The 2022 Wrangler NFR hits the arena floor of the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas December 1-10. With a $10.257 million purse, the ten-day competition offers thrilling payouts and gold buckle dreams for the 119 top rodeo contestants competing there.
Notable fan favorite and leading all-around cowboy, Stetson Wright, set two new PRCA regular season earnings records in bull riding and the all-around. The Milford, Utah cowboy beat the bull riding record of $297,026 set by Sage Kimzey in 2018, setting the new mark at $320,599. In the all-around he’s breaking his own record, having won $320,482 in the all-around in 2021 and pushing that number to $378,340 in 2022. This puts him more than $230,000 ahead of Belville, Texas roper Caleb Smidt, who is second in the all-around. Stetson sits first in the world standings in bull riding and second in the saddle bronc. With $320,599, he holds a considerable lead over Randlett, Utah bull rider Josh Frost, who is sitting in second with his own significant earnings of $228,557.
The saddle bronc riding is led by Sage Newman of Melstone, Montana, who also set a new PRCA regular season earnings record with $253,191, surpassing the $224,488 record set by Ryder Wright in 2019. Sage leads the event by about $60,000 over Stetson Wright, while Stetson’s older brother, Ryder, a two-time world champion, is hot on his heels in the saddle bronc riding, trailing by $31,199 in fourth place. Among the field of saddle bronc riders, none of them are older than 28, making it the youngest group under the age of 30 to qualify for the NFR in its 63-year history.
Also busting out of the yellow chutes is bareback riding leader Cole Reiner of Buffalo, Wyoming, who is looking to cinch his first world title. He is followed closely by Waverly, Kansas cowboy Jess Pope, with a margin of $1,711 separating them. Rookie sensation Rocker Steiner sits in fourth place with $134,327, while the Weatherford, Texas athlete also won the Resistol rookie bareback riding title. Three of the fifteen cowboys—Kaycee Feild, Tim O’Connell, and Clayton Biglow—have taken home the gold buckle in the bareback riding before.
At the timed event end of the arena, tie-down roper Shad Mayfield sits in first with yet another PRCA regular season earnings record. The Clovis, New Mexico cowboy surpassed the record of $190,445 set by Tuf Cooper in 2017 with his own of $203,508. A four-time NFR qualifier and the 2020 World Tie-Down Roping Champion, he has a lead of $36,779 over John Douch of Huntsville, Texas in second place, and a field of equally talented ropers stacked behind him, including four other world tie-down roping champions—Haven Meged, Caleb Smidt, Shane Hanchey, and Tuf Cooper.
Steer wrestling, led by Blackfoot, Idaho cowboy Stetson Jorgensen, is a tight race through the whole field, with only a few thousand or even hundred dollars separating the athletes. Stetson leads with $134,661 and a margin of $10,787 between him and three-time NFR steer wrestling champion Tyler Waguespack of Gonzales, Louisiana in second. Meanwhile, only $224 separates Tyler from J.D. Struxness in third place, and two-time NFR steer wrestling champion Hunter Cure is close at hand with $109,529 in fifth place.
Team roping also saw 2022 PRCA regular season earnings records reset by team Kaleb Driggers (Hoboken, Georgia) and Junior Nogueira (Presidente Prudente, Sa͂o Paulo, Brazil) who each won $227,877. Previously, Clay Smith set the header mark at $150,512 in 2019, while 2010 was the last time the record was touched by Travis Graves with $147,653. The current reigning world champions, Kaleb and Junior had an impressive season roping together and hold a substantial lead over the rest of the field.
How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls
Representing the cowgirls in the Thomas and Mack Center are the barrel racers, led by Jordon Briggs of Tolar, Texas, the 2021 World Champion Barrel Racer. She broke the 10-run record set by Nellie Miller in 2017 of 137.32 seconds with her own blazing fast time of 136.83 in 2021. Jordon leads with $177,779, while 64-year-old athlete Dona Kay Rule of Minco, Oklahoma is in second with $127,442. A tight grouping of horsewomen—many of them NFR veterans—are close behind her.
Meanwhile, the 2022 National Finals Breakaway Roping backs into the box at the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center November 29-30 with ten rounds in two days and a payout of $250,000. Martha Angelone of Stephenville, Texas leads the ropers with $109,097. Six of the ladies are seeing the NFBR for the first time, while the field also includes 2021 Reserve World Champion Shelby Boisjoli and longtime WPRA roper Lari Dee Guy, every one of them scoring lightning-fast times throughout the season.
About the Author
Lillian Landreth is a freelance writer and editor. She particularly enjoys writing about rodeo and the extraordinary people and animals who make the lifestyle fascinating. The author of more than 1,000 stories, her writing has appeared in the Rodeo News; The Ketchpen, published by the Rodeo Historical Society and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; and local newspapers. She is also working on her first novel. When she’s not writing, Lily enjoys riding with the Snake River Stampeders night light drill team, coaching the EhCapa Bareback Riders, a PRCA specialty act, and teaching horseback riding lessons. She makes her home in Southwest Idaho with her entrepreneurial husband, their dog, horse, and cows.