LAS VEGAS – For some, earning the first paycheck at the National Finals Rodeo provides a sense of relief.
J.D. Struxness has been through all this before. He didn’t let the fact that he hadn’t placed on the opening two nights of the championship bother him. He just went back to work and found his way to the pay window during Saturday’s third go-round.
“We’ll take a check right now,” said Struxness, who knocked his steer to the ground in 4.3 seconds to finish fifth and collect $7,462. “It was nice to get the ice broke finally, but there is a lot of time left, so we’ll just keep moving on up.”
While he is taking a businessman’s approach to the tasks at hand, there were a few emotions that may have played into his lack of success on the first two nights. It looks as though he’s got that lined out.
“I’ve been trying to do too much,” he said. “It’s been (three) years since I’ve been out here, and the nerves are a little higher. Everything is just a little tighter, catching those steers and trying to turn them back or just mostly overthinking.
“I went back to what (bareback rider) Jess Pope says, ‘Keep it simple stupid.’ Tonight, it worked, so hopefully we’ll keep going.”
He has a couple aces in the hole in his hazer, Curtis Cassidy, and Cassidy’s horse, Tyson, which has been named the PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year.
“Tyson is working good,” said Struxness, who won the intercollegiate national title in 2016 while competing at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “We’ve caught all our steers, and he gets stronger throughout the week.”
Struxness is joined by fellow Northwestern alumnus Kyle Irwin and fellow bulldogger Jesse Brown in riding the talented horse.
“I’m looking for the three of us to just keep getting better and better as the week goes on,” said Struxness of Milan, Minnesota. “(Sunday) night is the first round that we know the steers. They’ve already been r un once in the building. We will know our steers and know what we need to do. We’ve all broke the ice, so it’s time to get it on.”
He is now 28 years old and has learned a lot over his time in ProRodeo. He knows what it takes to win and will likely push the envelope if the opportunity arises.
“The experience always helps, knowing the dry spell can only last so long, knowing what we can do or knowing what to work on or change to get out of these dry spells,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I would have learned a little faster, and maybe things would have ended up differently. I’m also being a little more mature about things.”
Of course, he has a cheering section in fiancé Jayden and their daughters, Everlee and Lilly.
“They don’t care how I do out there,” Struxness said. “They are just happy to see Dad when I get upstairs.”