Not many professional athletes are able to adapt and evolve as times change in their sport such that they’re elite enough to dominate for decades. But Kory Koontz has done just that.
Kory is roping at his 21 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo here in Las Vegas this week, and after his 22-year-old Finals freshman partner, Floridian Dustin Egusquiza, missed their first one was forced to find a silver lining to salvage some big money out of Vegas without banking on the average. So far, so good, as Dustin and Kory split Round 4 with Luke Brown and Jake Long, and won Round 7 outright.
Dustin and Kory have also cashed checks in Rounds 2 and 8, for $84,038 a man with two rounds left to go. They’re also sitting seventh in the average with 31 seconds flat on six of the first eight steers, so an average check at week’s end is absolutely not out of the question. The key to fast shots for Kory is taking the time and discipline to set those shots up.
“My mentality has been to not force things to happen,” said Kory, 46. “My thought process is to ride sharp until the shot presents itself, and be ready to take it. In the sixth round (they were 4.9 to finish out of the money), I felt like there was a shot there, but the steer was kind of rolling and swinging a little bit, so I was afraid I might get flagged out for crossfire.
“Then I rode all the way to the point where it put us in a bind and we didn’t have a chance to win anything. That made me mad. So I decided in the seventh round that if I had the opportunity to be fast I was going to be a lot more aggressive and make sure I was ready to take my shot faster.”
They came back with the 3.5-second win in Round 7, and split third and fourth in Round 8 in 4.2.
“Riding to the right spot makes things so much easier,” said Kory, who packs an insulin pump in the right front pocket of his jeans at all times to compensate for his diabetes. “Even when we were 3.5, I didn’t rush my position and I didn’t rush my swing. I just made sure I was prepared to deliver my rope as soon as the steer was legal. It makes me feel great that I’m still able to rope one on the first hop.”
And with that, Dawg proved yet again that he’s far from the end of his rope and took the 23 victory lap of his legendary career.