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Wyoming athletes prepare for WNFR  

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Las Vegas, Nev. – The 63rd Annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) will be held Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. 

Cowboys and cowgirls compete during the regular rodeo season, Oct. 1-Sept. 30, to earn their way into the top 15 of the world standings. Placings are based on money earned.  

At the finals, two champions will be crowned, an average champion – a contestant who has the best cumulative score or time over the 10 rounds and a world champion – a contestant who has won the most cumulative money during the rodeo season, in addition to earnings at the finals.  

As the regular rodeo season comes to a close, several cowboys and cowgirls with Wyoming ties will be making their way to the finals to compete.  

Saddle bronc riding  

Hillsdale native Brody Cress has qualified for the WNFR for the fifth time – qualifying each year since 2017. Cress has won two WNFR Saddle Bronc average titles in 2017 and 2019.  

In 2020, Cress finished third in the world with total earnings of $173,847, and $74,308 of this coming from the WNFR. Cress current 2021 earnings total is $142,224.70 and he is sitting third in the world standings.  

Sheridan College graduate Zeke Thurston calls Big Valley, Alberta, Canada home. He will be making his seventh appearance at the WNFR this year.  

In 2020, Thurston finished ninth in the world standings with total earnings of $141,261 and $97,737 coming from the finals. His major accomplishments include winning the world title in 2016 and 2019, as well as the average title in 2016. Thurston is currently sitting fifth in the world standings with $99,294.89 in 2021 career earnings.  

Bareback riding 

Cole Reiner, a Kaycee native, will be making his second appearance at the WNFR. Reiner finished fifth in the world with 2020 total earnings of $154,325 and $109,282 coming from the finals.  

Reiner attended Sheridan College and Casper College and earned an associate degree in business.  

Reiner commented on his upcoming qualification sharing, “It’s awesome to be able to go to the WNFR for the second year in a row, and it doesn’t feel like reality to me that this childhood dream is now becoming more and more normal every year. I don’t know what to be excited about just yet, I keep everything as unexciting and routine as possible when I’m going to the national finals.”  

“Excitement will happen more and more as the week starts and continues so there’s no need to let emotions you can control effect performance out there,” he continued. “I will say I am very grateful to have the state of Wyoming behind me – I didn’t realize how many people really did support me until last year at the WNFR in Texas. Overwhelming amounts of texts, calls and messages from people in Wyoming made me feel proud to represent everyone from the rural communities of this great state.”  

Reiner is currently sitting eighth in the world standings with $98,215.89. 

Steer wrestling  

Central Wyoming College (CWC) alumni Stetson Jorgenson calls Blackfoot, Idaho home. In 2020, Jorgenson finished second in the world standings bringing home $198,831 in total earnings and $152,788 from the WNFR.  

2021 marks his third consecutive year competing in the finals. While at the 2020 finals, Jorgenson finished 43.7 seconds on 10 head, which was just short of WNFR Steer Wrestling Champion Jacob Edler, who finished with 43.4 seconds on 10 head. Jorgenson is looking forward to competing again for a chance at gold.   

Jorgenson commented on his qualification to the WNFR saying, “What it means to be going to my third consecutive WNFR can hardly be put into words. It’s not just another goal off my list, it’s an accomplishment that will stick with me for a lifetime. The group of guys this year, just like any other year, is full of great competition. Being able to witness and be a part of it all is amazing itself, not to mention, we are all fighting for a gold buckle.”  

He credits his education at CWC for a part of his success. “CWC definitely has taught a part of it. It taught me how to practice to do my best ability and how to become a grown man, not just in the rodeo arena but also in life in general,” he continued.  

Jorgenson currently has $71,668.16 in the world standings and is ranked eighth. 

Barrel racing 

Amanda Welsh has qualified for her first WNFR. She hangs her hat in Gillette where her family has strong rodeo ties. With four brothers who ride bulls, Welsh is the only girl in her family who competes in barrel racing.  

In 2020, Welsh finished 36th in the world standings with $19,151.74. Some of her most recent success includes placing fourth in the short-go of the Pendleton Roundup, which was held Sept. 15-18, and winning first in Spokane, Wash. at the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) Tour, in addition to Lewiston, Idaho.   

Welsh commented on her first qualification to the WNFR, sharing, “This qualification means so much to me because it wasn’t just a dream I’ve had. My parents raise and train horses, and the horse I ride – Firefly – is one they raised and trained. It’s so neat to be able to go to my first WNFR on one of my parents’ horses. They’ve put their hearts and souls into their breeding program and it’s a highlight for them too.” 

She continued, “I’m looking forward to it all, having my kids there along with my family and boyfriend. To share this with them makes me excited. Making the first run down the alley of the Thomas and Mack is the top of the list.”  

Welsh is currently sitting number seventh in the WPRA world standings with $76,919.48.  

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to  

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