After nine weeks of rodeo in Steamboat Springs, the quest to win one of the prized buckles that goes with a series title has been narrowed to one final weekend.
The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series finale opens at 7:30 p.m. today with the first of two performances at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. The final PRCA rodeo of the summer is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"It looks like the titles will not be decided until the final rodeo performance of the season," said John Shipley, rodeo board president. "I think the Peewee Barrels title is a lock, but everything else is up in the air right now."
Shipley said the tight races should add a little drama to the final two performances of the year and cap off another successful season for the Steamboat series.
Brent Romick, rodeo director, said that drama would be increased thanks to U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, which is adding $450 per event (except the No. 7 roping, which is not a PRCA event) for the finals.
"That money will make the finale that much more important," Romick said. "That's good for the rodeo series, and that's the way it should be."
Shipley said the final weekend at the rodeo is always big, and having tight races in events such as bull riding, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing only adds to the atmosphere.
There could also be some changes in the bareback and steer wrestling in the final weekend. Kody May is leading the non-pro No. 7 roping, but Travis Rounds and Pake Younger are on May's heels.
Things will be even tighter in the saddle bronc riding event where six riders will be vying for a chance at the Pat Mantle Memorial.
The winner-take-all event pits the top six saddle bronc riders against a pen of top horses in a ride off for $2,000 and a Winchester rifle.
Saddle bronc leader Ryan Rodewald will have to hold off Jeremy Ivie and Mitch Walz, second and third respectively, for the season belt buckle.
All three riders appear to have a lock on qualifying for the Pat Mantle competition.
Todd McCaughey, Britt Trumbull and Brandon Nunn also are in the event at this point; however, that could change Saturday night depending on how the other cowboys do in competition and which riders show up for the rodeo.
Walz is the only rider to win the Pat Mantle three times. Last year, he was beaten by Chet Johnson on the final night, but Johnson isn't in the running this year.
"There's no doubt he wants to win it," Shipley said. "Right now it looks like he's going to get another shot."
Other season leaders include Ranette Taylor in girls barrels, Jed Moore in bull riding, J.G. Marshall in tie-down roping, Zach Curran in bareback riding, Eric Pickering in steer wrestling and Casey Barnes in Peewee Barrels.
Luke Lancaster and Jason Gilchrist are leading the team roping.
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