LAS VEGAS – When cowboys arrive at in Sin City, they know the competition will be tough.
Only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, so it’s a showcase of the sport’s elite from that year. Now in his fourth trip to the championship, Wyatt Casper understands that well.
“I’ve been riding well, but I just needed something to happen,” he said.
That came Sunday night, when he rode Corey & Lange Rodeo’s Diamond Fever for 85.5 points to finish in a tie for fifth place in the third go-round. It was his first time in the money since the rodeo began, and it offered a bit of relief.
“It took until Round 3, but we finally got a paycheck,” said Casper of Pampa, Texas. “Yeah, we’re excited. Anytime you can get a check out here. It feels good.”
There are more than 600 PRCA rodeos across the country, and winning most of them would offer a smaller payday than the $6,438 he collected in Las Vegas. It’s a significant amount of money for one eight-second ride, but it pales in comparison to the $30,706 that goes to each night’s winner.
The NFR offers an impressive payout, issuing nearly $100,000 per day for 10 nights. By earning money on the third day of competition, Casper pushed his yearly income to just shy of $160,000. He is 12th in the world standings.
“I felt like I was riding good the first two nights,” said Casper, 27, of Miami, Texas. “We’re just going to carry it over into these next couple of rounds. You want to get the good draws and show what you can do.”
Sunday’s battle with Diamond Fever was a rematch. The two danced across the Thomas & Mack Center floor at the 2021 NFR, and Casper was 84 points. He didn’t earn any money that night, so there were a lot of positive steps over time.
“I wouldn’t say I was really excited about drawing him,” Casper said. “It’s not really a horse that fits my style. I’m a bigger guy, and he is a little bitty thing. I’m still glad it all worked out.”
The ride also boosts his confidence. Originally from the tiny community of Balko, Oklahoma, he will have his biggest battle at this NFR during Monday’s fourth round. He will be matched with Championship Pro Rodeo’s Tickled Pink, which is part of the eliminator pen, the hardest-to-ride broncs at the NFR.
“We’re going to cross our fingers and hopefully draw of the better ones out of that pen so we can make some points,” said Casper, the 2016 intercollegiate champion at Clarendon (Texas) College. “You just want to stay aboard and hopefully get to the South Point.”
The casino and resort on the south side of The Strip is rodeo central during the NFR and hosts the nightly Montana Silversmiths Go-Round Presentation. Nightly winners will be awarded buckles and celebrated on stage.
It’s where every contestant in the field wants to be on any given night, and it’s another attractive feature to competing on ProRodeo’s biggest stage.