Defending World Champion Team Ropers Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira rode into the $14.1 million 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge riding the wave of a record regular season. They have a commanding lead in the world championship race, and on the backs of Cuervo and Timon have gotten off to a stellar start here in Rounds 1 and 2, with 4.7- and 4.4-second runs that they’ve made look routine. Here’s how they looked to ProRodeo Hall of Famer Clay “The Champ” Cooper.
“There’s an old saying that the cream always rises to the top,” said Cooper, who won seven gold buckles behind Jake Barnes in his iconic career. “It’s been pretty evident the first two nights that they’re executing great runs, and making it look easy.
“They’re not trying to overdo anything. Kaleb and Junior have been there and done that, and they know what it’s going to take to get the job done—not only for the week here at the Finals, but to win the world championship. It’s just business as usual for them.”
Driggers and Nogueira placed third on opening night, split third with Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith last night and have taken the early lead on two in the NFR average. They’re 9.1 on two steers, with Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins breathing down their backs at 9.5.
“Kaleb and Junior broke through last year by executing a great game plan,” Champ continued. “They followed that up this year with complete domination all year long. Anything can happen from night to night at the Thomas & Mack, but they look pretty much unbeatable to me. They’ve been my pick for four or five years now going into the Finals, and as a team, they’ve put themselves into the driver’s seat.”