A good number of the lucky seven Wyoming professional rodeo contestants who will compete in the Super Bowl of their sport Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas got there the hard way. They would prefer not to have gambled on their last few chances during the playoffs but that’s what happened this 2011 season for steer wrestler Jason Miller from Lance Creek, Wheatland’s Seth Brockman – also a steer wrestler – and bull rider Bobby Welsh of Gillette.
Miller, who won a world championship in 2007, was bitterly disappointed at his showing in the finals of Cheyenne Frontier Days this summer and decided it was time to go back to the practice pen. “I needed to slow down and concentrate, refocus,” he said. The extra work paid off. Miller’s final two outings at the September playoffs staged in Puyallup, Washington were timed at 3.3 and 3.4 seconds respectively giving Miller the championship and enough cash to move up to #4 in the world standings. The top fifteen positions in terms of money earned secure a berth at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Brockman was not in the top fifteen by late September when he qualified for the season playoff finale in Omaha. The 2005 “Rookie of the Year” remained calm and won a round in Omaha with a run of 3.8 seconds. The attending cash placed Brockman well within the coveted top fifteen and he will go to Las Vegas as the #13 steer wrestler. That’s the same spot Miller was in heading to Vegas in 2007. This is Brockman’s first appearance at the national finals (NFR).
Gillette’s Bobby Welsh started 2011 by winning the $50,000 round at Rodeo Houston but those earnings are not applied to the world standings by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) because the Houston event is unsanctioned by PRCA. Welsh went on to have a very good year and was among the top ten bull riders until fall and the playoff finale in Omaha. It was then that a rule requiring bull riders to enter 40 rodeos a year bit Welsh. He was one short and therefore the money won at Xtreme Bulls events (a branch of the PRCA) was removed from his total. There was one rodeo event left to make up well over $15,000. Welsh maintained his composure and left Omaha with winnings of $18,800 insuring his seventh straight trip to the NFR. “Our math was a little off but it all worked out,” a relieved Welsh told us.
Welsh has been a member of the state-sanctioned “Team Wyoming”
since it was started in 2005 under the sponsorship of the Wyoming Office of Tourism. “We’ve watched Bobby grow up and we could not be prouder of his accomplishments not only for his family but for the entire state,” said Diane Shober, director of the Wyoming tourism program.
Welsh will be joined by three other Wyoming bull riders who’ve qualified for the finals. They are first timer Tyler Willis of Wheatland along with Clayton Savage and Seth Glause who are both now living in Cheyenne.
Another “Team Wyoming” veteran, Jhett Johnson of Casper, will compete in the team roping event at the national finals with his partner Turtle Powell from Texas. Johnson finished 12th in the world standings.
Dusty Tuckness from Meeteetse has been voted in to share the bullfighting chores in Las Vegas. Tuckness was named “Bullfighter of the Year” in 2010.
The entire Las Vegas contingent gathered in southwest Wyoming during the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo in October. A photo shoot there resulted in a unique poster that will be the main giveaway the Wyoming Office of Tourism will share with everyone who stops to visit with the cowboys in Las Vegas. They’ll be signing autographs at the Wrangler Cowboy Christmas retail shop set up in the Las Vegas Convention Center throughout the national finals.