Down to the Wire: Kory Koontz Breaks Down Round 9 Prospects
With the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo coming to a close, the world standings race is as tight as ever. Kory Koontz analyzes how each team is roping and their chances as the week winds down.
Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira

“I think the steers are really good this year. They look honest and good to heel. There’s been a lot of mistakes heading and heeling. From night one, those steers looked really good to heel. They were broke in earlier this time and then the way they did it made it to where you have to make a good run in order to be 3, but the steers aren’t so good that they’re soft that they just let you do that. You have to be in the barrier sticking, the head horse has to pull them and finish good to make really good runs. If you don’t start your swing as quick, the mid-4 to 5-flat is there for you. If you miss the barrier, you’re in a bind. It puts the header at such a disadvantage. The guys who did the best made good decisions and had good starts and have done well because of it.” — Kory Koontz

Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves: 3.9 + 5

I feel like Dustin started off trying too hard basically. He was trying to make it happen too fast. When he’s comfortable like he’s been the last few nights, it’s the fastest. Whatever it is, with his swings and how he tries to go at them, it’s almost like he was forcing it to begin with. Now he’s got in a rhythm and he’s turning the steers. There’s one for sure the horse was quick and when the steer hit his horse, he didn’t pull them. It jerked the steer then gave him his head back and made it a hard shot for TG. TG has roped a couple legs on some heel-able steers. He made a couple mistakes TG would normally not make. If they could finish out really good, they still have an outside chance at the world title. 

Quinn Kesler and Joseph Harrison: NT

Quinn has done a good job, but he looked like he had some first-time-heading jitters in the Thomas & Mack because that go is so tough. They’re having to force things and don’t look as comfortable as they can be. There’ve been a lot of legs though, too, that shouldn’t be. Guys are almost pushing out down the arena and getting around them too far and putting themselves at a disadvantage. The header can only do so much to give the heeler separation. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been there a bunch of times—I’m still an arm-chair quarterback this time and I know it’s not the same as being there. 

Coy Rahlmann and Douglas Rich: 4.0

They struggled at the start but they’ve done better than a normal first year team on both ends. They’ve done really good. I thought they’ve roped good, and won some good money. It will give them something to build on, and I expect them to come back and be even better next year.

Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins III: 4.3

They’ve been in control from steer one of what they want to do. Buddy had one leg, but Andrew has done a great job. If he doesn’t just hit the barrier perfect, he rides and sticks it on them and gives Buddy the same go every steer. They make that same run over and over. Sometimes it’s 4.3 and sometimes it’s 4.8 in the middle of the arena. There’s a couple that leaked past the middle but Buddy still heels them fast. They’re the most in control team of themselves and the horses and the whole deal and because of it they have a huge lead in the average. 

Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin: 4.1

I feel like Coleman has—other than maybe the first night—turned some really fast steers. Logan has heeled most of them really good and they’ve won some good money. There’s a couple of steers Logan messed up on and got in a bad spot and got by the corner. I don’t know how much they’ve won but it’s got to be near the top. I feel like they look like a go-fast run that’s pretty sharp. 

Derrick Begay and Brady Minor: 4.1

Brady has roped really, really good and made some really good shots. Derrick is making a green horse work, but he’s overcoming that and that’s caused a little inconsistency. I’ve expected them to do good every night though. Derrick is one of the best in there. 

Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler: 5.4 + 5

They’re the dark horses for the world title. I feel like Rhen has roped really sharp in there and has not been afraid to take the shot. He’s being really aggressive, and for the most part, Buhler has been real consistent with making good shots. Of course, there’s been a couple legs. Last night he almost lost the whole cow and it was fortunate he kept a leg. Those two have looked sharp, and when they make their run they’re in the top three.

Clint Summers and Ross Ashford: 4.9 + 5 + 10

They’re just having a hard time at Clint’s first Finals on the head side, and Ross is going to realize after this, when he goes back next time because I believe he ropes really good, that he needs a little different horse. He’s trying to overcome a horse that’s not as suited for the arena. It’s weird because you need speed, but you have to have one that wants to rate the cow and not overdo it. You’ve got to separate and rope the cow clean and get a good dally. I think him and Clint will learn a lot, and they both rope really good and will come back and be better next time. 

Brenten Hall and Chase Tryan: 6.6

They’ve had several mistakes. They could have won a lot more. Last night Brenten missed the barrier jump-riding Tyler Wade’s bay horse, so they were just trying to stay alive for something. They’re just not having their best NFR ever. They’ve done really well there in the past, and this year it looks a little harder. It’s kind of one of those things. I’ve done the same thing, when you cannot pinpoint what’s going on or why it’s happening. I know those guys can be 3.5-4.0 at any given moment. I expect that from them in these last couple rounds. 

Tyler Wade and Trey Yates: 3.9 + 5

I felt like TWade turned a really good one, and Trey just didn’t quite get where he wanted to get so he could separate and make the shot. It almost looked like he threw knowing that TWade can’t pull them much farther. Trey’s almost forced to take that shot no matter what. It wasn’t in sync or shaped up right.

Clay Tryan and Jake Long 4.6 + 5

Clay’s sorrel is tighter than his bay and looks sharper. He looks like the Clay Tryan of old. If Jake can get there, they’ve done well. Jake’s made some unbelievable shots where the steers didn’t clean up and he hammered them anyway. Sometimes it happens fast and he’s a ways from the steer and not getting there to make the shot. They’ve made some really good runs and look pretty sharp. 

Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp 4.0

I feel like they’ve come back and made a couple of pretty good runs. I think the run last night is the one they could have made from the beginning. Wesley has roped really good on the black horse. On one or two nights Cody has been a little bit off, and it’s just been little things here and there. It’s almost like they just need to start the week over. They’ve looked the closest to doing great but yet not had a great week. I felt like Cody was maybe going to do as good a job or better than anyone there. As a team, they haven’t quite got it done. They will definitely do better next time they show up. 

Clay Smith and Jade Corkill 3.7

I was expecting after Clay missed to see the gray horse, and he waited one more night for us to see it. I think, my opinion was, the reason he wasn’t riding him was to be tight and perfect. But now that he needs to make that run, we’ll see that run two more nights in a row. He hung it on him fast and that was a great heel shot because that steer didn’t just square up and take it. That horse is doing a great job of squaring him up and separating. They made an amazing run and I expect it twice more. 

Erich Rogers and Paden Bray 4.4

I felt like Rogers has done a great job, and Paden has been as inconsistent for big money as I’ve ever seen him. Even though he’s young, I expected him to be lights-out. But he does have a good mind and a good mindset, and he stayed confident and stayed through it and has had to work for the two-footers he’s got. I expect them to be in the middle of the race. Rogers is a great quarter back on that team, and he will make sure to get the start and turn them. If Paden can make those shots, they’ve definitely still got a shot. 

Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira: 3.9 

Besides Driggers getting a front leg and breaking that barrier, they’ve roped really, really good. Junior’s done a great job of squaring them up and taking the right shot. I expect them to be 4.0 or better the next two nights. It’s going to be fun to see who comes up big and who gets it done. I thought they made a great, controlled run last night and I bet we’ll see it again. TRJ

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