By Frank J. Buchman
Kansas contestants collected major paychecks at the recent National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Arlington, Texas.
Lighting the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association scoreboard the brightest was Jess Pope, 22-year-old bareback bronc rider from Waverly.
In his first NFR appearance, the five-foot-ten, 170-pound cowboy earned the privilege to compete ranking 11th in regular season standings. Prior to the first NFR go-round, Pope had won $49,612 riding bareback broncs this year.
When the curtain closed at the 2020 NFR, Pope had a total of $220,028 in his pocketbook. That put him third in the PRCA yearend bareback bronc riding standings.
Qualifying on all ten of his bareback broncs at the NFR, Pope scored 853 points to win the average worth $67,269 alone.
Collecting checks in five go-rounds, his biggest earnings came in the eighth round when he netted $26,231.
Pope matched moves with Calgary Stampede’s Xplosive Skies for 89 points to win the round. “It is pretty awesome to win a round here,” Pope said. “It makes you smile all day long. It’s very humbling making me quite grateful.
“My main goal going into the victory lap was to not fall off the horse. Another bronc rider yelled at me right before we went around: ‘Just don’t fall off.’ That was really fun, and I can’t even put it into words.”
Thursday’s go-round list of horses was the “Eliminator Pen,” the hardest-to-ride broncs in the game, and they proved it. Six cowboys failed to make the whistle, which is uncommon in bareback riding, even for these types of horses. But Pope and Xplosive Skies got along very well.
Additional go-round money winning scores, placings and earnings for Pope were also announced. First go-round, 87 points, split second, $18,192; Fourth go-round, 85 points, split fifth, $3.664; Seventh go-round, 83.5 points, split third, $13,327; and 10th go-round, 89.5 points, second, $20,731.
In the Top Gun standings for most winnings at the NFR, Pope was seventh with his checks totaling $170,410.
Regular season highlights for Pope were winning rodeos in Louisville, Kentucky; Des Moines, Iowa, and Depere, Wisconsin. He was third at Fort Worth, Texas, pocketing $4,300, and collected semifinals payback at San Antonio, Texas, worth $6,500.
Growing up wanting to be a cowboy and from a competitive family attracted Pope to the rodeo arena. He competed in all three rough stock events in high school and was a 2016 National High School Finals Rodeo champion.
Focusing on bareback riding at Missouri Valley College (MVC), Marshall, Missouri, Pope finished third in the 2019 College National Finals Rodeo.
Pope’s yearend PRCA ranking becomes most impressive compared to a year earlier. He won $47,778 to be 28th in the 2019 bareback bronc riding standings. The cowboy had topped the 2018 PRCA Permit Members of the Year Challenge in Las Vegas.
Always humble, Pope insisted: “God’s got a plan, and I’m just glad the plan is rodeo for me. It’s positive and going to be great.”
Kaycee Feild, Genola, Utah, was the yearend bareback riding champion.
Tanner Brunner of Ramona ended the PRCA season 12th in the world steer wrestling standings with $93,269. Although collecting two go-round checks, no-times in the second and fourth go-rounds pushed him to 13th in the average.
Starting the finals with regular season earnings of $46,885, Brunner was third in the seventh go-round, 3.8-seconds, winning $15,654, and second in the eighth go-round, 3.7-seconds, collecting $20,731.
Jule Hazen of Ashland dropped all ten of his NFR steers placing eighth in the average while collecting two go-round checks. He was sixth in the fourth round with 4.5-seconds, $4,231, and third in the sixth round, 3.6-seconds, $15,654.
Headed into the NFR Hazen was ranked 14th in the world with $39,730 and ended the season in the same position with $75,961.
Jacob Edler, State Center, Iowa, was the steer wrestling champion.
Emily Miller-Beizel, originally from the Garden City area now making her home in Weatherford, Oklahoma, was yearend barrel racing fourth. Winning two go-rounds, the sixth and seventh, 17.01-seconds, and 16.85-seconds, respectively, one barrel down put her fifth in the average.
Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas, was the champion barrel racer and Top Gun winner with $270,615.
Cole Patterson, Pratt, was fourth in the world in steer roping following the National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane with $87,405. His dad Rocky Patterson, also of Pratt, was steer roping yearend 13th winning $46.406.
World champion steer roper is Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, collecting $117,459.
Two bucking bulls with Kansas ties were in the ninth go-round of the NFR. Slinging Rubber, owned by New Frontier Rodeo Company of Gypsum, bucked off Roscoe Jarboe.
Lil Man, raised by Flint Hills Genetics of Strong City, bucked off Boudreaux Campbell. The bull is now owned by Sankey Pro Rodeo and Phenom Genetics.
Stetson Wright, Milford, Utah, was the PRCA yearend all-around cowboy placing first in bull riding and seventh in saddle bronc riding. He was third in the Top Gun standings with $199,115.
Additional PRCA yearend event champions were Ryder Wright, Milford, Utah, saddle bronc riding; Shad Mayfield, Clovis, New Mexico, tie-down roping; Coby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas, team roping header; and Paul Eaves, Lonedell, Missouri, team roping heeler.
Jess Pope, Waverly, won the eighth go-round in bareback bronc riding at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), Arlington, Texas, marking 89 points on Calgary Stampede’s Xplosive Skies. Going into the NFR ranked 11th in bareback bronc riding, Pope moved up to third in the yearend standings. He was the average winner with 853 points on ten bareback broncs