National Finals Rodeo begins in Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nev. – The time of year that so many rodeo fans anticipate is finally here – the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
With 12 contestants with ties to Wyoming competing in this year’s event, joined by 109 other contestants from around the U.S., this year promises to be another good year of rodeo fun in Las Vegas, Nev.
This year, 11 Wyoming cowboys and one cowgirl with ties to the state will be competing in the event, along with Miss Rodeo Wyoming Kimberly Kuhn and bullfighter Dusty Tuckness.
Bareback rider J.R. Vezain is a first time competitor at the national contest and told the Casper Star Tribune, “I’m ready for this. I’ve been thinking about the NFR or a long time. This is where every bronc rider wants to be.”
Vezain, who currently stands at fourth in the 2012 World Standings, is a Cowley native who has proven himself on a national scale several times before, winning bareback titles at both the 2009 National High School Finals Rodeo and the 2011 College Finals Rodeo.
“I can’t wait until that chute opens for the first time Thursday,” added Vezain. “This is going to be fun.”
Kanin Asay of Powell has also qualified for the WNFR again this year, marking his fifth qualification since 2007. Asay only missed the 2011 event and much of the 2011 season after undergoing hip surgery.
He currently stands fourth in the 2012 world standings.
However, Asay presented with flu-like symptoms on Dec. 3 and later went to the hospital with symptoms.
“Kanin woke up yesterday feeling horrible, and he had all the symptoms of the flu.We waited it out thinking he would come around. This morning he woke up with a very swollen/painful neck, sharp headaches, chills and a fever. We were sent to the hospital for blood work, an IV and a catscan of his neck. The catscan showed there is an infection in his neck,” said his wife Sydney on the Fans of Kanin Asay Facebook page. “His white blood count is very high. They are still trying to figure out what is causing the infection. They decided to keep him in the hospital the next 24 hours to keep an IV in him and antibiotics and to figure out what’s going on”
Though his release from the hospital was planned for sometime on Dec. 5, whether or not Asay will be able to compete this week is still unknown.
Another Wyoming bull rider, Seth Glause, will be competing in his fourth time at the event. Glause has seen a successful year this year and stands 13th in the world standings.
He marks the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colo. and the Xtreme Bulls Tour Finale in Ellensburg, Wash. as two of his eight wins in 2012.
Bull rider Clayton Savage of Casper stands at number 13 in the 2012 World Standings. This year is Savage’s third time qualifying for the WNFR. He also qualified in 2009 and 2011.
Midwest cowboy Les Shepperson will be competing for his second time at the NFR in the steer wrestling event. Shepperson stands 11th in the world standings and has posted top wins before. In 1975, his father was the World Champion Steer Wrestler.
This year, Shepperson has also seen some wins, taking titles form the Reno Rode and America Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, Mo., as well as the top spot in the Wind River PRCA Rodeo Roundup in Riverton.
Wyoming cowgirl Kimberly Kuhn of Cheyenne will also be competing at the NFR for the title of Miss Rodeo America.
Other contestants with ties to Wyoming include barrel racer Nikki Steffes, who attended the University of Wyoming. This is her first year at the NFR, and she currently stands sixth.
Cole Elshere, who attended Gillette College, will also be making his debut at the NFR this year in saddle bronc riding.
Laramie-born cowboy Cody Whitney currently stands 11th going into his third apprearance at the event. Whitney finished seventh in bull riding in 2010.
Bull rider Shane Proctor attended Northwest College and will be making his second appearance at the NFR. In 2011, Proctor finished first in the event.
K.C. Jones attended the University of Wyoming and currently stands 10th in steer wrestling going into his sixth appearance at the NFR.
Another steer wrestler, Dean Gorsuch, attended Eastern Wyoming College. Gorsuch is third in the current standings, with his seventh NFR ahead of him this year.
Among other notable accomplishments by Wyoming residents, Meeteetse’s Dusty Tuckness was awarded the 2012 Bullfighter of the Year award, presented by Wrangler.
Tuckness was also given the award in 2010 and 2011. This year marks his fourth event.
The 2012 award for Largest Outdoor Rodeo of the Year went to Cheyenne, with Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo.
As for the fate of Wyoming’s other participants, time will only tell.
Stay on top of the results of the NFR at prorodeo.com/NFR. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NFR broadcast schedule
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will air on Great American Country TV (GAC) on Dec. 6-15. GAC is Dish channel 165 and Direct TV channel 326.
Each round will be broadcast live from 8 – 11 p.m., beginning Dec. 6 and continuing through Dec. 15. The following day, rounds will be re-aired twice.
A complete schedule is available at prorodeo.com.