RED DEER, Alberta — Some pro rodeo contestants worked hard over the Labor Day weekend, to nail down a spot at the Canadian Finals Rodeo when it debuts in Red Deer. And while the race is on from the beginning of the season, it certainly intensifies in these last days of competition, where even a dollar or two can make all the difference.
That’s most evident in the steer wrestling, where just over $4,000 separated ninth place from 17th place, heading into the Finning Pro Tour’s final stop in Armstrong, B.C.
Craig Weisgerber was sitting in eighth place, but considering the wolves on his tail, he felt like he needed some insurance money.
“I was worried,” he admitted. “We talked about it on the way out there. A few people were saying ‘you’re safe’. I was saying ‘I don’t know. There’s quite a log jam’ (behind me).”
The Ponoka cowboy removed all doubt about his late October agenda when he placed at all three weekend events, netting the most of all the bulldoggers with a $4,336 tally. It started out with a 4.2 second run in Armstrong, to place sixth. The $1,551 took the pressure off, and the rest was just gravy, including another tie for sixth in Merritt with a 4.9, and then he came back to win the Finning Pro Tour Shootout in his best run of the weekend, with a time of four seconds flat.
It will be Weisgerber’s first trip back to the CFR since 2011, and pushes his season earnings over $21,000, his best ever.
It was ironic that Armstrong was the place where he finalized a CFR qualification, since that’s where he first rode the horse Reggie, owned by Bo Anderson. Weisgerber calls that a difference maker for his season.
“He lets you do your job. You don’t have to worry about him doing his. He’s not going to leave on you early. It’s all up to you. It’s pretty hard to miss on him,” he said.
Having such a solid horse proved to be just the confidence booster the cowboy, who turned 30 last month, needed.
“The more it keeps going, the more we kept asking ourselves ‘why can’t it be me?’” Weisgerber said.
There’s no doubt the quality of steer wrestling in Canada is first class, and with a huge talent pool of talented cowboys and good horses, it’s consistently difficult to be among the top twelve making it to the playoffs.
“When you’re coming into the end of season and 25 guys have a chance to make the Finals still, that’s pretty crazy,” Weisgerber said.
While the draw can have an impact, it’s also all about handling pressure, without making mistakes.
“You can’t stub your toe because the guy behind you ain’t gonna,” Weisgerber said.
While he can now breathe easy for the last few shows, he knows it will be good watching in the bulldogging.
“The Grass Roots is going to be the kicker. If you look at the guys all in the race now, they’re in the Grass Roots (standings) too, which will make that doubly exciting,” he finished.
Weisgerber’s traveling partner, Straws Milan, put himself in that mix when he won the IPE and Stampede in Armstrong, for $3,722. While that moved him from 22nd to 15th, he needs some more dollars yet. Harley Cole was another big mover on the weekend, picking up $3,924, and moving from 16th to 10th, while Layne Delemont lined up $3,205 and bumped up from 14th to 11th. The Butterfield cousins are battling it out at the bottom end of the qualifiers. Both Chance and Brock won over a thousand apiece, but Brock moved into 12th, bumping Chance back to 13th.
Let’s see how the races are shaping up in the other events with just four rodeos and the Grass Roots Finals to go.
There was more movement at the top of the standings than at the qualifier cutoff end. Ponoka’s Jordan Hansen tied for second with Zane Lambert at Armstrong, and then came back to win the Shoot-Out event, for a $5,180 haul. That should move him to the lead in the Canadian race, as he crossed the $30,000 mark in earnings.
Lambert, who also scored his second straight Glen Keeley Memorial Bull riding victory, is in great position for both circuits. In fact, at only a couple thousand behind Hansen, the CPRA season leader title is on the horizon.
“I’d love to win a year end title and I think there’s three other guys out there that are thinking the same thing right now,” he said. “So we’re kind of gonna go at it. It’s going to be one of the tighter races we’ve seen in four years in the bull riding. It’s going to be really cool to watch.”
“There’s not many left, but every penny counts now.”
Jared Parsonage is in that conversation. He returned to action the week before, after sitting out since the Calgary Stampede with a broken foot. The Maple Creek hand placed at both Merritt and Armstrong, adding $1,764 to his season’s earnings, while Garrett Green picked up $3,813 for the Armstrong win. The unknown is Brock Radford, who had held down the number one position. But he’s out with knee issues and won’t likely be ready much before the Finals.
Cody Coverchuk placed at Armstrong and the $1,271 should push him over $20,000 for the year, and just $104 out of the lead for the rookie race. Bull riders Luke Gee, Jacob Gardner and Ty Ellis are the only All-Around qualifiers so far, but all three are just hovering outside the top twelve in the bull riding standings yet.
After winning the new Smithers Bareback event this month and cashing in for $4,221 that weekend, Jake Vold kept up his winning ways, taking second at Armstrong for $2,965. Ty Taypotat topped the field with his 88.5 on Arbitrator Joe from the Calgary Stampede for a $3,745 boost, while Michael Solberg notched the Shootout victory ($2,400) and reigning Canadian champion Seth Hardwick took first at Merritt and placed at Armstrong ($2,075). Jacob Stemo moved to within shooting distance of the top twelve, after placing at both the Shoot-Out and at Merritt ($1,840), but Pascal Isabelle got a little there ($402) to move ahead of JR Vezain for the 12th spot.
Callahan Crossley was the weekend’s cash collector on the race track around the barrels, taking first at both Merritt and Armstrong ($5,130), but the $3,192 Justine Elliott won at Armstrong for second place helps move the Lacombe teen from 20th to the all-important No. 12 position. The $2,506 Rene Leclercq earned puts her just behind Elliott.
Shane Hanchey proved he wants to be at Red Deer this fall. The Louisiana looper made money at every stop, including a first at Merritt, for $5,486 towards his gas bill for the trip north. Kyle Lucas was another big winner, capturing the Shootout title and tying for second at Armstrong ($5,838). Curtis Cassidy, who’s in bubble territory in the steer wrestling, may sew up a position at Red Deer after all, since he put together at $2,536 weekend of roping to move inside the safe zone for now.
Tristen Woolsey set a new Canadian season earnings record for heelers when he and partner Denver Johnson roped their way to second at Armstrong ($1,908 each), giving him $29,830 on the year that’s not over yet! Kolton Schmidt and Cole Davison picked up $2,081 each for their Armstrong win, while defending Canadian champions Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler were third there and at Merritt as well. The $2,539 boost puts Simpson back in CFR range for headers, while Buhler still has some ground to make up. After splitting first in Merritt and placing at Armstrong ($1,843), Trent Tunke is inside the CFR pen, but his partner Trey Gallais is also in need of some more cash. The family duo of Keely and Logan Bonnett snagged $1,200 in the Shootout but the pair hot on their heels, Riley Roy and Brady Chappel were just behind again, with $1,034 each from their two Armstrong outings.
Back in the Saddle
Timely Delivery helped Bradley Harter take home the most sizeable saddle bronc riding bonus from Armstrong ($4,117). Wildwood’s Dawson Hay claimed both Merritt and the Finning Shootout titles to make a $3,676 deposit of his own, which brings him to the top in the tight rookie of the year race. Isaac Diaz made the biggest move as he works to get his qualifying rodeos in. The Texas bronc rider earned $3,336 from the trio of opportunities, which puts him inside the top twelve. It also leaves another pair of talented young guns scrapping it out behind him. Kolby Wanchuk won $1,056 in Merritt, while Dawson Dahm tried to keep pace by earning $1,029 of his own at Armstrong. Then there’s that cagey veteran creeping up from behind them in the standings. Dustin Flundra got a late start on the year but the three-time Canadian champion is back in his groove and his pair of weekend cheques brought him $2,036 closer. As well, his rodeo account benefited from a $10,000 bonus earned for winning the Bucking & Barrels event at the Lethbridge Whoop-Up Days in August.
NFR Crunch Time
There are still a few big U.S. rodeos left for those scrambling for a spot in Las Vegas in December. For others, it’s about getting high enough in the standings to be eligible for next winter’s run of rodeo entries.
Orin Larsen kept up his winning pace over the last few weeks, with a big boost from winning Canby, OR ($3,158) and at San Juan Capistrano for second place ($5,735). But he also got money out of Ellensburg and Moses Lake, WA; Tremonton, UT; Kalispell, MT, and Pueblo, CO ($8,791). He’s now cracked $100,000 in earnings and sits fourth in the world. Fellow bareback rider Clint Laye won Moses Lake ($2,930) and also placed at Ellensburg, Walla Walla, Bremerton WA; Billings, and Dillon, MT ($2,906). He’s 16th in the world race, about $4,000 behind. Ty Taypotat kept his NFR hopes alive, winning second in Billings and placing in Miles City and Walla Walla ($3,979). He’s in 19th spot. Connor Hamilton is making a name for himself on the world scene, especially after he took home the big prize from Caldwell, ID with an 88 mark in the Finals ($7,405). He also picked up cash at Moses Lake and Walla Walla ($4,097) and sits second in the world rookie standings for bareback.
Scott Guenthner picked up some Montana money and with his Caldwell cash, added another $3,707 to his second place position in the world race. Curtis Cassidy tied for first in Lynden, WA and picked away at a few other stops for $2,042. He’s still fourth in the world. Tanner Milan’s third place finish at San Juan and some go-round money at Caldwell ($8,006) moved him to 14th in the world.
Canadians excelled at Moses Lake, and Sam Kelts won $3,590 for the bronc riding victory there, while Zeke Thurston was second. Thurston put together $7,689 in the last half of the month and he’s sixth in the world, with Clay Elliott, who won Canby, OR on his old friend Stampede Warrior, in eighth, after winning another $4,807 in late August.
Carman Pozzobon is still tenth for the barrel racing standings.
Four to Go
There’s a one day rodeo in Medicine Lodge this weekend, but then the Canadian calendar is down to stops in Olds, Brooks, and Hanna with the season wrapping up at the Grass Roots Finals in Calgary.