Perhaps he was born to ride bulls and horses. With a last name like Wright, there probably wasn’t much of a choice.
And, at age 20, Stetson Wright accomplished something his father, Cody, hadn’t done. Nor his uncles, Jesse and Spencer. Nor his older brother, Ryder. He won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association all-around world championship Saturday night at the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.
He’s the best cowboy in the world.
Wright won his first PRCA world championship with $297,922.56. It’s the most prestigious title on the tour, reserved for the cowboy who makes the most money while competing in multiple events.
His father is a two-time saddle bronc riding champion. His two uncles have saddle bronc riding titles, and his brother does, too. But Stetson Wright rides saddle broncs — and bulls. And he’s the first in a family of cowboys to win the all-around title, in just his second year on the tour.
“I’ve done it for so long, my family knows I do it. I don’t really have much to say about that,” said Wright, the first roughstock cowboy to win the all-around title since 1998. “Hopefully many more.”
Wright, of Milford, Utah, won saddle bronc riding events at six rodeos and bull riding events at 11, finishing third to six-time champion Sage Kimzey in the bull riding title race. He also won all-around titles at 11 rodeos and established himself as one of the sport’s brightest stars.
Team and tie-down roper Clay Smith finished second in all-around with $279,671.57. Tuf Cooper finished third with $265,794.03
“I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a little kid,” Wright said. “I just want to enjoy this with the family. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Clayton Biglow said he felt as if he was dreaming after winning his fourth consecutive go-round Thursday. He’s not dreaming anymore, though.
He’s really a world champion.
Biglow, a 24-year-old from Clements, California, won his first world title by finishing with a PRCA record total of $425,843 — almost $130,000 clear of runner-up Orin Larsen. The four consecutive go-round victories also are an NFR record, eclipsing Kaycee Feild’s mark of three in 2011.
“I literally laid in bed every night for the last three months thinking about this moment,” said Biglow, who scored a 93 in the final go-round and won the NFR average. “That gold buckle is going right on my belt.”
Ty Erickson won one go-round at the NFR.
Turns out that was all he needed.
The 29-year-old from Helena, Montana, won the regular season and made $88,410.25 at the NFR to finish with $234,491.09 and his first championship. He had qualified for the NFR in each of the past five years and finished second in the world standings in 2017.
“It’s been a trying 10 days for me,” said Erickson, winner of the ninth go-round in 3.6 seconds. “We just kind of persevered and kept going at them every night, trying to make the best runs we could. It started clicking and coming together.”
Smith didn’t win the all-around.
So a team roping title will have to do.
Smith, 28, made $268,819.91 to win his second consecutive title as a header. His partner, Jade Corkill, finished fourth, while Wesley Thorp, 24, captured championship heeler honors with $249,190.61.
“Anything you do it once, you want to do it again,” said Smith, a defending team roping world champion from Texarkana, Texas. “This is the best in the world as far as the crowd and the money. There’s no other feeling like this in Las Vegas.”
“Staying on top of your game is the hardest part,” said Thorp, of Throckmorton, Texas. “It was a struggle the whole way.”
Saddle bronc riding
Zeke Thurston grinned as he clutched his championship belt buckle.
Felt good to be a world champion. Feels even better to be a two-time world champion.
Thurston, 25, won his second world title by earning $347,055.57, including $170,064.10 at the NFR. He won three go-rounds and added a second- and third-place finish to win by more than $60,000. He also was the 2016 champion.
“I was wanting the second world title way worse than I was wanting that first one,” said Thurston, of Big Valley, Alberta. “A little stressful there throughout the week, but there’s a reason you’re here. I don’t even know what to say.”
Haven Meged was one of the best rookies in the PRCA this season.
He has a world title to show for it now.
Meged, 21, won the aggregate at the NFR to claim the world title with $246,013.45 in the closest race of the season. Shane Hanchey finished second with $244,831.54, and Tyson Durfey took third with $237,532.15.
“It’s unbelievable, just to be here in my rookie year,” said Meged, of Miles City, Montana. “It’s just a dream come true.”
Hailey Kinsel’s husband, Jess Lockwood, won the Professional Bull Riders world championship last month at T-Mobile Arena.
She ensured that he’s not the only 2019 world champion in the household.
Kinsel, of Cotulla, Texas, successfully defended her title by winning $290,020.50. She made $141,153.85 at the NFR and had enough of a lead before the event to edge aggregate winner Ivy Conrado-Saebens, who won $264,673.09.
“It’s really special. It’s been a great year for us,” the 25-year-old Kinsel said. “We got married two months ago. People were asking how married life is. Well, pretty dang good right now.”
Another world title for Kimzey.
The 25-year-old coasted to his sixth consecutive championship by earning $480,796.75, after qualifying for his first NFR in 2014. He won the aggregate this year, too, and made $235,358.97 in the past 10 days.
“This year was just a grind,” said Kimzey, of Strong City, Oklahoma. “From word go, it wasn’t easy. It kind of set the stage all year, how it was going to go.”
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All-around: Stetson Wright
Bareback riding: Clayton Biglow
Steer wrestling: Ty Erickson
Team roping: Clay Smith (header), Wesley Thorp (heeler)
Saddle bronc riding: Zeke Thurston
Tie-down roping: Haven Meged
Barrel racing: Hailey Kinsel
Bull riding: Sage Kimzey