The athletes brought their A-game for night three of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the iconic Thomas and Mack in Las Vegas.
In the bareback, Jess Pope marked an 86.5 on Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ Mr. Harry to top the scoreboard.
“I had never been on that horse,” Pope shares. “I’ve seen him go a lot, and I’ve seen him buck a lot, and I always thought that was a bucking son of gun. I was a little bit nervous when I saw my name next to him, but I sure am glad it worked out. He is one to run you off your riggin’ and he is hitting you in your back trying to bring your upper body forward. It is one of those deals you have to dig down deep and see how bad you want it and see how much you can take. It is the most out of control in control chaos you have been involved in.”
As he moves forward with seven nights remaining in the competition, Pope’s plan for success is to stay steady.
“I’m just going to take it one horse at a time,” he explains. “I can’t control anything other than what I do and if I show up and nod my head and know that I gave it my all every time after that I’m plum pleased with how everything ends.”
Next up, the steer wrestlers left it all in the dirt.
Idaho cowboy Stetson Jorgensen got his steer down in a mere 3.5 seconds, taking the top slot for night three.
“I got a really good start at the barrier, steer went to the right, which is going to happen when you get a start like I did,” Jorgensen reveals. “Hazer walled him off for me and I finished him of on the ground.”
Even with years of experience under his belt, Jorgensen admits there’s still a level of stress at a rodeo of this caliber.
“Oh, you always get nervous, but it’s a good nervous,” he says. “When you’re at the NFR, if you don’t have some nerves, then something is wrong.”
Team ropers Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith got it done in 3.6 seconds, setting a round three record in Las Vegas.
“It was awesome,” Smith says. “The guys right before us [Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves] went 3.8. A bunch of 4-second runs so it kind of takes the thinking out of it for us. All we know is we’ve got to go fast.”
Tomlinson admitted to some rookie nerves, but that didn’t alter his success on night three.
“I have been really nervous the last couple of nights, since this is my first time,” he shares. “It’s just happened so fast when I’m going after them. After Dustin went, I was just seeing blood.”
In the saddle bronc, Lefty Holman held his lead with a 90.5-point ride—even after Ryder Wright’s two re-rides—aboard Kirsten Vold Rodeo Company’s Sun Glow.
“That’s my first 90 (point ride) in this building,” Holman reveals. “I’d known that this horse coming into the day had won a lot of rounds, so I knew if I did my job things would work out. I wanted to focus on getting my spur out. I know a couple of guys have had trouble with that so once my feet came clean, it was game over.”
As he prepares for seven more rides before a champion is crowned, Holman is taking it night by night.
“The world championship is definitely in the back of my mind, but right now I have seven horses left in front of me,” he says. “I’m just going to keep attacking it one horse at a time.”
In the tie-down roping, Cory Solomon’s 6.9-second time topped the scoreboard.
“I went into tonight with my mind made up,” Solomon says. “I knew I drew a really good calf. The first two nights, I’m a pretty positive person, but I knew I didn’t have a good chance at winning top money, so my goal was to make a good run and hopefully get him by the hold. The first night it worked out. The second night it didn’t. So, tonight, drawing a good calf, I knew I had to capitalize on that, going up against the best guys in the world. These chances don’t come very often. Whenever this comes you just have to take advantage of it.”
As he looks ahead to the rest of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, he trusts his horse to help him make the most of every opportunity.
“That’s the good thing about riding this horse,” Solomon reveals. “He blows across the line and gives me a chance every night. If I get good calves like that, I want to win and place in the top three and win good money. If not, I just want to stay consistent, and this horse allows me to do that.”
When the barrels hit the dirt, everyone gets excited. On night three, Hailey Kinsel and Sister didn’t waste time getting around the cloverleaf pattern, and their 13.59-second time took the lead.
“[Sister] just worked and was outstanding,” Kinsel says. “I was top of the ground, first out. That’s something you want to take advantage of if you can, so I was glad we were able to put it together tonight.”
Despite her success, Kinsel remained focused on getting through each night’s run, not on the overall standings.
“After Round 10, that’s when we will think about [the world standings],” Kinsel explains. “To be honest, it’s hard not to think about it when everybody is talking about it. But, in reality it doesn’t change your job, so I try and focus on going out, having fun and riding fast.”
The bull riders brought the heat to end night three of the Wrangler National Finals. Garrett Smith and JR Stratford both marked 90-point rides to tie in the first and second slots.
Stay tuned for more from the Thomas and Mack as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo continues in Las Vegas.
This coverage of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is an online exclusive for Western Life Today. Click to subscribe to Western Life Today!