Erich Rogers and Cory Petska are your 2017 PRCA World Champion Header and Heeler, in a title race that came down to the last steer in the last round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
When Rogers backed into the box third to last on his dun gelding Boogieman, he looked down at the chute and saw the paint steer that Kaleb Driggers had won the first round on. He knew he was supposed to be good–really good–and he was ready.
Rogers nodded his head, and that steer took a step straight then ducked to the left, and suddenly, chaos ensued.
First, Petska's horse Chumlee stumbled, and the steer was suddenly on the wrong side of Rogers as he headed up the fence. As his horse got to his feet, Petska looked up at Erich to try to figure out which way his header of five years was even going, and finally caught back up as they headed back across the pen the wrong way, in front of the roping boxes. Petska threw, and the flag fell in 8.30 seconds.
"It happened so fast, and I turned him, and I’m coming to the wall, and I look up and I saw Cory look at me," Rogers said. "And then I’m trying to get my horse back to the middle of the arena. The steer was right behind me."
"I told Rogers right before we went to go ahead and give me a bump," Petska added. "I don’t think that in the middle of the run I’m supposed to be looking at Erich. I was trying to figure out where the steer was because my horse was going the wrong direction."
They had to sweat Driggers and Junior Nogueira, who needed to win the round to have a chance. They would finish in 4.7-seconds, putting them second in the round (worth $20,730.77, behind Garrett Rogers and Jake Minor's 4.1-second run), seventh in the average (worth $11,423.08), and second in the PRCA world standings with $254,470.94 and $255,200.61, respectively.
Rogers and Petska won the PRCA world standings with identical earnings of $265,416.73 and won second in the average, behind Chad Masters and Travis Graves, with a time of 53.90 seconds on nine head. They won a $120,493.58 at the 2017 WNFR.
Choking back tears, Rogers tried to explain what winning the world with Petska meant to him: "After last night, I was pretty bummed. I text him to say 'I'm sorry I cost us a championship.' He text me back and said no, we had a chance. If it would end tonight, we're the champions. I took off and ran up there and saw him, and he talked to me like he normally does, like a big brother does. He told me not to worry about it, and we still have tomorrow night. The biggest thing about roping with him is we don't get mad. We both make mistakes we know what we do wrong, but between both of us we just shake it off and come back. Today, it was a relief."
Petska has been to 14 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, and five with Rogers, who has qualified every year since 2011. The highest Petska ever finished in the PRCA world standings was second in 2005 with Tee Woolman, and the best Rogers has ever finished was fifth in 2012 with Kory Koontz.
Rogers rode his dun gelding, Boogieman, the first two and last two rounds of this year's Finals, but he counts Dustin Bird's Dolly as his gold-buckle mount.
"It would have been awesome for her to be going out and getting older," Petska said of the bay mare that's 17 and was sidelined due to injury after Round 7. "That horse deserves a gold buckle. In my opinion, she still got one. That’s such an awesome horse and I really do appreciate Dustin for letting Erich ride her—that’s such a good friend."
"I rode her for six rounds and she's racked up a lot of money here," Rogers said. "She's a world champion horse. Guys don't see it out there in the summer time but she helped us get here and there’s no doubt about it."
Petska stayed on Chumlee all week, a gelding he calls the best he's ever had.
"Chumlee is the other side of that. He’s a great horse. I’ve never rode a horse that’s as good as him. I’ve rode a lot of good horses he’s just such an amazing horse—he gives you everything he’s got every time."
With partner changes bound to pop up in the coming days and weeks with the start of 2018, Rogers and Petska are staying hooked on their gold buckle combo.
"We're going to be lifers," Rogers said, a title Petska said his wife, world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi, gave the pair.
PRCA World Standings
- Erich Rogers and Cory Petska, $265,416.73
- Kaleb Driggers, $254,470.94 and Junior Nogueira $255,200.61
- Riley Minor and Brady Minor, $220,183.04
- Luke Brown, $216,803.58 and Jake Long, $208,274.79
- Clay Smith, $197,555.63 and Travis Graves, $202,687.51