never know how many times you’ll come back here, so I’m not taking anything for granted. Every steer I run, I’m excited and am just going to go at it. Hopefully it works like it did tonight.”
Duvall, who used some late-game heroics by winning the California Rodeo Salinas on the final weekend of the regular season, earned his fourth NFR qualification this season. He is the fifth member and third generation of his family to have earned trips to the world championship, following in the footsteps of his great uncle Roy Duvall, cousin Tom Duvall, father Sam Duvall and uncle Spud Duvall.
Even before he earned his first NFR bid, Riley Duvall had made a name for himself in steer wrestling. He hazed for a number of cowboys over the years, including four men who performed at the 2013 NFR.
Having been around the game all his life, he knows what to look for when it comes to good bulldogging steers.
“I watched that steer at Hunter (Cure’s) house three times when we picked them, and I liked him from the start,” he said. “The one I really wanted to draw got taken out today because he was sore, but it still worked out.”
Yes, it did. With his $10,000 qualifying bonus, he has pocketed $34,167 in Las Vegas and pushed his season earnings to $100,887. He has moved up from 13th to fifth in the world standings in one fell swoop.
Riding Dr. Pepper, a horse owned by Trever and Cierra Nelson that he rode much of the season, Duvall leans on the assistance of his longtime friend, traveling partner and hazer, Shane Frey, and Kirk, the hazing horse owned by fellow bulldogger Matt Reeves.
“We practiced all fall with my hazing horse, and his foot got bruised really bad and he wasn’t going to work,” said Duvall, who hadn’t won in Las Vegas since the ninth round of the 2016 NFR. “Matt called and offered his horse and said he’d let Shane haze. Shane’s stuck with me for nine years now, and I didn’t want to cut Shane. I’m thankful Matt and his wife let it happen.
Trever and Cierra’s horse is awesome. It should be a fun week. I had never had over $20,000 won before the sixth round, so I’m pumped.”