New year, new partners for so many of the PRCA's top teams in 2019—including world champions Clay Smith and Paul Eaves.
Smith and Eaves decided to split at the end of 2018's regular season, with Smith seeking out the heeling services of BFI, Wildfire and George Strait Champ Jake Long, and Eaves ending the domino-effect by calling Long's former partner, Luke Brown, for a 2019 run.
"We, Luke and I, have a lot of the same goals, aside from roping, and we're in the same spot in our lives with little kids," Eaves said. "I think we're on the same page as far as our roping and what we need to do. If we need to run 100 a day, we'll do it. We'll do whatever it takes. Luke is great at rodeoing and jackpotting. I feel like we can win everywhere. There's not really a spot he's weak at, so it's exciting."
Two-time world champion heeler Patrick Smith had a year's notice to find a new partner after now 24-time world champion Trevor Brazile decided early last year that it would be his last as a full-time rodeo cowboy. Smith settled on nine-time NFR header and $1.2-million cowboy Charly Crawford, who roped in 2018 with Clint Summers and Billie Jack Saebens. Crawford lives in Stephenville while Smith lives in nearby Lipan, making frequent practice sessions easy to manage.
"It's nice to rope with somebody who loves to practice as much as I do," Crawford, who missed the Finals in 2018, said. "Patrick is hungry, and he has amazing horses, some of the best he's ever had. It will be good, I think."
Jake Cooper, newly mounted on Trevor Brazile's great brown gelding Boogie, will head for North Carolina's IPRA World Champion Caleb Anderson. NFR header Brock Hanson is again back on the heel side for Colorado's J.B. James, while JoJo LeMond is cracking back out for Colorado's reigning NFR average champ Trey Yates.
"I'm excited to rope with one of the most talented individuals to ever pick up a rope," Yates said.
Tsinigine is yet to decide who he is roping with in 2019.
While not necessarily a "new" team, Colby Lovell will head for Jade Corkill in 2019 after each man took most of the 2018 season off. They won the West Texas Fair and Rodeo in Abilene in 2018 at one of their few outings, and started 2019's season off with a second-place second-go and second-place average check at the Denver Timed-Event qualifier, worth $1,967 a man.
"We've been roping for three or four months now," Lovell said. "At the end of the year we tried to get into the circuit finals, and he made it. I've got the same horse I rode all summer, and I've got four other ones, too."
On the heels of his first NFR, Bubba Buckaloo will head for young-gun Hunter Koch, who heeled for Billy Bob Brown in 2018. World champion header Nick Sartain, fresh off a $200k-plus World Series of Team Roping Finale on the heel side, will crack back out with circuit partner Austin Rogers. Sartain and Rogers roped at the end of the 2018 campaign in the Prairie Circuit and finished second at their circuit finals after Sartain cut off his thumb a year earlier.
Tyler McKnight, who roped with Tyler Wade in 2018 and helped get Wade to his second NFR, will rope with Cyle Denison in 2019. Wade will rope with two-time NFR heeler and American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Champion Billie Jack Saebens.
"We're entered this winter, and are going to see how it goes," McKnight said. "We haven't been to a rodeo together yet. We've gone to a couple jackpots in Arizona. I saw him rope this summer and he turned a lot of good steers. He lives a couple hours from my house, and we will get to rope a bunch and go to a bunch of good rodeos. We're going to Denver, Odessa and Rapid City, a bunch of amateur rodeos to try to get a run down. Last year was his first year and he's got some game. He can reach if he needs to and he jackpots pretty good too."
Salado, Texas' Garett Chick, who roped with RNCFR champ JW Borrego in 2018, will head for reigning Resistol Rookie of the Year Ross Ashford. Coleman Proctor and Ryan Motes, who paired up late in 2018, will give it a go again in 2019.
Another former Resistol Rookie of the Year Nelson Wyatt will head for eight-time world champion Rich Skelton to start the new year. Skelton roped with Jake Barnes in 2018, and Wyatt roped with Trace Porter. Porter will heel for Rhett Anderson.
"He called me back in the fall and asked if I wanted to rope," Wyatt said. "I said of course, how can you turn down an eight-time world champion? I moved to his place, and he has a bunk house he lived in while he was building his house. We get to practice every day, and I get to rope with one my heroes, so that's pretty cool. I have four head horses, so I've got enough to go."
Levi Simpson, the 2016 PRCA World Champion Header, will rope with NFR-heeler Cole Davison in 2019 after splitting with World Champion partner Jeremy Buhler this past September.
"I wanted to branch out and get involved with one of the guys from Stephenville where everybody is," Simpson said. "I want to go down there for the winter and rope with them, and be amongst all the guys and compete against them. I'm going to stay most of the winter there, after Denver. When I was looking at partners, he has two kids, is family-oriented and we're both on the same page. He's willing to come to Canada, and hopefully see if we can win a Canadian championship as well."
Buhler will pick up fellow Canadian NFR header Kolton Schmidt.
"His attitude, the way he goes about his business and the roping, I'm excited about it. We've jackpotted together but never rodeoed together. We roped for two weeks in Arizona, and I'm on my way to Arizona tomorrow to spend another ten days with him. We're skipping Odessa, and going to everything and then going home for May and June for the Canadian rodeos before we head to the BFI and Reno."
Jake Orman, who roped with Will Woodfin in 2018, will head for the legendary Walt Woodard in the new year. Brandon Beers will crack back out for Daniel Braman IV, while Matt Sherwood and Tyler Worley will pair up.
"I'm committed to rodeoing," Beers said. "So much so that we even went to the Denver qualifier. We're going this year and giving it a try no matter what."
Five-time NFR header Dustin Bird will head back out on the rodeo road with old partner Russell Cardoza. Bird took a year off in 2018 to spend time with his family and enjoy the birth of his second son, Sampson, this September. Bird is less than $50,000 shy of crossing the $1-million mark in PRCA career earnings at 38 years old. Cardoza, who has nearly $1.2 million won in his career, roped with Garrett Rogers in 2018 and finished 31st in the world with $45,250 in earnings.
College champs Billy Bob Brown and Shay Carroll (back on the heel side) will rope starting at Odessa. Ty Bach, the youngest of the Bach boys and the 2017 World Series of Team Roping #15 champ, will head for Trey Johnson. TRJ