Proctor and Medlin were 18.1 seconds on three steers to take the aggregate win. For eight-time NFR header Proctor, 38, this makes for Prairie Circuit Finals win #5, and it’s just as exciting the fifth time around.
“Winning’s always fun, especially winning a setup like that,” Proctor said. “Honestly, the opportunities that are ahead make winning at your circuit finals so much better. To know that you beat the best 12 teams in the Prairie Circuit on three head, that’s an accomplishment.”
For four-time NFR heeler Medlin, though, this is his first Prairie Circuit Finals win, and his first time to make it to the NFR Open, where payouts have a potentially big impact on a roper’s ProRodeo season. Circuit rodeos have to be “officialed”—meaning they count toward a contestant’s yearly rodeo count and toward world standings—now to count for circuit standings, which can be a gamble when there’s bigger rodeos you could count instead. The money up for grabs in Colorado Springs makes that gamble a little bit more worth it.
“That money getting to count towards the next year’s world standing is huge,” Medlin, 32, said. “You can’t unofficial them now, and it’s cutting into some rodeos that you might have to skip other times of the year that add more money. It’s kind of a little bit of a gamble. But if you make the NFR and make circuit finals and win up there, it’s worth it. So, it was good to get a little bit of money won for next year to get started and the chance to win a lot more at the NFR Open, and that’s where you really want to be.”
Proctor also looks forward to the big opportunities that can come from a trip to Colorado Springs.
“I mean, that’s a great hit a chance at $25,000-$30,000 right there in the middle of July,” Proctor said. “You can change your whole year around. You’ve seen guys the last few years make the National Finals a lot based off the performance at the NFR Open. So, it’s vital to get there and at least have the opportunity.”
In Round 1, Proctor and Medlin were clean with a 7.4, but they were out of the money and lower in the round. Right off the bat, Proctor wasn’t satisfied with his own performance.
“My steer came out a little bit left, and I kind of got in a panic situation,” Proctor explained. “I reached at him and split the horns. He was fading to the left and we were running out of room. But just before all was lost, that good Lone Star head rope of mine fell right around his nose letting me get the half head.”
Knowing just how competitive the Prairie Circuit team roping is, the team wasn’t sure they still had a chance at an average title, especially given the lead between them and the top teams after Round 1.
“There were two 4.9s and maybe three 5.0-second runs, and it’s hard to overcome 2.0 seconds in two more steers,” Medlin said. “Really, I didn’t think the average title was probably in reach just because there’s enough guys that rope good in our circuit. I didn’t think that it would fall our way that much.”
But in Round 2 they drew the best steer in the herd and, when they laid down a 4.1-second run, they changed everything. The round fell apart with only five teams making qualified runs that night. Proctor and Medlin won the round for $2,149 a man and took the lead in the average.
“I got a great start, and my horse really worked awesome and let me lay the steer up,” Proctor said. “Logan slammed him shut like Logan always does. We were really fast.”
They entered the third round with a 4.0-second lead over the second-place team. A common high-teamer situation where they needed to be under 11.4 seconds to take the average win. Proctor felt like his rope hit the steer funky between the base and tip of its right horn. But his rope swung around to catch both, and it was game on. They were 6.6 to finish out of the round money, but No. 1 in the average with an 18.1 on three steers for $3,223 a man.
“We knew we just needed to just complete the course,” Medlin said. “And the team behind us caught clean, and so we had to be clean to win it. Coleman just made sure he stayed off the barrier, ran down there and all the way to him and turned him.”
Normally in an indoor setup like Duncan, Proctor would call on Heisman—the horse that carried him to his recent Governor’s Cup win—but he’s in Muldrow, Oklahoma, at Complete Equine Performance getting prepped for the NFR. Instead, Proctor rode Mills, a horse whose Prairie Circuit Finals win was well-deserved.
“Mills has been a great asset to the team,” Proctor said. “He’s really came on this year. He’s the workhorse; he’s the one that gets me to the Finals. He’s great in all the different setups. And I was just telling my wife the other day how I felt bad because Mills is the only horse that I’ve got in the barn that hasn’t won a rodeo title yet. I’ve won a lot of seconds; I’ve won a lot of go rounds on him. But to actually win first at this rodeo and get him a buckle, it was pretty cool.”
Medlin also went against the grain and broke out Drago after spending much of 2023 on futurity-turned-rodeo-horse Cantina. But make no mistake, two-time AQHA/PRCA Heel Horse of the Year Drago has been feeling good at home and ready for the call.
“I knew he’d fit the setup fine, and so I just cracked the old man out and rode him, and he was awesome,” Medlin said. “Like he has been for a long time, he was spot on. It was cool to get to ride the old man again and give Cantina a little bit of a break. I’m going to a bunch of ropings and stuff the next couple weeks and then, when I start getting ready for the Finals, Cantina is going to get plenty of it. It was good to get to ride Drago. Kind of like putting an old shoe on.”
Prairie Circuit Pride
Proctor is an Oklahoma native—aka a Prairie Circuit native. And while he’s proud to be an Okie, he’s just as proud to be a Prairie guy through and through.
“I’m a prairie dog,” Proctor said with a laugh. “I think just that’s where I cut my teeth. The great champions that came before me—the Bret Boatrights, the Nick Sartains and Shannon Fraschts of the world; just all the guys that I idolized growing up—Charles Pogue, Britt Bockius—all those guys had Prairie Circuit titles, and I’m proud of the product that the Prairie Circuit puts out there.”
Meanwhile, Medlin is a New Mexico native making his home in Texas who has claimed the Prairie Circuit for two years now. As an outsider roping in, he, too, recognizes the talent in the Prairie Circuit.
“There’s a lot of guys that rope good,” Medlin said. “And there were even guys that roped good that just didn’t get to enough rodeos that normally do. Jake Clay made the [NFR], but he wasn’t there, and he usually is. Kollin (VonAhn). The Yeahquo boys. It’s not ducking off by no means throughout the year. You have to make good runs to win it. Even at a circuit rodeo, nothing’s really a given.”
The circuit finals have been housed at the Stephens County Expo Center in Duncan for the last decade, and all the committees involved—the Duncan committee itself, the circuit’s timed event committee and the rough stock committee—plus everyone that lends a helping hand have worked hard to make the Prairie Circuit Finals a reflection of the level of competition there. And that’s something Proctor is grateful for.
“I put a lot of clout behind being a Prairie Circuit champion,” Proctor admitted. “This year I just won the finals average, but you hang your hat on that. And when you’re the best team roper in the Prairie Circuit, that really speaks volumes and that’s a lot to hang your hat on.”