Round 10 is shaping up to be a showdown of epic proportions in the team roping, with Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira leading the standings with $218,812.30 and $233,197.40 each.
If the rodeo ended after Round 9 and average payouts as they are now were thrown into the World Standings, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira would be the world champions by $19,700.08 and $35,118.26 over Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler.
Driggers and Nogueira are fourth in the average with a time of 45.50 seconds on eight head, and a fourth-place check in the average pays $32,657.63 each. Richard and Buhler are second in the average with a time of 62.60 seconds on nine head, winning $56,171.12 each if things stay the same.
While Round 10 can change everything, we tapped top hands who’ve sealed the deal a time or two themselves to get their take on team roping race.
World Champion Turtle Powell
It looks like it’s Driggers’ and Junior’s year. Driggers needs to make sure he catches to stay where he is in the average. He’s due for his first one. But the last round is always the easiest round, and things fall apart. Something you don’t think will happen could happen. If Andrew and Buddy miss and Rhen and Jeremy catch, that could shuffle every scenario. Over all these years, going for the average record can be such a bad deal. You’ve got guys going so you run them how you come into the standings on the last day. There will be dumb mistakes of people trying to be short 3’s. Then it comes down to a catch deal. You’ve got to just catch the steer, and then you get into a wreck. It’s going to be weird. Andrew and Buddy will rope third in the round, so the average situation will be figured out pretty quickly. It’s not an easy one to catch in the 10th round and I’ve been on both sides of it. I’m going to say Driggers gets it done.
Eight-time World Champion Rich Skelton
I’ve got to go with Driggers. He’s been texting me every night. Before it started, he had a great attitude. It’s like he’s a different person. He had a really good outlook when it started, and this time, he said if he loses it will be on his terms. He’s roping good, and that Junior has heeled outstanding. He’s heeling them and stopping. I’d love Rhen Richard to win it, but I think it’s one of them things that if either one wins, it would be great. But Driggers has a great attitude and he’s been close so many times. I think it’s his time, mentally.
Two-time World Champion Kollin VonAhn
For four or five years, Driggers has gone out there with the game plan of running in there and not relying on his rope. This is the first year he told me up front that he always makes a mistake trying to go in there a different way. He decided to start off with the attitude of going at them. He’s stuck true to roping the way he ropes. Driggers is roping his roping and not somebody else’s. If they have to be 3.0 on the last one, they’ll do it.
World Champion Randon Adams
I am thinking Driggers and Junior. They’re in the driver’s seat. They rope good and they’re due for one. They’ve roped pretty smart all week.
Seven-time World Champion Clay O’Brien Cooper
The team who’s roped the best this week is Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins winning the average. They’re going to win a bunch in the average—too bad they weren’t closer to the top to contend for the championship. But those other teams, Kaleb and Junior have just hung in there. They got there near the top, and they’ve hung in there good enough to where, now, they’ll get a good average check to hold them in place. Depending on how tough the day money is, they could place in the last round as well and seal the deal. I’d say they have the edge in my book. It’s been a long time coming, and this is the best chance they’ve had. But a lot of strange things can happen there at the end. People can fall out of the average and let other people move up and all of that. You have to let it play out. It can take 30 minutes for them calculate it after it’s done.
Two-time World Champion Matt Sherwood
It’s got to be Driggers and Junior. That horse of Driggers is making the steers easy to heel. It’s going to be an interesting night. People you think come in roping amazing and start off having heck and never get over it. The crossfire call last night was disappointing, and that really hurt Rogers and Bray’s chances. TRJ