Age-Defying Feats and Other Labor Day Circuit Updates

In the Badlands, veteran circuit finals champ Matt Zancanella holds an affirming lead over the young guns, while bubble battles emerge throughout the circuits.

Jamie Arviso

The passing of Labor Day means one thing to the world of ProRodeo: It’s the final stretch run of 2022.

While a lot of fans are focused on the PRCA world standings to see who will compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, there are actually 13 other championship races happening around the country as cowboys chase the final points available for circuit championships and berths to the circuit finals rodeos.

Every circuit (save California) had rodeos over the long weekend, leaving lots of chance for ropers—those chasing the top of the leaderboards and those trying to burst the bubble and make the last minute push into the top 12—jockeying for points.

Down to the Wire

While the cut-off for most circuits coincides with the ProRodeo regular season on Sept. 30, there are five circuits which end sooner with the first two, Prairie and Badlands, ending Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, respectively, meaning there is just one more rodeo for contestants in each circuit to earn points. Prairie Circuit contestants have Chickasha while Badlands Circuit competitors can take their chances at the co-approved rodeo in Northfield, Minnesota.

Here’s the differences between 12th and 13th with one rodeo remaining:

            Badlands Headers: Ky Redstrom is $55 ahead of Shaw Loiseau

            Badlands Heelers: Chad Ystaas is $40 ahead of Matt Kasner

            Prairie Headers: Nick Sartain is $316 ahead of Wyatt Muggli

            Prairie Heelers: Logan Medlin is $195 ahead of Austin Rogers

Zancanella and Ullery Finding Silver Lining in Badlands Circuit Lead

The goal for Clay Ullery and Matt Zancanella this season was not about winning a circuit championship.

“Actually, we wanted to make the top 30, maybe even make the NFR, but it’s taking like $50-something-thousand right now,” Zancanella, 46, said of the top 30 mark, adding wryly, “that’s something I haven’t seen in 29 years of rodeoing.”

Despite not having the luck they needed in the PRCA world standings, the pair is holding on to a slim lead for a Badlands Circuit title thanks to wins in Montana at July’s Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede and August’s Northeast Montana Fair & Rodeo in Glasgow. They also cashed good checks at South Dakota rodeos like June’s Crystal Springs Rodeo in Clear Lake and the Range Days Rodeo in August in Rapid City.

“Honestly, to get back at my age and have a shot to win a circuit title is great,” continued Zancanella, the three-time Badlands Champion. He also admitted to some doubts about his ability as he notices age-related difficulties. “You get kinda screwed up in the head; your balance sucks. When you have hell leaning over to tie your shoes, you begin to wonder if you’ll be able to go and compete against these young guys. To be in this position, really, is a big deal for me.”

The three-time Wrangler NFR qualifier gives a lot of credit to Ullery, 29. The pair met through Jr. Dees, whom Zancanella took in as a teen and helped a lot with his career.

The Jr. Dees Story

“He was Jr.’s buddy,” Zancanella said. “We started roping and I really enjoyed it. I’m thankful to have a header who spins them fast enough to win. There are few of them out there good enough to put you in that position.”

Zancanella and Ullery, a Fast Back Ropes endorsee and former Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo champion, will travel to Northfield, Minnesota, this weekend to finish out the season, hoping to extend their lead, which currently stands at $2,396 on the head side and $3,018 on the heeling over the team of Jade Schmidt and Jade Nelson.

“This sets us up for next year,” Zancanella said. “If we do good at the circuit finals, that gives us a good start. If we win the circuit, we make that [NFR Open]. That would be nice and give us a chance to win some big money.”

On the Top Side

Only two circuits saw changes to the top of the leaderboards over Labor Day: Columbia River Circuit on the heeling side and Montana Circuit on the heading.

Not surprisingly, given the hosting of two NFR Playoff Series Rodeos, plus the big one-header in Lakeview, Oregon, the Columbia River Circuit offered a ton of money and Jake Long made the big move from fourth to first over the weekend thanks to winning Washington’s Ellensburg Rodeo with partner Clay Smith. Long took home $8,494.

NFR Playoffs Could Have MAJOR NFR Bubble Implications

Also in Washington, Kaleb Driggers continued his stranglehold on the lead on the heading side after earning $7,346 for a win in Walla Walla and placing in Ellensburg. He’s won nearly double what Riley Minor has in second place.

Justin Viles extended his lead on the heelers in the Montana Circuit after picking up checks in White Sulphur Springs and Dillon behind tie down World Champ Haven Meged, along with a win behind Dustin Bird at the Big Timber weekly rodeo.

Meanwhile, a tough battle is brewing on Montana’s front side. Shawn Bird leapt ahead of Fast Back endorsee Brady Tryan after placing in Big Timber and Dillon, earning $1,291. He now leads Tryan by $498.

Battling the Bubble

The bottom of the standings in the Columbia River Circuit got interesting as well with Luke Brown making a huge move over the weekend. Brown, who is roping with Hunter Koch, won $5,689 for fifth at Ellensburg, a share of fourth in Walla Walla and a split of ninth in Lakeview. After doubling his circuit winnings, he jumped all the way to 12th in the standings and holds a $633 lead on Jason Stewart in the crying hole.

Koch, meanwhile, moved off the bubble spot of 13th and up to eighth.

Also on the heading side, Kolton Schmidt and Jake Stanley bought themselves a little breathing room thanks to their weekend earnings. Schmidt moved from 11th to seventh, while Stanley moved up two spots from the bubble, landing 10th.

Likewise, there were shakeups in Montana thanks to big money at White Sulphur Springs, Dillon, Plains, Big Timber and a pair of co-approved rodeos in Killdeer. The biggest mover was Ben Folsom, who jumped from 14th to sixth on the heading side after banking $3,221 with partner Matt Williams.

The team of Radley Day and Jared Bilby also had a profitable weekend, taking home $2,793. Day, who is the three-time and reigning circuit finals average champion, moved up to eighth from 13th, while Bilby went from 12th to eighth.

Clutch Performance

Zane Murphy and Dusty Taylor pulled off a clutch split of the win in Blackfoot, Idaho, roping against NFR bubble guys like Clay Smith, to pull up from 13th in their respective Mountain States Circuit standings. The $1,545 win easily erased the deficit each faced to the 12th position in the standings, bumping Clay Norell and Riley Pedro to 13th.

Although the cut-off for the circuit isn’t until Sept. 21, the only rodeo left is the co-approved Big Timber, Montana, on Sept. 7.

On the Move

Other big moves on the weekend:

Wilderness Circuit header Brian Winn won $4,080 with partner Matt Liston. He jumped from outside the top 15 to 11th and holds a $653 lead over 13th-ranked Howie Hutchings, while Liston landed 13th, $248 behind Jason Warner.

Also in the Wilderness, heeler Fox Crozier leapt from 13th to 10th after placing high in Parowan, Utah, with Wyatt Murray. Murray was on the right side at 11th but moved to a more comfortable eighth.

In the Turquoise Circuit, a trio of rodeos in Socorro, New Mexico, helped launch heeler Tanner Luttrell from nearly nowhere to 10th. Behind Dallas Owen, Luttrell won first, second and first, worth $2,702 to put him in contention for a circuit finals rodeo berth.

What did you think of this article?

Thank you for your feedback!