What started in Fort Worth, Texas, in January ended as it should in Las Vegas in December: Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira are the 2022 PRCA Team Roping World Champions.
Winning their second straight set of gold buckles, Driggers and Nogueira set a new single season earnings record with $340,708.23 each, besting the former record set by Clay Smith and Paul Eaves of $289,921 a man by $50,787.23.
Driggers, 33, and Nogueira, 32, broke every regular season record possible in team roping, having bested the single-season earnings record by the end of July, after starting the season winning Fort Worth and picking up $24,760 there. They entering the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with Driggers $83,214 ahead of second-place Clay Tryan, while Nogueira was $97,546 ahead of Jake Long, his nearest competitor.
The NFR started off just as expected for the header from Hoboken, Georgia, and the heeler from Presidente Prudente, Sao Paolo, Brazil. They made a 4.7-second run in Round 1 to win third, then made a 4.4-second run to split third and fourth in Round 2.
“When we got started, we were kind of making our run,” Driggers said. “I knew that this week, a lot of times when I come in, I’m going for blood—first place. But maybe I’m getting older.”
Nogueira roped a leg in Round 3 and again in Round 4. By Round 5, Nogueira was frustrated with himself, and he couldn’t quite rebound. His horse stepped in his loop on a layup shot, taking their first no-time of the week and, for the first time all season, putting a question mark on their gold buckles.
“It was different this year,” Nogueira said. “I don’t know if I over did it a little bit, or tried to cover every little detail. We did good at the jackpots, and we were trying to keep the same go. We dominated the whole year. We know how to press when we need to do good, too. I put pressure on myself and I felt a little bit behind the whole time. I told my mom, but I didn’t tell Kaleb. I was just behind and couldn’t get going. I felt lazy. Then I get the leg on one, and we’re still good in the average. Then Kaleb turned one, I took one more swing, and Timon goes forward and we get a no-time. You start fighting your mind, until you figure something out.”
Nogueira roped a leg again in Round 6. And he decided he needed a change.
He swapped horses to Lucky Bucky, the buckskin he bought from Cesar de la Cruz, to try to change the feel he was getting in the run.
“I decided to get on Lucky, because he moves his feet so fast and he’s easy,” Nogueira said. “I wanted to take my time and not be behind the steer.”
And then, came Round 7…
Oh, Round 7.
Driggers and Nogueira were third out, and there was a 4.0 and 4.5 already on the board. Driggers got a good enough start, and when his curl came around, it hickeyed the steer’s nose. He saw it as he dallied, picking his horse back up and heading down the pen to start fishing that figure-eight off before Nogueira could make the quick shot he was looking hard for.
“That’s something I’ve done about three times ever in my life, hickeying a nose,” Driggers said. “For whatever reason, that isn’t something that occurs very often. I’d rather it be a hickey on the nose than a hickey on the horn I guess. It’s easier to get it fished off. And then the steer kept trying to cut back, and then Junior smoked him and pushed him back forward in front of us and I dallied coming around the turn, and that steer come into me. I had a big old donut on top of my horn, and I was just sitting there making sure that when I went to pull him, it didn’t come off.”
“I was watching the feet, and I knew what was about to come,” Nogueira added. “I was watching the feet. The steer just hung a little bit, and he yelled, ‘WAIT WAIT WAIT!’ We practice a lot, so we know when something is going on with one of our horses. We had to ranch a little bit.”
They stopped the clock in 18.4 seconds—enough to move them to second in the average even with the mistake as other teams took no times.
The next few mornings, they went and practiced at the South Point’s outdoor arena on the Mathews Land & Cattle steers—getting their game back on track. They were 4.0 to split fifth and sixth in Round 8, extending their lead again ever so slightly. They knocked their next steer down in 4.9 but didn’t win a dime. That run, however, did give them some momentum entering a critical, must-catch Round 10.
When the secretary posted the Round 10 draw, Driggers and Nogueira ended up with a steer that nobody had been clean on yet.
By the time they roped, Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith had gone 3.7 to split the go-round with Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler and Tyler Wade and Trey Yates. Driggers and Nogueira just needed to catch.
“The 10th round felt pretty tough,” Driggers said. “That steer was low-headed and checking off coming into me a little bit. And I had to be in the mind frame to slow down and make sure to get him caught.”
Catch he did—low-headed steer and all. And Nogueira did, too—sealing the deal as they finished second in the average worth $60,159.36 a man, giving them $340,708.23 on the year. Tomlinson and Smith ended the season the reserve world champions, also breaking the single-season earnings record with $307,095.20 a man on the year, including a massive $199,726.99 at the NFR alone.
Driggers rode his 14-year-old gelding Cuervo—Remis Gays On Ofadoc—on all but one steer the last two years. Cuervo isn’t always the soundest thing going, and he needed a break in Round 3. But Outlaw Equine’s Josh Harvey and Driggers’ long-time helper Danita Walker got him back in action, and quickly.
“When I bought Dre back the second time, I vowed to myself that I’d never sell him, and now Cuervo is there in the same pasture,” Driggers said.
Nogueira rode his 2021 World Champion mount Timon—Kiehnes Frosty Pepto—the first few rounds, and he swapped to Lucky Bucky, whom he got from Cesar de la Cruz, in Round 7. de la Cruz watched with excitement from Arizona.
“It makes my heart happy to see one of my favorite horses and one of my good buddies do good and have a lot of success,” de la Cruz said. “It was definitely cool to watch. Especially now that I’m a spectator, it’s cool to see one of my horses that I’ve had a lot of success on, and a really good friend, win a world title. I’ve been very blessed to have really good horses in my life. It’s hard to describe how I feel right now to have watch one of my good buddies Junior and one of my favorite horses Lucky Bucky win a world title.”
Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith won the average title with a record-setting 53.0 seconds on 10 head, and we will post a full story on their victory Dec. 11.
Round 10 NFR Team Roping Results
|TEAM||ROUND 10||NOTES||PLACE||EARNINGS PER MAN|
|Riley Minor and Brady Minor||4.9||6||$4,663.50|
|Jake Orman and Brye Crites||0||Header missed|
|Cody Snow and Wesley Thorp||0||Heeler missed|
|Lightning Aguilera and Jonathan Torres||4.2||5||$7,461.60|
|Rhen Richard and Jeremy Buhler||3.7||1 2 3||23,006.60|
|Clay Smith and Jake Long||0||Heeler missed|
|Chad Masters and Joseph Harrison||0||Header missed|
|Tyler Wade and Trey Yates||3.7||1 2 3||23,006.60|
|Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves||9.3|
|JR Dees and Levi Lord||9.2|
|Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin||3.8||4||12,125.10|
|Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins||9.7|
|Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith||3.7||1 2 3||23,006.60|
|Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill||0||Header missed|
|Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira||6.2|