LAS VEGAS – While he gets all the glory when things go right and takes the blame when they don’t, J.D. Struxness isn’t competing alone this week.
He has a large team that supports him, but also he has a handful to help him, including Ty Erickson, who owns Crush, the horse Struxness is riding, and Matt Reeves, who is hazing while riding his horse, Kirk, an 11-year-old sorrel gelding.
That bond is working well so far at the National Finals Rodeo. Struxness placed for the second straight night with a 4.1-second run to finish in a tie for second place during Saturday’s second round.
“I thought the steer I had (Saturday) was just OK, but I was able to place on it,” said Struxness of Milan, Minnesota, now living in Perrin, Texas. “I didn’t think 4.1 was going to place that high, but that’s how everything worked out.
“The horses worked good. There are a few things to do to clean up the run, but we didn’t make too big of mistakes, so we were able to sneak in there for the money. We’ll take two rounds in a row.
His run on Night 2 was worth $21,296 and pushed his season earnings to $156,169. He sits fourth in the world standings and is continuing to build momentum. Part of that is studying his run with an objective eye to decipher what he may do a little better the next time to stop the clock a few ticks faster.
“You’ve got to celebrate the victories,” he said. “Then you’ve got to make sure that you pick apart what you did so you can be ready if you run across that situation again and try to capitalize on it a little better. You’ve got to be a bit picky on yourself but not too picky that you drive yourself into the ground.”
When the times come that he nods his head to start his run at the Thomas & Mack Center, he knows he can trust his team. Over the few weeks prior to the NFR’s start, Erickson, Reeves and Struxness trained together to make sure they were all on the same page once they arrived in the Nevada desert.
“Matt has a nice horse over there, and he does a good job out here in Vegas,” Struxness said of Reeves, an eight-time qualifier who won the 2019 NFR average champion. “We spent a couple of weeks practicing together. We’ve got a feel for each other, know the situations, and I know he’s going to be right there and read us pretty good.
“It’s working out well so far, so hopefully the horses and everything keep working like they do. If that happens, it could be a good week.”