LAS VEGAS – When the official secretary posted the draw for Tuesday’s fifth round of the National Finals Rodeo, J.D. Struxness knew he had a big opportunity.
He capitalized on it, posting the fastest steer wrestling run of this year’s championship by stopping the clock in 3.3 seconds to win $30,706 and earn another Montana Silversmiths go-round buckle.
“We saw these steers in the second round, so we knew that the steer was pretty good,” Struxness said, noting that he visited with his hazer, NFR veteran Matt Reeves, about the draw. “We really liked him, and we talked about our game plan, then we executed it about perfect tonight.”
It has to be that way to be just three-tenths of a second off the arena record, which was posted by Steve Duhon in 1986 and Bryan Fields in 2001.
“That’s the best run I’ve made this week,” he said. “We knew we had a good steer, and we needed to hit the barrier and just rock down and get the nose hard. It seems so simple, but it’s hard sometimes. We got it done tonight.”
He has executed well through the first five rounds. He’s placed four rounds, and in the one round he didn’t, a broken barrier for not giving the steer its appropriate head start negated a round-winning run. He has earned $88,747 since arriving in the Nevada desert and is now second in the world standings with $211,144.
Struxness attended Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri, then transferred to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he won the intercollegiate championship in 2016. A month later, he won the prestigious Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days title, and that helped catapult him to his first NFR
While in Las Vegas that December, he won at least a share of four go-rounds and finished fourth in the world standings. He returned the next year, then came back in 2019 and 2022. His last buckle was from the fourth round in 2017.
“It’s been a while since I won a go-round here,” said Struxness, a five-time NFR qualifier from Milan, Minnesota. “My mindset has changed a little bit. With having my girls, it became about making sure we make money out here, so you can’t cut loose as much as those first two years.
“That was a little different for a while. That’s how life goes; you work through it all. We got back and got with the people we need to be with this year and got ourselves ready and prepared. We’re back firing and back ready to go again.”