CHEYENNE – It has all come down to today.
After about two weeks of rodeo, including a new format, the finals of the 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo begins at 1 p.m. today at Frontier Park Arena.
The new tournament-style format will have the top 12 in the roughstock events (bareback bronc, saddle bronc and bull riding) and barrel racing in the finals based on their top scores/times from the semifinal rounds on Friday and Saturday. The timed events will feature the top 16 based on money won during the previous eight rodeo performances.
Everyone competing today has a clean slate, meaning past scores and times mean nothing. The highest scores and fastest times win.
Some of the sport’s biggest names will be competing, along with a chance for some history to be made.
Brody Cress of Hillsdale, Wyoming, a graduate of Cheyenne’s East High, has a chance to be part of that history. A win today in saddle bronc riding would make him the first in CFD history to win that event in three consecutive years. Cress also would be only the second competitor ever to win three straight CFD titles. Barrel racer Kristie Peterson won from 1996-98.
“I’m just trying to focus on every horse at a time,” Cress said. “If I can go and do my job and have enough horsepower, then I can get it done.”
Cody DeMoss of Heflin, Louisiana, had a chance for his fourth CFD saddle bronc title if he scored well Saturday, but he didn’t ride and took a 10-day doctor’s release. DeMoss won here in 2004, 2010 and 2012. If DeMoss had won, he would have been the first to win four saddle bronc buckles here since Earl Thode in 1927, 1931-32 and 1934.
There are a handful of bareback bronc riders seeking another CFD title, including defending champion Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas. Lowe also won in Cheyenne in 2009 and 2012. He is looking to become the first back-to-back bareback champion here since Clint Corey in 1991-92.
Other past CFD bareback champions in today’s finals include Orin Larsen of Inglis, Manitoba, (2016); Tanner Aus of Granite Falls, Minnesota, (2015) and Richmond Champion of The Woodlands, Texas (2014). Champion qualified for the finals Saturday with an 86.5.
“You just have to give it all you got, and the best man is going to win,” Champion said. “There is no holding back.
“I was grateful to win here in 2014, and I’d like to have two of those buckles. Winning this one will never get old.”
Champion was married in May, and his father-in-law, Jim Lawrence, rode bulls at CFD.
Other rodeo athletes who have a chance to win consecutive CFD titles today include: Nellie Miller of Cottonwood, California, in barrel racing, Ruger Piva of Challis, Idaho, in bull riding, and Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tennessee, and Joseph Harrison of Overbrook, Oklahoma, in team roping.
The last to win consecutive CFD barrel racing titles was Kristie Peterson in the late 1990s. Also in today’s finals are 2017 CFD champion Stevi Hillman of Weatherford, Texas, and 2007 champ Brittany Pozzo-Tonozzi.
Cody Whitney last won back-to-back CFD bull riding titles in 2012-13. There have never been consecutive winners in team roping since CFD introduced that event in 2001.
The all-around title could go to rookie Stetson Wright, 19, of Milford, Utah. The all-around winner is the athlete who wins the most money in multiple events. Wright leads the world all-around standings with $144,139, and has won money here in bull riding and saddle bronc riding.
Wright is the latest in the long line of the Wright rodeo family. His dad, Cody, is a two-time world saddle bronc champion. Brothers Rusty and Ryder compete in saddle bronc riding, and Ryder was the 2017 world champion. Uncles Jesse (2012) and Spencer (2014) are world saddle bronc champs, and uncles Jake, Calvin and Alex also compete in saddle bronc. Stetson is looking to become the first all-around world champion in roughstock events since Ty Murray in 1998.
The last roughstock competitor to win the CFD all-around title was Clayton Foltyn of El Campo, Texas, in 2009.
But despite all of the Wrights’ success in rodeo, none have won a CFD title. That could change today.
“It is time,” Stetson said. “There are a lot of good guys, and it is not over until it over.”
Today is a chance for some rodeo athletes to make a name for themselves, like Austin Hurlburt of Norfolk, Nebraska. The former Laramie County Community College rodeo team member, who will be on the UW rodeo team this fall, is competing at CFD for the first time and qualified for the finals in tie-down roping. Even though he recorded a no-time Saturday, he won enough money during the rodeo to make the finals.
Today, the slate is clean and the fastest time wins.
“A lot of things are going through my head,” Hurlburt said after his run Saturday. “I will try and relax before (today). That’s all you can do.”
When asked if reaching the finals here is the highlight of his young career, Hurlburt said, “It sure is.”
UW rodeo coach Beau Clark also will be in today’s finals in steer wrestling, along with one of his team members in sophomore-to-be Caden Camp of Belgrade, Montana.