Saturday, July 15, 2023, Nelson Wyatt and Tyler Worley braved the mud in Colorado Springs to win the NFR Open with a 4.4-second run in the clean-slate final round.
A year ago, Wyatt and Worley made the decision to switch their focus from making the NFR to hitting the Texas Circuit hard. Their plan B proved the right path as they went on to win the 2022 Texas Circuit Finals and the year-end in October to punch their tickets to the NFR Open, which turned out to be a large success.
“I had the circuit rodeos mapped out so we could get the (Texas) Circuit Finals made,” Wyatt, 30, said. “It’d be a start for the next year, and [Worley] said he wanted to do it. So just to look back at that now, going home seemed like the worst thing ever—not what you want to do—but sitting here now, it’s like, maybe God had a plan for all of it.”
Making the most out of the mud
Though they parted ways as ProRodeo partners after the 2022 season, they proved their compatibility still flows well from the moment Wyatt, a 2020 NFR qualifier, nodded his head.
Wyatt and two-time NFR heeler Worley ran their first steer Thursday, July 13. Worley pulled off a rank heel shot to put them at the top of the round with a 5.8. They split the round with Dawson and Dillon Graham, worth $4,979 a man. They also capitalized on their second steer in the Friday matinee to place fourth with a 5.3 for $2,060.
“The steers were pretty soft,” Worley, 30, said. “They went to Cody, and, for the most part, that’s kind of the slowest steers that I’ve seen there. They were all pretty good, all decent chances. Our first one was pretty strong, and we made a decent run. The second one, we should have probably won the round, but I dropped my rope and just got in a bind. Luckily we got by him, though.”
Wyatt and Worley went into the semifinals leading the average with an 11.1 on two head to both take home $5,666. Their average was wiped clean, however, when the semifinals began. In the clean-slate semifinals that consisted of eight teams, things didn’t quite go as planned for the team. Worley slipped a leg and they were an 11.7. As that plan of God’s Wyatt referred to would have it, the semifinals fell apart, and Wyatt and Worley finished second in the round to win $5,151 and move on to the Finals.
“For me, it’s pretty hard (to bounce back) because I’m hard on myself,” Worley said. “It bothered me a little bit, but at the same time, I tried to just let it go. I don’t want to make an excuse, but the conditions were pretty hard with it being muddy. I tried not to think about it and not let it get me down. It’s hard to do, but I tried to just not worry about it and just do the best I could on the next one.”
As one would expect, the Finals got intense. NFR header Cody Snow and last year’s NFR Open champion Dalton Pearce were the first team out and went 6.9 on a hard-running steer. The Mountain States team of Pedro Egurrola and JC Flake shook the field with a 4.9. And when it came time for Wyatt and Worley, they took care of business.
“I thought if I could get farther down the arena, I’d have a better chance of catching him,” said Worley, who was riding a horse he calls Bon Jovi. “But that (the 4.9) kind of means I have to just throw right here. If we were going to have a chance to win, I was going to have to anyways because the guys behind us had been roping great, too. That’s kind of what we did, and I knew when we had money won for sure, Nelson was going to at him, so it wouldn’t have made much sense for him to go at him and me not.”
Wyatt went for it, and they roped their steer in 4.4 seconds to win the 2023 NFR Open. Their 4.4 bought them both $6,868. The tournament-style format of the NFR Open gave them an advantage, and they utilized it.
“Going almost last and them going 4.9, we go behind them, obviously, we have to be faster than 4.9 to win it,” Wyatt, who was riding Colt, said. “Well, now I’m just going to try to get a better start where if they didn’t go 4.9, I’m going to take less of an aggressive start to make the last team catch. But with them going 4.9 now, hey, I’m hair down; I have to do my job.”
Coming into the NFR Open at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, Wyatt was sitting third in the world standings. Now, Wyatt sits atop the world standings with $112,453, thanks to his nearly $25,000 earnings at the NFR Open. But despite the jump in the standings, Wyatt’s not pleased just yet as his goal is to get him and his regular-season partner Chase Tryan to the Finals this year.
“Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at the heading standings, but I try to bypass that and look at the heeling standings,” Wyatt explained. “Chase Tryan’s my rodeo partner, and I really want to get him to the Finals. So, I feel good, but it’s not like I’m satisfied. I need to get wins for him, and I still need to do my job and get him there.”
There was even more riding on the NFR Open for Worley who sat outside the Top 15 going into Colorado Springs. Worley is now No. 7 with $60,160.37 won on the year.
“This win, it’s awesome,” Worley said. “Because I went from dang sure needing to make something happen, to now I feel like we can do it. The balls are rolling. Which, you never want to give up, but at the same time, when you’re a ways back it’s a little hard because these guys rope so good—everybody ropes so good. And the setups are tough, the times are fast now. You have to go as fast as you can. It’s just hard to put together that much money in one place in the summer.”