Georgia’s Kaleb Driggers an eight-time Wrangler NFR header, and Tennessee’s Lane Mitchell kicked off the new year by winning the average at the Texas Circuit Finals in Waco, Texas, which ran from Dec. 31 through Jan. 2, 2021.
Though Driggers and Mitchell have entered a minimal number of jackpots together, their partnership was Driggers’ ticket to securing his first-ever circuit finals average win with a time of 24.0 seconds on three head, worth $2,126 a man.
“Jake Cooper and Lane were roping together, and we buddied at the end of year,” Driggers said. “We both needed a partner, so we teamed up. We’ve jackpotted a little bit together, but that’s about the extent of it. I’ve won a couple rounds before, but I’ve never won the average before.”
Driggers admits that fiery head catches have cost him in the past. He finally found the right heading groove to dominate in the average at the circuit finals.
“I think that’s probably why I’ve never had success down there. I’ve always started going at the rounds right off the bat,” Driggers said. “This year, I was roping more like a three-head average, hoping to qualify to Kissimmee (Florida), and just tried to be honest and see the start—not try to overstep my boundaries and make sure that I caught them all.”
He knocked the start in the first two rounds on a 14-year-old, bay gelding, Nastee, whom he recently purchased from Charly Crawford before the 2020 Wrangler NFR, where Crawford rode Nastee in the first few rounds.
“I’m always looking for a great horse and it’s been a while since I’ve had one that I consider to be one of the best,” Driggers noted. “I feel like I have that in that horse. Charly retiring this year gave me the opportunity to buy him. He just gives you confidence. Literally, all you have to do is worry about scoring and roping the steer, he does everything else.”
Nastee then got a break when it came to the final round of the Texas Circuit Finals. Driggers jumped on his 10-year-old sorrel gelding, Schmidty, to help him go at the round quicker, in hopes to secure the average.
“When we were coming into the short round, I think we were tied with Dustin (Egusquiza) and was 0.4 seconds behind T Wade, so I just only assumed that it was going to be a little tougher. I got on my sorrel that I rode some this year because he lets me reach a little bit more. I can be a little bit faster on him because that was one of my first times riding Nastee at the rodeos.”
Now coming off of the Texas Circuit Finals, Driggers, who roped with Cory Petska in 2020, will team up with the 2019 World Champion Heeler Wesley Thorp in hopes of qualifying to what will be his 10th NFR.
“I’m pretty excited about it, honestly,” Driggers said. “He has some good horses and he heels great. He has a positive attitude. I’m hoping to do big things.”
Driggers plans on having Nastee and Schmidty in the rig to split up between the quick rodeo runs and the aggerate rodeos.
“I’m just not as comfortable on [Nastee] as I am on my other one yet,” Driggers said. “That’s kind of how I’m going to use them this year. When it’s one head, going for rounds or something like that, I’ll ride my sorrel. At the more average, conservative-type runs, I’ll ride Nastee.”
With the excitement of the upcoming rodeo season coming in hot, Driggers has a fire under him and a mindset that he hopes will be the game changer for finishing inside of the Top 15 come November.
“I’m ready to get going again,” he said. I’ve been working really hard at it, getting new horses and just getting everything going.”
1. Tyler Wade and Ryan Motes, 5.1-second run, worth $1,417 each
2. Cody Snow and Junior Nogueira, 5.2-second run, worth $1,063 each
3. Colby Lovell and Paul Eaves, 9.6-second run, worth $709 each
4. Kaleb Driggers and Lane Mitchell, 9.7-second run, worth $354 each
1. Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves, 3.9-second run, worth $1,417 each
2. Kaleb Driggers and Lane Mitchell, 4.3-second run, worth $1,063 each
3. Laramie Allen and Whit Kitchens, 4.5-second run, worth $709 each
4. Tyler Wade and Ryan Motes, 8.5-second run, worth $354 each
1. Cyle Denison and Colton Brittain, 4.3-seconds run, worth $1,417 each
2. Laramie Allen and Whit Kitchens, 9.5-second run, worth $1,063 each
3. Kaleb Driggers and Lane Mitchell, 10.0-second run, worth $709 each
4. Tyler Wade and Ryan Motes, 12.2-second run, worth $354 each
1. Kaleb Driggers and Lane Mitchell, 24.0 seconds on three head, worth $2,126 each
2. Tyler Wade and Ryan Motes, 25.8 seconds on three head, worth $1,594 each
3/4. Laramie Allen and Whit Kitchens, 14.0 seconds on two head, worth $797 each
3/4. Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves, 14.0 seconds on two head, worth $797 each