Manny Egusquiza and Evan Arnold cashed in $10,230.88 winning the 2023 Texas Circuit Finals, punching their tickets to the 2024 NFR Open and clinching the year-end heading title for Egusquiza.
Egusquiza and Arnold were 25.2 seconds on four steers to win the average at the Texas Circuit Finals in Waco Oct. 10-13, helping Egusquiza jump from No. 5 in the standings when he entered the circuit finals to No. 1. Having multiple circuit finals trips and circuit titles under his belt, Egusquiza’s biggest focus was not to run over himself.
“I just treat it like another rodeo,” Egusquiza, 47, said. “A lot of these younger guys now get fired up. In my mindset, it’s just staying calm and doing what we trust ourselves to do—not do more than we have to and not do less than we have to.”
Arnold, 38, is excited about the success they had in Waco and for the opportunity to rope some in Colorado Springs next July.
“It was great,” said Arnold, a California native. “It’s an hour-and-a-half from the house and we won $10,000 this week. It’s a great win. Then we get to go to Colorado. We’re expecting a baby girl next month. So, Rachel and I were talking about that. It’ll be fun to get to take her up there to Colorado in July. And then you never know; that rodeo pays so good.”
With fresher steers that the teams weren’t familiar with and a short barrier, Egusquiza was focused on getting clean start.
“I hate breaking the barrier,” Egusquiza said. “I backed off a little bit and used my rope. I’ve always gone with: If I’m late, I can use my rope but, if I break a barrier, I can’t make it up. So, I always play a little cautious at the barrier on the first one.”
As the seventh team out, their gameplan was solid, considering the round became flooded with penalties. They were a clean 5.6 seconds to win second in the round for $1,659 a man. In the second round, they drew a proven steer—the steer Coy Brittain and Colton Brittain won the first round on.
Their steer was once again a winner, and despite thinking he broke the barrier, Egusquiza and Arnold won Round 2 with a 4.3 and both pocketed $2,212. Their win allowed them to go last in the third round, giving them an always appreciated advantage. This time they tied for the round win with a 4.7-second run and cashed in $1,106 each.
Come the final round, the Texas transplants had a 7.0-second lead on the rest of the pack. Egusquiza backed off the barrierand then had to reach as the steer went left, making things a little tricky for Arnold on the heels.
“When he went left, I roped a leg,” Arnold said. “I really didn’t want to rope a leg, but I did. But it was good enough. We needed to be like 15 or 13 seconds to win it. We made three good runs, and then we were in a spot where we just needed to get a time because the average paid $4,400 and a trip to the NFR Open.”
Despite coming up short a leg in Round 4, Egusquiza and Arnold still came out on top of the average race with a 25.2 on four steers. They both took home $4,424 for the average win.
While Egusquiza and Arnold make for a good team, they don’t usually rope together.
“We’ve made some good runs, but we hadn’t been to very many together,” Arnold said.
When September rolled around, Egusquiza was looking for someone to finish out the year with and rope with at the circuit finals. He and Arnold had roped at a jackpot or two and, after seeing where he sat in the circuit standings, he gave Arnold a call.
They roped the last week of September at the Amarillo Tri-State Fair and Rodeo, the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo (Stephenville) and the Pasadena Livestock Show & Rodeo, and secured Arnold a spot in the circuit finals.
“It was just a good fit,” Egusquiza said. “He’s got experience. There were a lot of guys this week, and I don’t disrespect the way they rope, but, to me, you have to rope with somebody that’s been to the dance before, and that was part of the pick I had.”
Game Plans of the Wise
Having multiple circuit finals appearances and wins under their belts, both Egusquiza and Arnold had sound minds, but they also knew they couldn’t back off.
“I don’t think you can go in there thinking about playing it safe because the rounds pay $2,200,” said Arnold, the 2008 Dodge National Circuit Finals champ. “The rounds pay good, and you’re only going against 11 other guys, so you can’t really back off. But then it gets tricky in Round 4 because then, when you just need to get a time, you can’t afford a barrier and you can’t afford to miss. But the first couple rounds, I think that you try to win and then see where you’re at in the average.”
Having heeled a lot in his early career, Egusquiza also knew how important it was to try and keep the same rhythm.
“I told Evan on the fourth steer, ‘I’m not going to try to change anything,’” Egusquiza said. “Because I’ve heeled enough to know that once there’s a rhythm, you don’t want to break the rhythm of the run.
Another for Egusquiza’s collection
The 2023 Texas Circuit title might be Egusquiza’s first Texas title, but it marks the third circuit in which he’s won the year-end title.Since joining the PRCA in 1996, Egusquiza has won at least six year-end circuit titles, including the Texas title, and most of which were won on the heel side.
In 2000, Egusquiza was the Great Lakes Circuit champion heeler. He was then the Southeastern Circuit champion heeler in 2005, 2006 and in 2008 (also the year he won the Southeastern Circuit year-end all-around title) before switching to the head side in 2011.
“To win the Texas Circuit and get to win three different circuits, it means a lot,” Egusquiza said. “I don’t even know how many times I’ve made a circuit finals. I think I roughly counted the other day off the top of my head 20, maybe. It just means a lot.”
Egusquiza estimates he made the Texas Circuit Finals in perhaps just 20 rodeos—maybe fewer. Not bad, considering the notable team roping talent competing in today’s circuits.
“They’re all tough anymore,” Egusquiza said. “I’m not going to take anything away from any other circuit. I think the Texas Circuit’s tough, but every circuit’s tough. There are so many guys that rope good anymore. It means a lot. It’s just a milestone. See what happens in the future.”