(Editor’s note: Story by Susan Kanode/Frontier Days)
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – History was made on Championship Sunday of the 123rd Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo (CFD.) While this year’s rodeo debuted a tournament-style competition format, some familiar faces rode into the winner’s circle.
Local favorite Brody Cress became the first saddle bronc rider to win three consecutive CFD championships when he rode Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s bucking horse Resistol’s Top Hat for 87.5 points.
Saddle bronc began in Cheyenne in 1897 and only Earl Thode, who won four titles between 1927 and 1934, has more wins here than Cress. Hall of fame cowboy Turk Greenough won three in the 1930s and 13-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) cowboy Cody DeMoss has won three beginning in the 21st century.
Cress, whose hometown is nearby Hillsdale, extended the traditional winner’s victory ride on horseback around the arena to three full laps – one for each of his titles. The cheers from the crowd grew louder with each trip.
“Frank (Thompson-the CFD arena director) told me to make three laps,” Cress said with a smile. “I’ve been listening to Frank my whole life, so I wasn’t going to stop now.”
The $12,585 Cress won in Frontier Park will help him on his quest for a third consecutive NFR qualification. He is currently ranked 28th and needs to be among the top 15 on September 30 to return to Las Vegas.
Dustin Bird of Cut Bank, Montana, and Trey Yates of Pueblo, Colorado, are the 2019 team roping champions in Cheyenne. They won the final round in 7.8 seconds and each won just under $12,000. Bird is a former NFR qualifier, and Yates is the 2018 collegiate champion who roped at his first NFR last December. Their paychecks in Cheyenne will jump Yates into the top 20 in the heeling standings and put Bird in the top 30 in the heading.
Nellie Miller of Cottonwood, California, became the first barrel racer since Kristie Peterson in 1998 to successfully defend her CFD championship. The 2017 world champion, who is currently ranked second in the 2019 standings, won $20,697 dollars in Frontier Park, making her the highest money winner of the rodeo.
“This is such a traditional-filled rodeo,” Miller said. “It’s so special to win here. My horse loves big pens and she runs well here.”
She rode the blue roan mare named Rafter W Minnie Reba (called Sister) that she raised and trained. They rounded the pattern in 17.22 seconds, an identical time to that set by Shali Lord of Lamar, Colorado, seven runs earlier. While both women shared the final round’s first and second place prize money, Miller won the tiebreaker to be crowned champion based on having the fastest time in the earlier rounds.
The 19-year-old professional rodeo rookie sensation Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah, has begun carving out his own place in the CFD record books. Wright became the first rough stock cowboy to win the all-around title at the Daddy of ‘em All since Chad Eubank in 2007 won money in bareback and bull riding.
Wright qualified for Championship Sunday in both saddle bronc riding and bull riding. He thought his shot at the all-around title might have slipped away when he bucked off Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s saddle bronc Utopia. But the money he had earned in the quarterfinals and semifinals in saddle bronc riding still counted toward the all-around.
The defeat in the bronc riding made Wright more determined to do well in bull riding, his favorite event. When the day began, he was second in the world championship standings, just about $16,000 behind five-time world champion bull rider Sage Kimzey.
Parker McCown of Montgomery, Texas, set the bar high when he scored 90 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s bull Hacksaw Ridge. Wright was the next-to-last cowboy to compete and he came within a single point of the CFD bull riding record with 93 points on Dakota Rodeo’s bull Safety Meeting.
That earned Wright both the bull riding and the all-around championship and his own place in the record books. Wright comes from a legendary bronc riding family. He is the third-oldest son of two-time world champion Cody Wright; the brother of world champion Ryder and NFR bronc rider Rusty; the nephew of world champions Spencer and Jesse; and three other uncles have qualified for the NFR in bronc riding.
“I’d have figured one of them would have won it before now,” he said. “What really means the most to me is to be the first member of my family to win a title here.”
Wright, who turns 20 on Tuesday, won just over $16,000 in two events with more than $13,000 from bull riding.
Clayton Biglow of Clements, California, was the final bareback rider to compete. Former CFD champ Richmond Champion has just scored 89.5 points on Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Prairie Rose, so Biglow knew he needed 90 points or more to win the title and he delivered.
He made a wild ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s bucking horse Witchy Woman and earned 91 points from the judges to win his first CFD title in four tries.
2019 has been Biglow’s best rodeo season thus far. He is ranked second in the world championship standings, about $27,000 behind four-time world champion Kaycee Field. The nearly $12,000 he earned in Frontier Park will help keep him within striking distance as the pro rodeo season begins its final two months.
The Cheyenne crowd had a chance to cheer for more than one local winner. Steer roper Trey Sheets grew up in western Nebraska and has made Cheyenne his home for the past seven years. He had the second-fastest time of the finals, but the championship in this event was awarded in the traditional format of total time on three runs. His 45.6 seconds was the best by four seconds.
In tie-down roping and steer wrestling, one of the first cowboys to compete in the finals set a pace that could not be beaten. Seth Hall of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the second roper and his time of 10.5 seconds earned the championship. Hall has competed at CFD about eight times but had only made the finals once before-in 2012.
“This is almost more than amazing,” Hall said of earning the championship in Frontier Park.
Eli Lord was the first steer wrestler to ride out from CFD’s Chute 9 and he stopped the clock in 6.9 seconds. The next 15 competitors got no closer than two seconds to Lord’s time. He credits his hazer, Linn Churchill, a former CFD steer wrestling champion with helping him win the title. Lord is the third CFD champion that Churchill has assisted.
Frontier Days added women’s breakaway roping for the first time and drew 242 entries. When the tournament-style competition ended, seven of the 16 ropers in the championship round turned in times in the four-second range.
Jordan Jo Fabrizio of Canyon, Texas, was the fastest of the seven – 4.18 seconds. She is the first breakaway roping in the CFD record book with winnings of more than $17,500.
“All of the breakaway ropers took time to take a group photo in front of the grandstand before the finals today and it really hit me how historic this is,” she said. “This will be something I’ll never forget and always treasure.”
Fabrizio took inspiration from the buckle she wore, a CFD champion tie-down roping buckle won by Raymond Hollabaugh in 1983. Fabrizio spent five years competing in college rodeo for West Texas A & M University where Hollabaugh is the coach.
Plans are already underway for the 124th edition of Cheyenne Frontier Days scheduled for July 2020.
2019 Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Champions
(money is total earned during the rodeo)
Bareback Riding – Clayton Biglow, Clements, Calif., 91 points, $11,784
Steer Wrestling – Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D., 6.9 seconds, $8,628
Team Roping – (header) Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont., 7.8 seconds $11,979
(heeler) Trey Yates, Pueblo, Colo., $11,979
Saddle Bronc Riding – Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyoming, 87.5 points, $12,585
Tie-Down Roping – Seth Hall, Albuquerque, N.M., 10.5 seconds, $12,615
Barrel Racing – Nellie Miller, Cottonwood, California, 17.22 seconds, $20,687
Bull Riding – Stetson Wright, Milford, Utah, 93 points, $13.253
Steer Roping – Trey Sheets, Cheyenne, Wyo., 45.6 seconds (on three) $19,903
Breakaway Roping – Jordan Jo Fabrizio, Canyon, Texas, 4.18 seconds, $17,515
All-Around – Stetson Wright, $16,007 won in saddle bronc and bull riding
Overall Cheyenne Frontier Days results:
Bareback Riding: 1, Clayton Biglow, Clements, Calif., 81 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Witchy Woman, $8,259. 2, Richmond Champion, The Woodland, Texas, 89.5, $6,257. 3, (tie) Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, and Tilden Hooper, Carthage, Texas, 87.5, $3,754 each. 5, Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 85.5, $1,752. 6, Pascal Isabelle, Okotoks, Alberta, 85, $1,251.
Steer Wrestling: 1, Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D., 6.9 seconds, $5,948. 2, Reed Kraeger, Elwood, Neb., 8.7, $5,172. 3, Del Ray Kraupie, Bridgeport, Neb., 8.9, $4,396. 4, Trell Etbauer, Goodwell, Okla., 9.2, $3,620. 5, Kyle Callaway, Blue Creek, Mont., 10.6, $2,845. 6, Riley Wakefield, O’Neill, Neb., 15.2, $2,069. 7, Jeff Johnston, Thedford, Neb., 16.0, $1,293. 8, Joe Nelson, Alexander, N.D., 16.6, $517.
Tie-Down Roping: 1, Seth Hall, Albuquerque, N.M., 10.5 seconds, $8,278. 2, Ryan Thibodeaux, Stephenville, Texas, 10.8, $7,199. 3, Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb., 11.6, $6,119. 4, Marcos Costa, Menard, Texas, 11.7, $5,039. 5, Shad Mayfield, Clovis, N.M., 11.9, $3,959. 5, Tyler Thiel, Belle Fourche, S.D., 13.4, $2,879. 6, Chase Williams, Stephenville, Texas, 13.6, $1,800. 8, Tristan Mahoney, Florence, Ariz., 16.5, $720.
Saddle Bronc Riding: 1, Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyo., 87.5 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Resistol’s Top Hat, $7,918. 2, (tie) Jacobs Crawley, Boerne, Texas; Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa; and Sam Harper, Paradise Valley, Nev.; 86 and $4,399 each. 5, Mitch Pollock, Winnemucca, Nev., 84.5, $1,680. 6, (tie) Jake Watson, Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia and Allen Boore, Axtell, Utah, 84, $600.
Team Roping: 1, Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont., and Trey Yates, Pueblo, Colo., 7.8 seconds, $9,459. 2, Brenten Hall, Stephenville, Texas, and Chase Tryan, Helena, Mont., 9.3, $8,225. 3, Jake Cooper, Monument, N.M., and Caleb Anderson, Mocksville, N.C., 9.5, $6,991. 4, (tie) Pace Freed, Chubbuck, Idaho and Dustin Searcy, Weatherford, Texas; and Dustin Egusquiza, Mariana, Fla., and Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 9.6, $5,141 each. 6, Peyton Holliday, Chouteau, Okla., and Thomas Smith, Barnsdall, Okla., 9.7, $3,290. 7, Coleman Proctor, Pryor, Okla., and Ryan Motes, Weatherford, Okla., 14.4, $2,056. 8, Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn., and Joseph Harrison, Overbrook, Okla., 14.6, $823.
Barrel Racing: 1, (tie) Nellie Miller*, Cottonwood, Calif., and Shali Lord, Lamar, Colo., 17.22 seconds, $6,919. 3, Megan Champion, Ukiah, Calif., 17.24, $4,961. 4, Lacinda Rose, Willard, Mo., 17.53, $3,655. 5, Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Victoria, Texa,s 17.56, $2,350. 6, Michelle Darling, Medford, Okla., 17.59, $1,305. *Miller won the championship based on fastest previous time.
Bull Riding: 1, Stetson Wright, Milford, Utah, 93 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Safety Meeting, $10,077. 2, Parker McCown, Montgomery, Texas, 90, $7,706. 3, Ruger Piva, Challis, Idaho, 87, $5,632. 4, Nic Lica, Garden City, Mich., 85.5, $3,853. 5, Joseph McConnel, Bloomfield, N.M., 84.5, $2,371.
Steer Roping: (final round winners) Dan Fisher, Andrews, Texas, 13.7 seconds, $1,870. 2, Trey Sheets, Cheyenne, Wyo., 15.6, $1,548. 3, J. Tom Fisher, Andrews, Texas, 18.4, $1,226. 4, Vin Fisher Jr., Andrews, Texas, 19.5, $903. 5, Marty Jones, Hobbs, N.M., 21.9, $581. 6, Roger Branch, Wellson, Okla., 25.8, $323. (overall winners) 1, Sheets, 45.6, $13,197. 2, Dan Fisher, 49.6, $10,922. 3, J. Tom Fisher, 49.9, $8,647. 4, Vin Fisher Jr., 51.3, $6,371. 5, Jones, 54.2, $4,096. 6, Branch, 59.4, $2,275
CFD Invitational Breakaway Roping: 1, Jordon Jo Fabrizio, Canyon, Texas, 4.18 seconds, $10,573. 2, Chloe Frey, Eunice, La., 4.43, $8,010. 3, Kasey Eaves, Milan, N.M., 4.49, $5,767. 4, Linsay Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., 4.66, $3,845. 5, Daysha Steadman, Georgetown, Texas, 4.92, $2,243. 6, K.L. Spratt, Lysite, Wyo., 4.98, $1,602.
Wild Horse Race: (final round winners) 1, Outlaw Liquors, $896. 2, Team Crazy Horse, $672. 3, BMC Construction/Applebaker, $448. 4, Shockers, $224. (overall winners) 1, BMC Construction/Applebaker, $6920. 2, Outlaw Liquors, $5,549. 3, Team Crazy Horse, $3,989. 4, Shockers, $2,526.