Commence the 13-Circuit Countdown

Broken bubbles and crying holes are top of mind as the Circuit season counts down to its final days.

Fast Back Rope's Bronc Boehnlein has long been a California Circuit Standout. Dan Hubbell Photo

Nine days.

After 356 days of intense ProRodeo action, that’s all that remains before the 2022 regular season is in the books and qualifiers are chosen for rodeo’s various championship events.

The races are compelling. From the chase for the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to the races culminating in each of the 13 ProRodeo circuits, cowboys will be roping under pressure in the next few days as they try to reach their 2022 goals.

Fast Back Ropes brings you this recap from the week of Sept. 13–18, 2022, and preview of what’s to come as the season ends.

California (Circuit Finals) Dreaming

Rodeo fans watching the NFR bubble race will have eyes trained on Nebraska, Texas and California during the final weekend of the PRCA regular season. The rodeos in Texas and California can also be huge for the circuit competitors, who will likely have to battle the sport’s top teams to earn the last-chance points to punch their tickets to the circuit finals rodeos.

In the California Circuit, NFR-bound cowboys Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp are comfortably in the lead for the circuit titles, but Poway (Sept. 23–24) and the Sheriff’s PRCA Rodeo in San Bernardino (Sept. 23–25) have enough available purse to change things up on the bottom end for guys like Mike Christensen and Bronc Boehnlein, ranked 13th in the heading and heeling, respectively.

Here’s the differences between 12th and 13th going into the final weekend:

         California Headers: Dan Williams is $717 ahead of Christensen

         California Heelers: Cord Forzano is $93 ahead of Boehnlein

Christensen ropes with Forzano so he’ll be working to secure his partner’s spot as well as his own.

Boehnlein’s partner, Chant DeForest is currently 15th in the circuit heading standings and needs just over $1,000 to reach Williams for the 12th position.

“I’m trying really hard,” Boehnlein, 36, joked of qualifying for another circuit finals rodeo. He and DeForest won a round at the 2021 California CFR. “I just need like 100 bucks.

“I’ve been bouncing around,” he continued. “I even made another pickup man, Josh Reed, enter with me at Norco and Ventura.”

The pairing resulted in a Ventura round check.

“I’m giving it my all,” Boehnlein continued.

While Boehnlein ropes primarily with DeForest, DeForest doesn’t get to rodeo as much due to family commitments and a full-time job away from the arena.

“It’s hard for him to be a full-time rodeo cowboy,” Boehnlein noted.

The duo was able to draw right for DeForest to make the final push on the final weekend; they’ll rope at both San Bernardino and Poway on Saturday, Sept. 24.

“We’re Saturday afternoon and Saturday night,” Boehnlein said. “We got the hot run. I didn’t even see the callbacks before my phone started ringing with the guys asking for a trade.”

Boehnlein, a Fast Back Ropes endorsee, splits time between competition, serving as a pickup man and sometimes flankman, and working on the Flying U Ranch in Marysville, California, during the week. This year, he also worked as the arena safety man at several PBR Velocity Tour events.

“That was kind of a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Something different.”

Having full-time jobs curtails some ambition to go rodeoing harder for Boehnlein. The Fourth of July is tough as he works the Folsom, California, rodeo as a pickup man and can therefore only enter one rodeo. But, he enjoys the work and the steady checks.

“I pick up at about 15 or so rodeos, including Salinas, which I picked up this year for the first time,” he said. “It’s been good.”

While he’s often multitasking at a rodeo, picking up bucking horse riders until just before the team roping begins, on the final weekend, he’ll just have one focus.

“We’re off this weekend, so I’m just your basic team roper this week.”

Texas Shoot-Out

Casey Tew and Tyler Worley continue to hold strong on the top of the Texas Circuit leaderboard, but there’s been a lot of shuffling at the other end of the top 12, particularly amongst the heelers.

Quisto Lopez and Cody Thornton were clutch in a reserve-place finish in Buffalo, which moved Lopez off the bubble position of 12th and up to 10th on the heading side. But, just $474 separates him and the three guys below him in the standings, Shay Carroll (11th), Ty Arnold (12th) and Cory Smothers (13th ), who placed in Abilene to keep his name in the mix.

Meanwhile, despite the check, Thornton slipped from 12th to 14th as heeler Travis Hobbs earned $1,200 over the weekend to move from 13th to 12th. Brandon Gonzales moved into contention over the weekend as well, moving to 13th. Just about $1,000 separates Thornton from Hobbs for the final spot into the Texas Circuit Finals, which has moved to Oct. 13–14 in Waco, with six rodeos left on the schedule during the weekend of Sept. 22–25.

Final Push

With two rodeos, including the famous Pendleton Round-Up, to close out the 2022 Columbia River Circuit, changes were possible within the circuit standings but no one moved into the top 12 on the final weekend for the circuit.

Calgary Smith slammed the door on his qualification by winning second at Washington’s Othello PRCA Rodeo, held Sept. 16–17, holding the 12th and final spot for the heelers. On the heading side, Luke Brown did not place but stayed ahead of Jason Stewart to lock down his entry into the Columbia River CFR, which will happen Oct. 20–22 in Redmond, Oregon.

Kaleb Driggers carries a $20,000-plus lead over Riley Minor into the Finals for headers while Brady Minor is just $1,600 in front of Jake Long for heelers.

Meanwhile, a trio of co-approved rodeos in Arkansas over the weekend spelled the end of the season for cowboys rodeoing in the Great Lakes Circuit.

Partners Mason Appleton and Clay Clayman easily maintained their positions atop the leaderboard. In fact, they carry leads of $6,287 and $8,502, respectively into the Finals, held in Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 10–12.

The pair are permit holders showing no respect to veterans behind them in the standings such as World Champions Joe Beaver and Cory Petska, as well as circuit champ Adam Rose.

They’re also No. 1 and 2 in the circuit’s All-Around chase, with Appleton in the lead by less than $700. The Oklahoma header also ropes calves while Clayman, from Missourri, ropes calves and steer wrestles. Appleton frequently provides the hazing duties for his partner on the rodeo road.

Clayman is the 2022 JR Ironman Champ and record setter, and will make his second GL CFR appearance this year. He leads the circuit’s steer wrestling as well, while Appleton is second in the tie down roping, so that All-Around race will be fun to watch when the Great Lakes Circuit Finals rolls around.

On the bottom side of the Great Lakes standings, a lot of shuffling happened with no changes inside the top 12 for the headers as the 9th– through 13th-ranked cowboys all won money, leaving Jason Arndt in the crying hole of 13th by just $188.

On the back end, Wyatt Kanan made the only move from the wrong side of the bubble, jumping from 13th to 11th thanks to a second-place finish at the Sept. 16–17 Crowley’s Ridge Saddle Club Charity Rodeo in Forrest City, Arkansas. That bumped Cole Stevens to 13th, missing the cut by $688.

Cowgirl Whitney DeSalvo finished 14th in the heeling standings. DeSalvo was making a bid to join Jamie Williams as just the second female to earn a circuit finals berth as a heeler in the PRCA.

Though the Mountain States Circuit’s cutoff was technically Sept. 21, there were no rodeos over the weekend and therefore no changes in the standings. Clayton Van Aken and partner Jayden Johnson are the leaders going into Loveland, Colorado, where the Mountain States Circuit Finals Rodeo will happen on Oct. 21–22. Van Aken’s has a lead of $7,604 over Kellan Johnson, while Jayden Johnson’s lead on Trey Yates is $4,010.

Get Truckin’

For bubble cowboys in the Turquoise Circuit, the final weekend could find them sleep deprived and putting plenty of miles behind the donut: There are four chances left for Turquoise Circuit points, but not one comes inside the circuit boundaries.

That means guys like 13th-ranked header Erich Rogers and number 13 heeler Jeremy Alcott may find themselves trucking from Poway, California, to Amarillo and Seminole in Texas for a push over the hump and a chance at the Turquoise Circuit Finals Rodeo. Rogers will likely be making the miles anyway as he finds himself on the NFR bubble too, ranked 19th in the world.

Here’s the differences between 12th and 13th going into the final weekend:

         Turquoise Headers: Brayden Parker is $369 ahead of Rogers

         Turquoise Heelers: Robert Murphy is $101 ahead of Alcott

Josh Siggins and Junior Zambrano held onto their leads in the circuit standings following the New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo. Zambrano continues to battle Blaine Turner for the Resistol Rookie of the Year award as that season winds to its conclusion.

Tom Richards leapt the bubble completely after taking 5th at Albuquerque heading for Seth Hall. Richards is now ranked 8th. Parker also moved inside the top 12 with a check at Albuquerque, going from 13th to 12th.

Interestingly, Hall is currently qualifying on both ends of the team roping to go to Camp Verde, Arizona, Nov. 4–5, for the Turquoise Circuit Finals.

Maple Leaf Dominance

Brothers Dawson and Dillon Graham continue to lead the way in the Maple Leaf Circuit heading into the final weekend of the season. They have earned more than double than their closest competitors, Logan Bonnett and Tyce McLeod, after picking up numerous wins, including two over the long Labor Day weekend at Armstrong and Merritt, British Columbia. The duo are ranked 32nd and 35th, respectively, in the PRCA world standings as well after big non-circuit wins like Prineville, Oregon, and the short round at the California Rodeo Salinas.

Unlike the circuits in the United States, only the top 10 advance to the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals Rodeo in Regina, Saskatchewan, held Nov. 30 through Dec. 3.

Travis Nickolson is clinging to a $194 lead on the heading side while Stacy Cornet is more comfortable with a $1,300 cushion for heelers for the 10th and final qualifying position with just the Edmonton (Alberta) Pro Rodeo left on the schedule.

Three Shots in the Sunshine and a Last Chance in the Wilderness

While the Culpeppers, Braxton and Brad, are comfortably leading the Southeastern Circuit, the rest of the competitors have three rodeos left in Florida this week to finish the season and try to push over the hill into the top 12.

For the headers, Brady Barretine will attempt to find the $401 separating him from 12th, currently occupied by Spunk Sasser. Meanwhile, 13th-ranked heeler Zack Mabry is looking to earn at least $56 to sprint ahead of Ross Lowry and punch his ticket for the Circuit Finals held in Davie.

In the Wilderness Circuit, just the Young Living’s Last Chance Rodeo in Mona, Utah, on Sept. 23–24, remains for contestants to earn precious circuit points.  No one will catch leaders Hagen Peterson and Dylin Ahlstrom for the regular season win but, with its $7,000 purse, the bottom end of the standings could see some shakeups.

Currently, header Jade Anderson holds a $47 lead on Howie Hutchings for the 12th position while Scotty Lauaki is holding the final qualifying position at No. 12 for the heelers by $459 over Matt Liston.

The End … Well Almost

The end of the coming weekend represents the last chances for competitors in most of the circuits. However, cowboys in the First Frontier Circuit will still have two more opportunities early next week as a pair of rodeos in Cumberland, Maine, on Sept. 28 and Sept. 29 close out the season prior to the Sept. 30 cut-off.

Eric Fabian and Derek Carey maintained their lead in the standings over the weekend, but the First Frontier is no doubt the closest race, top to bottom. Fabian and Carey’s leads over second-ranked Waylon Cameron and Scot Brown are just $92 and $48, respectively.

The biggest mover on the second to last full weekend of 2022 was header Darren Morgan, the reigning FF CFR average champ who represented the First Frontier at the inaugural NFR Open in Colorado Springs this summer. His season began slow, but he’s placed at the last six rodeos to give himself another shot at the circuit finals, including New Jersey’s weekly Cowtown Rodeo on Sept. 17, to jump all the way to the No. 10 spot.

Here’s the differences between 12th and 13th going into the final weekend:

         First Frontier Headers: Chuck Smith is $102 ahead of Mike White

         First Frontier Heelers: Cole Sherwood is $628 ahead of Kevin Brown

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