T for Texas! Tee for living legend Tee Woolman, who with three gold buckles, 46 National Finals qualifications—27 in the team roping and 19 from the National Finals Steer Roping—and five National Finals average titles including four in the team roping and one in the steer roping to his cowboy credit, has earned an expert opinion. So, Tee Squantnee Claude Woolman, rare winner of your first gold buckle as a professional rodeo rookie 40 years ago in 1980…
Where have you been watching the Finals from?
“I’m in Wickenburg (Arizona) for all these ropings, so I’m watching it from here.”
Who looks unstoppable to you so far?
“Right now, Dustin Eguszuiza and Travis Graves (who split second and third on opening night, have won the last two rounds and have a commanding early lead in the average) look pretty hard to beat. It’s looked like those first three have been easy for them. We all know Dustin’s got a lot of range. A little bigger arena and a little bit longer score (the score is two feet longer here at Globe Life Field than at the Thomas & Mack in Vegas) just fit him a little bit better than the Thomas & Mack. It allows him to do what he likes to do, which is reach. And with all that room to the left, he has room to go somewhere when he catches them.”
What are the most noticeable ways the team roping’s different here than in Vegas?
“I’d say that extra room over to the left is the biggest difference. The steers are a little stronger in this bigger arena. They’re trying a little bit more in the wide-open spaces here. They might be a little harder to handle and heel, because they’re going faster over this longer score in this bigger arena.”
Are you surprised that, three rounds in, only five teams have three caught three steers?
“I am a little bit surprised about that. I thought they would try to feel it all out a little bit first before trying to go so fast. The barrier is longer, so I thought they’d make 5-second runs instead of trying to be 4 every time right off the bat. A lot of guys have run over themselves in the first few rounds. But these guys are the best. They’ll get it figured out.”
Now that you’ve seen the steers and the NFR Texas setup, what’s your best advice to the team roping field at this stage of the 2020 NFR game?
“From what I’ve seen, if it was me I’d be focused on scoring good and using my horse a little bit more instead of my rope. I’d be trying to set steers up for my heeler. The heelers are going to throw fast, and if you set ’em up more, it’ll be an easier shot for them to make. That’s just what I see from watching it on TV. The steers look fresh, just like the steers we always roped at the Thomas & Mack. But at the Thomas & Mack, you’re in a confined area. This year, the steers are a lot less confined, so it takes a little more time to get them settled in and used to the setup. They just need to be roped. Tonight, they’ll rope the same pen of steers they roped in Round 1. With all the teams out of the average, those guys are going to be going fast. Knowing the setup and the steers a little bit better, they’re going to start figuring it out. That’s what the best guys in the world do, and that’s who these guys are.” TRJ