And the Gold Goes To...

Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp Are 2023’s PRCA World Champion Team Ropers
Wade and Thorp overcame a brutal start to their partnership to win gold in Las Vegas.
Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp
Photo by Jaime Arviso

Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp are the 2023 PRCA World Champion Header and Heeler, winning Wade’s first title and Thorp’s second with $308,057.17 and $325,284.44, respectively.

For Wade, a 31-year-old, six-time NFR header from Terrell, Texas, the gold buckle is something he long thought was out of reach—having spent 10 years between winning the Resistol Rookie of the Year title and the world title, toiling in the trenches of the rodeo and jackpot trail and making due on the best horses he could afford on his own.

For Thorp, a 28-year-old eight-time NFR heeler from Throckmorton, Texas, this second buckle is that much sweeter because he won it with his partner—a feat he didn’t accomplish with his first title in 2019 when then-partner Cody Snow fell behind Clay Smith for the title.

They roped last out in the 10th round, having seen every other team in contention put the pressure on them to not just catch, but to hold their spot at third in the average, too.

“I was nervous until I got into the box,” Wade said. “I’ve got nervous and whacked plenty of them, so I wanted to stick to what I do: smooth, slow down. I told Wesley I didn’t care if I had to be 60, I wasn’t getting away from what we practiced. I’d be more mad if I messed up overthinking it than if I just roped the steer when I got out of the chute. Win, lose or draw, that was my plan. This arena doesn’t allow for anything different. If we go to a jackpot, I can take five swings over his back. But there wasn’t enough time here, so I didn’t want to get out of what we practiced.”

The steer stepped left hard as Wade threw, but he got him captured and the rest was up to Thorp.

“Last year in the 10th round, I remember our steer stepped left,” Thorp said. “And I got too narrow, and it cost us a lot in the average. All I told myself was just ride farther down the arena, give myself just a little more width just in case he does and if I wasn’t there on the first hop, I’ll at least get a good second or third hop and that’s exactly what happened.”

The flag fell in 5.4 seconds as that steer made Wade and Thorp work to get the slack out of their ropes in the wall. They didn’t grab a paycheck in the round, but they did finish third in the average, adding another $50,516.99 a man to their world standings totals.

Wade’s World Champion mount is Espuela Bro, the horse he’s ridden since the 2019 National Finals Rodeo. A product of a the famous Driftwood Ike stallion Blue Light Ike out of a the Thoroughbred mare Brio Victress, with a solid start in California’s cattle country, Espuela Bro has fit Wade like a glove since the start in setups big and small. He’s the reserve Horse of the Year, and the main thing Wade’s ridden everywhere from major jackpot to rodeo’s biggest show.

“He’s a good horse if you ride him right,” Wade said. “He’s not going to let us down I don’t think. I think he’s just quirky enough that he’s got to be tired, so in the 10th round I got a better horse than I did in the first round. You drive 20 hours, unload him in the trailer, and he’s a better horse than when he’s fresh. So I think that’s why he’s been so good for so long.”

Thorp was on Little Hickory Boon, the 14-year-old black gelding he’s ridden since the 2020 NFR in Arlington, Texas.

“He’s been awesome for me for four years,” Thorp said. “He’s tough as can be. I’ve tried to sell him five times and nobody buys him. All three of mine I can’t sell so I keep. But… he’s still for sale, just throwing that out there… But he’s so tough. He works so good all the time. He was sore as can be all summer but he still tried hard. He’s always the one I know I can count on.”

Final 2023 PRCA Heading World Standings

 AVERAGEWORLD
1Tyler Wade$50,517 $308,056.69
2Clint Summers$26,744 $286,009.33
3Andrew Ward$37,145 $269,878.21 
4Derrick Begay$78,747 $269,125.41 
5Luke Brown$63,889 $260,292.47 
6Nelson Wyatt$19,315 $251,412.21 
7Rhen Richard$13,372 $213,715.95 
8Kaleb Driggers $211,498.53
9Dustin Egusquiza $190,444.99
10Erich Rogers$7,429 $188,589.63 
11Coleman Proctor $187,070.42
12Tanner Tomlinson $181,203.98
13Clay Smith$180,179.54 
14Jake Clay $149,748.21
15Marcus Theriot $140,888.55

Final 2023 PRCA Heeling World Standings

 AVGWORLD
1Wesley Thorp$50,517 $325,283.96 
2Jake Long$26,744 $299,510.57
3Colter Todd$78,747 $284,292.61
4Buddy Hawkins$37,145 $269,878.21 
5Hunter Koch$63,889 $260,292.47 
6Jeremy Buhler$13,372 $213,715.95 
7Junior Nunes Nogueira $211,498.53
8Jonathan Torres$19,315 $201,238.03
9Levi Lord $190,444.99
10Paul Eaves$7,429 $188,940.95
11Logan Medlin $187,070.42
12Patrick Smith$181,203.98 
13Paden Bray $175,580.62
14Tyler Worley $143,604.17
15Cole Curry $133,711.72

NFR 2023 Round 10 Team Roping Results

TeamSteerPayout
Marcus Theriot / Cole Curry5.3
Jake Cooper Clay/Tyler WorleyNT
Erich Rogers / Paul Eaves4.27924.23
Clay Smith / Paden BrayNT
Tanner Tomlinson/Patrick SmithNT
Coleman Proctor / Logan MedlinNT
Dustin Egusquiza/Levi LordNT
Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira3.9$21,296 
Luke Brown/Hunter Koch4.9
Rhen Richard / Jeremy Buhler14.4
Derrick Begay/Colter Todd4.64952.62
Nelson Wyatt/Jonathan Torres3.7$30,706 
Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins412876.88
Clint Summers / Jake Long3.9$21,296 
Tyler Wade/Wesley Thorp5.4

— TRJ —

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