Team ropers are rodeo fans. And now that the regular rodeo season is in the books, the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is coming in hot. Take note of the Texas teen who is the runaway 2022 Resistol Tie-Down Roping Rookie of the Year. Riley Webb is only 19, but his young gunslinger style suits the Thomas & Mack Center set-up to a tee. This kid’s not afraid to set his sights high, and he’s no stranger to center stage.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this opportunity to bust out,” he said. “Every rookie has hopes and dreams of making the NFR their rookie year. But a lot more goes into it than hoping and dreaming, and I’ve been after this my whole life.”
Making the Finals and winning Rookie of the Year are two major checkmarks on Webb’s wish list. But the only child of roping-producer parents Dirk and Jennifer Webb, who grew up in Denton, Texas, never stops raising the bar on his roping career.
“I’d love to make the NFR a bunch of times, and potentially win world titles,” he said. “I feel very blessed to be making a living using my rope and doing what I love every day. The chance at a gold buckle this year is awesome. Only two people—Joe Beaver and Haven Meged—have won the world as rookies. But that means it can be done.”
Young Webb flew solo with the help of drivers most of this year, and learned all about the ups and downs of life on the professional rodeo road. Like every other new kid on the pro rodeo block, he had to learn to lose. Nobody wins ’em all out there.
“It’s been a long, hard-fought year,” he said. “Losing’s always part of it, but at the end of the day, you don’t lose, you learn. You have to learn from the losses, and move on.”
In the summer of 2021, just before his 18th birthday, young Riley was thrown into the fire of a million-dollar spotlight at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance event held during Days of ’47 in Salt Lake City. With two consecutive WCRA wins under his belt, he was one win away from the $1 Triple Crown of Rodeo bonus. He took his best shot, and he missed. But Momma Jennifer has three rules she expects her son to live by—“Have fun, try your best and leave the rest to God.”
“You just have to keep going and stay positive,” Riley said. “There have been plenty of highs and lows this year. Everyone talks about how important it is to have a good Fourth of July run, and I only won one check over the Fourth. You have to keep your head down, keep doing what you do and work your way through the slumps. Today can be great, then tomorrow can be the worst. All you can do is take every day for what it is, and take advantage of every possible opportunity.”
The “Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West” Reno Rodeo in June was one such opportunity, and Riley struck for the coveted silver spurs. Webb jumped from 21st in the world to 10th overnight, and split second and third at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede a few days later. It was just the $30,000, one-two punch earnings spike he needed to send him into a spectacular summer.
“I won more that week than I’d won all year to that point,” he said. “Key wins make all the difference. I’ve had a lot of good days this year. And right there at the end (of the regular season), I won second in the second round at Pendleton (Oregon). They couldn’t get me (out of the Top 15) after that, so it was a big sigh of relief.
“I’ve had a lot of good days and a lot of bad days, too, in 2022. I felt behind and struggled this winter. But I had fun all year, winning or losing, and got to see so many new places I’ve never been before.”
So, kid, who’s the best tie-down roper in the world today?
“Obviously Shad Mayfield, because he’s #1 in the world,” Webb said. “But on any given day, anyone can win. So many guys rope so good. That it took over $100,000 to make the NFR this year in our event is crazy. That’s never happened before, and we had 25 less rodeos to count this year compared to last year (75 in 2022 versus 100 in 2021). The same guys won so much all year long. It’s pretty cool to be in that group of guys.”
Who, in your young eyes, is the greatest of all time?
“Cody Ohl,” Webb said. “He would get ’em all year, and didn’t even have to rodeo that hard. And his NFR records speak for themselves. Nothing comes close to 52 NFR go-round wins and the fastest calf ever tied in the Thomas & Mack (Ohl was 6.5 in 2003, and Trevor Brazile matched it in 2015).
“I think the Thomas & Mack will fit me, because the barrier’s short and I like to go fast. I just want to rope smart, stay aggressive and get after it.”
Riley played baseball until he was 12.
“But I wasn’t good enough to pursue that any further,” he said. “And I was already eaten up with roping. My parents used to have to make me put the dummy up and go to bed at night. I ran hundreds of thousands of calves in the Thomas & Mack in our living room growing up.”
This won’t be the first time Riley Webb sets foot in that Thomas & Mack Center dirt. He trick roped in the NFR openings when he was 9, 10 and 11.
“My mom and dad put on junior ropings during the NFR every year, so I’ve been out there roping and competing all along,” Riley said. “The only difference this year is I’ll be roping at the NFR instead of the Junior World Finals.”
Webb was the 2020 National High School Rodeo Association tie-down roping titlist. Earlier that year, he qualified for The American at 16. He roped his way into the Roping Fiesta in San Angelo that year also, and was the youngest to ever get that done.
“For how bad 2020 was with COVID shutting everything down, it was sure a good year of roping for me,” he said.
Riley plans to ride his 14-year-old sorrel horse, Titus, at the NFR. He bought him right before The American in 2020, and has ridden him virtually everywhere this season.
“He’s just a winner,” Webb said. “He gives me his heart every time, and I give him all I’ve got every time. That makes us a good team.”
Speaking of good teams and winners, defending World Champion Team Ropers Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira won more this regular season than they won the world with in 2021. Being a 4+ team roper and a student of the entire roping game, that stat has not been lost on Webb.
“I like to watch all roping—tie-down roping, team roping, steer roping,” he said. “I headed a little bit when I was pretty young, and went to some jackpots around the house. When it comes to roping, I love it all. How can you not like watching Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira? And what Clay Smith got done this year is an amazing story.”
Now to live his own hopes and dreams in the bright lights of Vegas.
“I love the big stages where you get to go fast for a lot of money,” Riley Webb said. “I like pressure. I can’t wait for the NFR. This whole year’s been a highlight. And hopefully, the best is yet to come.”
This article and Horse Week feature video are brought to you Forage First ADM Animal Nutrition.
Horse Week: October 9–15
Riley Webb was born to be a calf roper. Learn how this young roping star is handling his rookie year, high pressure situations and his first NFR qualification in this videos sponsored by ADM Animal Nutrition on Wednesday, October 12th on HorseWeek.tv in his video “Webb of Success”! Watch reruns of all Horse Week videos through Sunday, October 23.