Top bronc riders return to 'Boat

Pat Mantle Memorial highlights final weekend of rodeos

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It's something cowboy Bryan Costner has wanted to win from the first time he climbed on the back of a bucking horse.

As a child growing up near Steamboat Springs, the saddle bronc rider used to watch cowboys such as Marty Forster, Mitch Walz and Brett Brooks battle each summer in the Mantle Memorial Saddle Bronc Riding competition.

The winner earned a commemorative rifle, a nice end-of-season bonus and a respect from young cowboys such as Costner.

"There have been a lot of good saddle bronc riders in Steamboat, and they all won it," Costner said. "I guess I'm just hoping that I will have my year."

Costner, 26, who attended Cen--tral Wyoming College in Riverton, twice won in his region and went to the College National Finals before turning pro.

Since graduating, he has continued to travel across the country to compete. He won the Steamboat series title in 2001 and has been in the running for the Pat Mantle Memorial title more than once.

But being in the running and winning are two different things.

"I never have won it," Costner said about the Pat Mantle title. "It just hasn't been my time, but I keep thinking that this will be my year."

Unfortunately, Costner didn't crack the top six last season and had to watch from the side as Brandon Munn collected the rifle, a $2,000 paycheck and all the glory.

This year, Costner earned the right to compete thanks to a win on Rainbow Weekend and another paycheck the following week. He is hoping to make the most of it.

"I just keep trying them. One of these days I will win," Costner said.

But the odds are not good -- even for a solid rider such as Costner. To win the Pat Mantle, the rider must have a consistent season, get a good draw for the ride-off and hang on for the required eight seconds. Mitch Walz is the only cowboy to win the title three times and back to back. Walz and Brett Brooks are the only cowboys to have won the competition more than once.

Each year, the top six saddle bronc riders from the season face off in a winner-takes-all contest.

Costner holds a $40 lead against Wyoming cowboy Britt Trumbull headed into the final performance of the season. Both riders are guaranteed a spot in this weekend's ride-off, but most of the other qualifiers won't be determined until after Saturday night's saddle bronc contest.

Costner said he plans to ride in the Pat Mantle but will not compete in the regular performance this weekend.

"I'm really hoping that I can hold on to my lead for the season title," Costner said. "But I didn't enter Steamboat this week, so I will just have to sit back and see what happens."

With two nights of rodeo left, there still is a lot that can happen.

Titles in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie down toping and barrel racing will be determined this weekend.

Cowboy Josh Kaine Johnson holds the advantage in bull riding, Jerad Schlegel is ahead in bareback, and Cole Fritzlan is leading steer wrestling.

The team of Lance Allen and Paul Beckett hold a sizable advantage in team roping, Jocko Camilletti leads No. 11 roping, and Joe Colletti leads tie down roping.

Eagle's Margie Ward will look to hold off Julie Haskins of Maybell for the girls barrel racing title, and it looks as if the Pee-Wee title will come down to Cutter Barnes and Garrett Camilletti.

This weekend's performances start at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Pat Mantle Memorial is part of Saturday's performance at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

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