Ty Woods, a 15-year-old from Decatur, Texas, and Michael Calmelat, a 10-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, were the last team paired up from the qualifiers to rope in the Junior NFR Open, presented by Yeti.
They'd never run a steer together, and Woods had never met his pint-sized partner before their first round, 5.83-second, second-place run worth $603 a man.
"I had never even heard of him," Woods said. "Some kid told me he's a 10-year-old, and he said, 'How did you get paired up with him in the Open?' And I said I didn't know, but we'd make it work."
Make it work, they did. The duo made four more clean runs, including a short-round clinching businessman's run to win the Junior NFR Open average title and year-end, worth $2,680 each.
"I was kind of nervous. I just knew I had to make a good, solid, clean run. We went out and were smart about it," Woods said.
Woods got it on him at the three-quarter mark in the pen, got into the fence a bit and Calmelat pulled off a shot to clean it up.
"Right when I threw, he got right under me, and I don't know how I caught him," Calmelat said. "I was a little nervous."
Calmelat, already a 5 header and 6 heeler at age 10, picked up a rope as soon as he could walk and has been catching two feet since he was 5.
"I kind of thought he would be good," Michael Calmelat, young Michael's dad, said. "But you never really know. I tell him how good he is sometimes, but in his mind he just thinks he's average."
"In his mind, all he wants to do is rope two feet," Rachel Mendoza, Michael's proud mom, said. "He doesn't think about what the end result is. It's just two feet every time."
Calmelat was riding an 8-year-old, half-pony gelding named Chico that he's had since Chico was 3 or 4. Chico came from New Mexico's Pony Hernandez.
"He would come to Tucson a lot for the jackpots," Rachel said. "We kind of hounded him for a while because he really didn't want to get rid of him, but I guess we chiseled him down enough and got him. It was one of the best purchases ever."
Woods, a freshman at Decatur High School, was riding a grey horse his family bought through Willie Gasperson.
"I used to hate him," Woods said. "We bought him at 10 at night one night. I wasn't sure if I wanted him, but we bought him anyway. The next morning, we went to a roping and I won first, second, third and fourth on him. After that I didn't ride him for three months because he was really strong and I couldn't handle him at the time. We bought other horses, and some got crippled, so I started riding him again. His name Is Ghost but we call him Grey—real original."
Tony Woods, Ty's dad, and stepmom Christi and mom Dianna were all there to see his big win.
"We just love traveling around and taking him to rodeos, and hopefully we can grow off of that," Tony said.
Jett Stewart and Jaylen Eldridge finished second in the average with a time of 44.42 on five head, worth $2,010 a man. First and second round winners Peyton Walters and Kaden Profili were third in the average with a time of 26.91 on four head worth $1,340 each, followed by Mason Rust and Kutter Johnson's 29.75 on four head worth $670 each. TRJ