Walz captures second Pat Mantle

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— To help celebrate the late Pat Mantle's 71st birthday, the top six saddle bronc riders in the Steamboat Pro Rodeo series went an extra round at Saturday night's season finale.

When it was all said and done, Craig cowboy Mitch Walz had posted the top score in the winner-take-all event and claimed his second Pat Mantle title. Walz is the first cowboy to win the event twice since the rodeo series established it nine years ago. He collected a check for $2,000 and a commemorative Winchester rifle.

"This rife will go on the wall right next to the other one," Walz said on Saturday night. "I think the money will go pretty quick."

The Craig cowboy has battled injuries for most of the year, but made a solid run the last two weeks of the season to put himself in the running for the Pat Mantle. He was edged out of the all-round title by Santo, Texas, cowboy K.C. Jones on Friday night.

"I didn't think I was going to make it into the top-six even tonight," Walz said on Saturday. "It was a nice little surprise."

Walz competed in Friday's rodeo but did not placed in the regular session of the saddle bronc event. He returned on Saturday for the Pat Mantle despite a cracked sternum he has had for most of the season. He ignored the pain long enough Saturday night to collect the title. He also planned on riding in the Routt County Fair on Sunday.

"It's been a rough year," Walz said. "It's pretty painful, but that's rodeo."

In addition to his Pat Mantle title, Walz collected the season-long title for the No. 7 roping. Unfortunately, the event is not sanctioned by the PCRA and did not go towards his all round title.

Other series winners included J.W. Winklepleck, who may have been the most excited person at the awards ceremony at Pine Grove's Ore House Loft on Saturday night.

"He shoots, and he scores," Winklepleck said as he stepped onto the podium to collect his belt buckle for winning the bareback title.

Winklepleck had placed second in the final rodeo on Saturday night to secure the title.

Josh Bilbrey held off Walz's late season run to win the saddle bronc title, Clint Walker took top honors in the bull riding and Wade Corliss earned the steer wrestling title. Carlee Criswell topped the peewee barrels and newcomer Casey Shelsted won the girls barrel title for the 2000 season.

"I had been hauling my daughter all around the state, but she decided to take a year off," Shelsted said. "So I borrowed her horse and I'm hoping to go to the circuit finals."

Saturday night's awards capped off 11-weeks of rodeo in Steamboat Springs this summer. Rodeo director Brent Romick said it was a record year as the Steamboat series drew more spectators and contestants than ever before.

"It's been a great year," Romick said. "It just seems to get better and better."

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