Before a sold-out crowd at the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, athletes gathered to compete in rodeo’s richest one-day event—The American Rodeo—on March 11, 2023. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, The American took to the diamond for the first time after previously being held across the street at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
With a total purse of more than $6 million, this year’s American Rodeo provided additional ways to qualify. A new tournament format with a series of qualifying events allowed athletes to earn a spot in the Contender Tournament Finals earlier this week. From there, each Contender that made it to The American Rodeo finals was eligible for their discipline’s $100,000 prize money, as well as the million-dollar bonus. The top five Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association champions were seeded into The American Rodeo as opposed to 10, which increased competitors’ opportunities to qualify for the Contender.
The main event featured semi-finals of all eight rodeo disciplines, where underdogs took on the top PRCA and WRPA athletes. Following a performance from multi-platinum recording artist Cody Johnson, the top four from each event advanced to the Final Shootout Round, where each winner earned $100,000 in their discipline. Any of these winners who were also million-dollar eligible had their chance at the bonus—which could potentially be split among other eligible champions.
The finals were an action-packed lightning round, and rodeo’s best did not disappoint. The night was highlighted by 20-time world champion Jackie Crawford defending her American title in breakaway roping and splitting the million-dollar jackpot with tie-down roper Ty Harris, who recently won the 10th round at the National Finals Rodeo.
While not million-dollar eligible, the other star of the show was 23-year-old Stetson Wright. After tying The American saddle bronc record with a 92.5-point ride and clenching his title in that event, Wright became the first athlete to ever win two event titles at the same American Rodeo with a record-breaking 92-point performance in bull riding. Having recently claimed his fourth consecutive PRCA All-Around World Championship, Wright was easily crowned the All-Around Champion of The American.
Take a look at the winner’s of all eight rodeo disciplines at The American Rodeo, each taking home a $100,000 check for their victory. Crawford and Harris, of course, also took home their split of the million.
After tying for the highest qualifying score in the semi-finals with an 88.5, Kaycee Feild—often dubbed as the “King of Bareback Riding”—built upon that effort in the finals with a 90.5. This secured his third American Rodeo championship title.
Securing the final spot in a tight semi-finals, Tyler Waguespack brought his A-game in the steer wrestling finals with a 3.83-second run. Once again, the competition was tight—Waguespack’s margin of victory was a mere 0.06 seconds. Against a stacked field of competitors, Waguespack brought home the $100,000 check for his discipline.
Entering the event with five American Rodeo titles between them, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira made a clean 5.45-second run in the semi-finals to make it back to the Final Shootout Round. They came back even stronger there, claiming the championship title with a sharp 3.61-second run.
The saddle bronc event brought drama to the night when Stetson Wright—No. 1 in the world in saddle bronc—and Dawson Hay both scored a 92.5 in the finals, a score that tied the record previously set by Wade Sundell. For the first time in American Rodeo history, a ride-off determined the winner. Two more broncs were saddled so that Hay and Wright could go head to head.
Hay was first up, scoring a 87.5. But Wright came out of the chute with guns blazing and recorded a score of 89.5 to win the $100,000 check.
Women’s breakaway ropers became eligible for the added million-dollar bonus beginning in 2022, and none other than all-time great Jackie Crawford was eligible this year. She did not disappoint, securing the fastest time of 1.86 seconds to become the first-ever million-dollar cowgirl in breakaway roping. Overcome with emotions at her achievement, Crawford was met with the roar of the crowd, appreciating the greatness before them.
After qualifying in the semi-finals with the fastest time, Ty Harris repeated that performance in the Final Shootout Round with a time of 7.22. With this win, Ty secured his share of the million with Jackie Crawford.
In barrel racing, fan favorite and a longtime leader Lisa Lockhart won her third American Rodeo championship in eight appearances. Just like a walk-off home run, Lockhart was the last of the four finalists to race into the arena at Globe Life Field and stole the victory with a 15.248-second run.
Fresh off his saddle bronc win, Stetson Wright had his sights set on another title in the final event of the night, bull riding. Not only did he accomplish his goal, but he also made history, achieving a record score of 92 points and becoming the first athlete to ever win two events in a single American Rodeo. This victory allowed him to clench another $100,000 check and the title of All-Around Champion.
What is he doing after such a big payday? Buying his mom a Jeep.
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