JR Dees and Levi Lord made a statement with their signature rock-solid run in both man’s second appearance at the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with a Round 1 win to kick off rodeo’s Super Bowl.
Their 4.3-second run won them $28,913.70 a man, marking both man’s first NFR victory lap and go-round win.
Dees, 25, of Aurora, South Dakota, and Lord, 26, of Sturgis, South Dakota, were sixth out in the go as they entered the rodeo ninth in the PRCA world standings with $97,443.12 won on the year. A 5.3-second run by veterans Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp was the only clean run on the board at the time, but Dees and Lord used Dees’ superstar head horse—11-year-old Appaloosa gelding Famous Dillon—plus a short rope and a safe heel shot to put the pressure on the pack.
“Oh he’s just really unique, and he scores and runs across there so fast,” Dees said of the horse by Lions Share Of Fame and out of the ApHC mare CMF. “I shouldn’t have to reach much this week. I should be able to keep them on a pretty short rope and be able pull them up the wall and keep giving Levi consistent looks where we can just kind of get in a good rhythm. He scores so good and, when you let him go, he scores so fast across there. It should be simple for a person there this week.”
While this is Lord’s second NFR, this is his first in the Thomas & Mack. He qualified in 2020 and placed in five rounds to finish third in the average and fourth in the world with Nelson Wyatt, but that year, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, hosted the Finals because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously everybody dreams of coming here, and it took a couple years to get back to have a chance, but it’s great to be here,” Lord said. “It’s so crazy how small that arena is, and I noticed it in the run-through. That felt like we were right in front of the chute at a normal rodeo. You go back and watch it and you’re almost halfway; it shows you can go out in the arena and be fast here.”
Lord was aboard his 12-year-old gelding Zoomin Diamond Prom, whom he bought earlier this year from Jake Minor. “Birdie” is by Zoom Zoom Shorty, out of Sis O Diamond Pro by Mr. Peppy Olena, and was bred by Fort Ranch Quarter Horses in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
“I thought my horsepower was a little lacking,” Lord said. “When Jake told me he was going to sell him, he asked me if I’d be interested, and I couldn’t believe it. I never dreamed I’d pay that much money for a horse, but it’s working out.”
Dodged a Bullet
After Dees roped, he celebrated, but he knew better than to get too excited. At his first NFR, he and Tyler McKnight made a 4.3-second run in Round 1 to kick off their freshman appearance, and they led until the last team—Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira—came tight.
“I was getting on the flag horse, and Driggers and Junior went last and were 4.1,” Dees said. “And I had to get back off.”
Driggers and Nogueira, in fact, did make a sharp run again this year—solid enough to drop the flag in 4.7 seconds and win third, worth $17,254.95 a man. But it wasn’t enough to knock Dees out of that coveted victory lap opportunity.
World Standings Moves
Dees and Lord jumped from ninth in the PRCA world standings to fourth with $134,958.79 and fifth with $136,356.82, respectively. Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill were 4.5 to win second, inching them only slightly closer to standings leaders Driggers and Nogueira, who made a steady 4.7-second run to win third. Driggers now has a $77,740.66 lead over Tryan—down from the $83,214.71 lead he started the day with—while Nogueira leads second-place Buddy Hawkins by $109,931.37.
|EARNINGS PER MAN
|Jake Orman and Brye Crites
|Riley Minor and Brady Minor
|Lightning Aguilera and Jonathan Torres
|Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp
|Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison
|Header lost his rope
|JR Dees and Levi Lord
|Tyler Wade and Trey Yates
|Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler
|Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves
|Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith
|Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin
|Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins
|Clay Smith and Jake Long
|Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill
|Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira