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WNFR wraps up in Las Vegas

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Las Vegas – The 64th Annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) took place Dec. 7-16 at the Thomas and Mack Center, where 2023 WNFR champions were crowned. 

Top-ranked cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation competed in the 10-day event where local favorites, Hillsdale’s Brody Cress and Daniel’s Tanner Butner, competed in saddle bronc riding and Buffalo’s Cole Reiner competed in bareback riding.

Bareback riding 

Keenan Hayes from Hayden, Colo. secured the world champ title with an incredible 90-point ride in the final round. Dean Thompson from Altamont, Utah finished in second place with an 89-point ride on Game Trail, and Leighton Berry from Weatherford, Texas, who entered the 2023 WNFR in the fifth position, ended his season third in the world standings.

Reiner, a Wyoming native, entered the bareback riding competition in the 13th spot this year and ended up tying for the fourth-fifth place position with an 87.5-point ride on OLS Tubs Stevie Knicks. 

Reiner tied with fellow contestant Tanner Aus from Granite Falls, Minn. in round 10, rounding out the top-five winners. 

Steer wrestling 

Tyler Waguespack, four-time world champion from Gonzales, La., was crowned the WNFR Steer Wrestling World Champion following a 3.8-second run, which tied him for the go-round win with Will Lummus of Byhalia, Miss.

Bridger Anderson, a native of Carrington, N.D., won the eighth round of steer wrestling at the WNFR with a 3.3-second run, but ended up placing third in the world with a 3.9-second run.

Rigby, Idaho Cowboy Dirk Tavenner made his third appearance at the WNFR, entering the finals in the eighth position. In round 10, a four-second run helped Tavenner finish fourth in the world standings. 

Team roping 

Tyler Wade of Terrell, Texas was crowned the 2023 World Champion Header in the team roping. Wade started the WNFR in second place, and in round nine he placed first with his partner, the 2023 World Champion Heeler Wesley Thorp from Throckmorton, Texas, with a 3.5-second run. 

In the final round, the duo placed ninth with a time of 5.4 seconds.

Second in the standings were Clint Summers from Lake City, Fla., who has qualified for the WNFR three times and Jake Long from Coffeyville, Kan. who is no stranger to the WNFR.

A four-time WNFR qualifier and Edmond, Okla. native, Andrew Ward joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboyʼs Association (PRCA) in 2013. He and his partner Colton Todd of Willcox, Ariz. finished in third place at the 2023 WNFR.

Saddle bronc riding

Wyoming Cowboys Cress and Butner finished the 2023 WNFR in the top 10 world standings, Cress placing sixth in the world and Butner landing in ninth place.

Butner placed first in the second round with an 87-point ride on a bronc named Exotic Warrior, while Cress came in close behind with an 85.5-point ride on Wall Street.

The Wyoming natives landed in the top three again in round four, Cress placing third and Butner edging him out by a narrow margin for second place.

Cress gave it his all in round eight, tying for first place with an 87.5-point ride on a bronc called Monster. Cress ended second in the WNFR average, with the average score of 856 on 10 rides. 

At the end of the 10-day event, Zeke Thurston a Big Valley, Ala. native who rode for the Sheridan College Rodeo program between 2012-14, won his fourth PRCA World Championship in the saddle bronc riding event and second in a row at the 2023 WNFR.

Sage Newman from Melstone, Mont. was the round three winner with an 89-point ride on Weekend Departure, taking second in round six with an 86-point ride and then went on to capture the round 10 win with a stellar ride on All or Nothin’, earning him a 91-point score, which landed him in the runner-up spot for the world title and secured a second-place world title win.

Tie-down roping 

The 2023 tie-down roping world champion was Riley Webb from Denton, Texas. Webb finished in second in the average and in first place in round three with a 6.9-second run. 

Taking second place in the WNFR World Finals was Miles City, Mont. Athlete Haven Meged, a 2019 world champion. Meged had a tie-down roping run of 8.7 seconds to finish out of the money in round 10, but Meged’s 10-day average was 7.74 seconds, which broke the WNFR record. 

Meged also broke another WNFR record in round seven with a 6.4-second run.

Shad Mayfield, a five-time WNFR qualifier and 2020 World Champion out of Clovis, N.M., secured the final round win with a 6.7-second run, putting him in third place for world standings. Mayfield started the 2023 WNFR in second place. 

Two other tough cowboys rounded out the top five world standing titles. 

Coming in fourth place was Caleb Smidt from Bellville, Texas, and earning the fifth spot in world standings was fellow Texan Tuf Cooper from Decatur. Cooper has won three world tie-down championships and began the 2023 World Championship in 15th place. 

Barrel racing 

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi is taking her third 2023 WNFR world title back home to Lampasas, Texas. In addition to her third title win, Pozzi Tonozzi also finished second in the average. 

Pozzi Tonozzi finished 141.18 on 10 runs in the average this year. She won round seven, finished second in round four and placed in eight of 10 runs overall.

Hailing from Oelrichs, S.D., Lisa Lockhart closed the 65th WNFR with a title under her belt. Lockhart also won the average title in barrel racing, following a winning run of 13.54 seconds in round 10. She averaged 13.71 seconds during the WNFR.

World standing third place winner Kassie Mowry from Dublin, Texas is a four-time WNFR qualifier and began the 2023 event in sixth place. Mowry placed first in round nine with a 13.37-second run, and in round eight she had the time to beat – a 13.30-second run. 

Breakaway Roping

The 2023 WNFR World Breakaway Roper was Shelby Boisjoli-Meged from Stephenville, Texas. Boisjoli-Meged won round two with a 2.1-second run, winning round five with a better time of two-seconds, but Cheyanne McCartney from Gainesville, Texas secured the average win by less than five seconds, as she went 32.2 seconds on nine head.

Bull riding 

Securing his first world title with a new single season earnings record, Ky Hamilton from Mackay, Australia was named the 2023 WNFR bull riding champion. Hamilton became the first Australian bull rider to ever win the world title.

Just 16 hours after losing consciousness and suffering a concussion when he was bucked off in round five, he was back in the bucking chutes for round six and winning money. 

Hamilton split third in round six with his 85.5-point ride on Love the Grind’s Bouchon and claimed victory in round seven with an 88-point ride.

Josh Frost from Randlett, Utah entered the WNFR in the top three for the third straight season and became the second-place world champion title winner. 

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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