Cinch heeler capitalizes on his best year ever in return to Vegas
When he reflects on the 2022 ProRodeo season, Cinch heeler Logan Medlin can look back on some amazing things.
While roping with Coleman Proctor, Medlin accumulated $110,692 and qualified for his third straight National Finals Rodeo. He heads to Las Vegas as the fifth-ranked cowboy in the heeling world standings. He is a way behind the leader, reigning world champion Junior Nogueira, but Medlin knows the world championship will be won over the 10 rounds of ProRodeo’s grand finale.
Nonetheless, he’s going to celebrate a great regular season.
“To this point, this is the best year of my career,” said Medlin, 31, originally from Tatum, New Mexico, but now living in Stephenville, Texas. “This is the most I’ve ever won going in to the NFR by a long way.”
He and Proctor utilized momentum they gained at last year’s finale, where they collected $106,231 apiece and finished eighth in the world standings. Of course, having one of the best heeling horses in rodeo is a key component to consecutive trips to the NFR. Drago was named the co-heeling Horse of the Year in 2020 and won the title outright last season. This year, the talented bay was second in voting.
“He’s been a crucial part of my success,” Medlin said of Drago. “Our horses – mine and Coleman’s both – were a big part of what got us to the NFR. Coleman had a little bit of trouble with a horse that got injured in Cheyenne, but he had a couple other horses he jumped on and still did a good job turning steers. Coleman did a good job of not skipping a beat when he had to get off that horse.
“My horses were able to stay sound through the year. Drago is what I’ve ridden the last seven years. He’s Mr. Reliable, and he’s always going to give you a chance to win.”
That’s an important factor in just about any event in rodeo. Horsepower is vital to a cowboy’s success, whether he’s roping steers or riding for 90 points. It’s the confidence in his mount that provides a transition to success in the arena.
“I think you have to go into the NFR feeling confident,” Medlin said. “I know it’s the NFR and it’s the biggest function all year, but it’s another rodeo where you’re trying to do the best you can.”
His best is better than most. In 2020, when he first earned a spot in the championship, he and Charly Crawford earned $77,692 at Globe Life Field during the NFR’s one-time venture away from Las Vegas because of the pandemic.
With that experience and the one he had a year ago, Medlin has some valuable tools in his back pocket for his 10-day adventure in the Nevada desert.
“Although it only feels like 10 steers, it’s a long week whether it starts off good or bad, and I’ve done both,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep your focus on one steer. I know Coleman is going to turn a lot of steers, so I just have to worry about getting to my spot and giving myself the best chance to catch.”
He is one of five Cinch heelers battling for that coveted world championship.
JADE CORKILL, Fallon, Nevada
It didn’t matter who three-time world champion Jade Corkill roped with this year, he found success. He started the season off with Clay Smith, whom Corkill had gone to three straight trips to the National Finals Rodeo.
In the spring, he teamed with his longtime partner, Clay Tryan, with whom Corkill shares two Montana Silversmiths gold buckles. Tryan sits No. 2 in the heading world standings, and Corkill is fourth on the heeling money list with $110,855.
The biggest victory for the pair came at Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Corkill became the first team roper in Frontier Days history to win it in consecutive years. It was the fourth time the Nevada cowboy had collected the prized title at the Daddy of ’Em All: He and Tryan won the championship in 2013, and Corkill also claimed the title in 2009 while roping with another world champion, Chad Masters.
It’s been eight years since Corkill last won a world championship, but he’s roping as well now as he ever has. The proof will likely come during 10 December nights in Las Vegas.
TRAVIS GRAVES, Jay, Oklahoma
By now, Travis Graves should know his way around Las Vegas as well as he does his hometown of Jay, a community of 2,400 people in eastern Oklahoma. It’s not far from Arkansas or Missouri, and it was the stepping stone for one of the greatest heelers in ProRodeo.
Graves, 38, just completed his 21st season in the PRCA. Since 2008, he’s only missed the National Finals Rodeo one time. That was in 2009, when he finished 22nd. He’s been back every year since, and he’s found a great deal of success in the game he loves.
He competed this year with header Dustin Egusquiza, the third season they’ve made the NFR together. Graves finished the regular season seventh in the heeling world standings with $106,737. He’s already looking forward to his 14th trip to Sin City
Over the course of his career, he’s seen the ups and downs that come with competing on the biggest stage in ProRodeo. His best year was 2014, when he finished second in the heeling standings while roping with Trevor Brazile in Las Vegas. It’s about time he gets to the top.
JEREMY BUHLER, Arrowwood, Alberta
The auxiliary basketball court at the Thomas & Mack Center is home to the media covering the National Finals Rodeo.
It’s never been louder than after the 10th round of the 2016 championship, when heeler Jeremy Buhler and his heading partner, Levi Simpson, walked in after claiming their first world titles, becoming the first Canadians to earn rodeo’s gold. They had earned the right to whoop and holler all they wanted after a spectacular performance in Las Vegas.
Since then, Buhler has remained one of the dominant heelers in ProRodeo. He returns to the NFR for the fourth time in his career as the eighth-ranked man in the heeling world standings with $100,214 while spending the season roping with Utahan Rhen Richard.
Buhler is also a two-time Canadian champion who teamed up with his old partner, Simpson, to finish sixth in the standings. A big part of that was a victory in Ponoka, Alberta, but he and Richard also claimed the title in Salinas, California, and a couple of other rodeos. It’s why he’s back in Sin City.
LEVI LORD, Sturgis, South Dakota
After two years roping with header Wyatt Nelson, including a trip to the 2020 National Finals Rodeo, Levi Lord made a switch.
He opted to team with fellow South Dakotan Jr. Dees, and now Lord will be competing at the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time – his previous qualification came in the pandemic year that saw the NFR take place in Arlington, Texas. That December, he and Nelson placed five nights and finished third in the average, earning nearly $116,000 in 10 days.
It’s a big move for Lord, whose father, J.B., a longtime Badlands Circuit competitor and whose brother, Eli, a PRCA bulldogger. Lord finished the regular season ninth in the world standings with $97,443. This year, Lord and Dees picked up some key victories in Caldwell, Idaho, and Clovis, California.
If history repeats itself, Lord has a big chance to earn some serious Vegas money.