Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira are The American Rodeo’s 2023 Champions.
This is Driggers’ record fourth American Rodeo title and Nogueira’s second, this time with a 3.61-second run final-round run after a businessman’s 5.45 in the Round of 10.
“It was an easy decision to go catch in the long round because I knew a good solid run would get us back to the short round,” Driggers, 33, said. “The hard part was knowing if I done that I would have to go early in the short round. But I could not take a chance on not making it back by trying to have a good seed. Our steer in the long round is really good to head, but he hasn’t been caught clean very much. We were lucky enough to catch him at Fort Worth, and then again in the long round. So I told Junior when we rode in that I was just going to catch he could do what he wanted.”
In the short round, Driggers and Nogueira roped second out. Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill had already put a 3.9-second run on the board, and Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins and NFR aggregate champs Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith would follow at third and fourth out. Everyone involved had plenty of experience with the set of cattle from Hill Rodeo Cattle—they’d been to the NFR and Fort Worth, so all four teams had seen the steers go.
“Our short round steer was our second steer at the Finals,” Driggers said. “I just knew I needed to take an aggressive start to give myself a chance to win it. With first paying so much more than second, nobody is going for second—which makes it a unique rodeo. We made the short round last year, and I missed first one I had ever missed there. That was definitely in the back of my mind going into the short round. But when it was go-time. I just blocked all of that out and tried to focus on my run. Clay and Jade made a really good run in front of us. Those guys always hold you accountable. And then the defending champs were yet to go, and Tanner and Patty, who are very fast as well. I didn’t want to run over myself, which I felt like I did last year, but I wanted to be very aggressive. I was happy that I executed what Junior and I worked on yesterday at the practice pen. I told him I thought with crossfire being legal I could roll them up and out the front even a little more than usual, and a high-percentage shot would show up for him fast. As always he drilled him and shut the run down fast. I was probably 3 and he was .6.”
Ward and Tomlinson both took no-times, so Driggers and Nogueira got that ever-so-familiar American celebration in the event’s new home in Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.
Driggers’ 18-year-old world-champion mount Remis Gays On Ofadoc is on the injury reserve list, so the Georgia native tapped fellow Southeast Circuit grad Clint Summers for the great WSR Hesa Alive—a.k.a. Transmission. Transmission first burst onto the scene in 2011 with Jay Adams, who’s late father Wes raised the horse. Transmission notched his first big win with Jay and Random Adams—and his half brother, WSR Hesa Dunofa Lena—at California Rodeo Salinas in 2011. Since then, the horse has placed at the BFI, stood out in the Mountain States Circuit with JB James and carried Summers at the 2021 NFR.
“Clint is a childhood friend of mine,” Driggers said. “We spent many summers with him staying at the house roping. We have always said whatever each other had the other one had it too. It’s easy to say, but in situations like these when it’s time to step up and follow through with it, that speaks volumes about a person to me. I am indebted to him for allowing me this opportunity to ride such a great horse while mine is down. I have several young horses that haven’t been to many rodeos, and in these situations if you have the opportunity to get on a veteran horse as nice as him you take the option. I thank Clint, Brittany, Mr. Darren and Mrs. Pam very much for be such a blessing to my family for allowing me to borrow their horse.”
Nogueira went for Kiehnes Frosty Pepto—the horse he won the 2021 gold buckle aboard. “Timon” has been family to Nogueira since he bought him from Kenny and MaryAnn Brown in 2019, and he’s been his crunch-time mount in Nogueira’s string of top-tier heel horses.
We’ll update this story more in the coming days. Check back.