Jeff Flenniken and Tyler Worley have teamed up again and got their first win of the year at Rodeo Austin with a 5.2-second run March 25, 2023, in the clean-slate finals.
The pair went 5.5 seconds in the first round to be out of the money but still alive in the competition. In the semifinals, Flenniken and Worley drew a steer they felt good about.
“Kaleb [Driggers] and Junior [Nogueira] ran him, and he was straight and just looked really good,” said Worley, a Berryville, Arkansas, native. “They had made a great run—they were 4.9 on him. So, we tried to just go catch him and see where it put us.”
Their game plan put them fifth in the round with a 5.6-second run, good enough to collect them each $2,197 and bring them back to Saturday’s final round. They drew a stronger steer that allowed them to go make their run.
“That steer was supposed to be pretty sharp, and he was strong,” said Flenniken, of Caldwell, Idaho. “So, our game plan was for me to just get a good start and kind of just go to him a little bit; get him opened up in the middle of the arena and let him heel him fast. That’s kind of our run.”
Flenniken and Worley each walked away from Austin with $12,067, which shifted 26-year-old Flenniken up to No. 13 in the standings with $21,209 in earnings. Worley, a two-time NFR qualifier, bumped up to No. 12 on the heeling side with $22,361 in earnings. Thus far, it’s the best start of his career.
“It gives us more momentum,” Worley, 29, said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had this much won in the winter. I think maybe I have $22,000. That sounds bad, but that goes to show how bad my winters normally go.”
Roping their game
Before the pair backed in the boxes Saturday evening, the team roping got off to a slow start. One team missed and two runs with single-leg catches were made, leaving Worley and Flenniken to mentally prepare to go out and just catch.
“I was like, ‘We just need to put a time on the board right here, and we’ll win something for sure,’” said Worley, who was riding his 14-year-old gelding Bon Jovi. “So, that was kind of our game plan. Me and Jeff, we like to catch a bunch of steers. We like to put times on the board, and I feel like that’s the run that we’re comfortable making.”
Their game plan was a success. Flenniken, who was aboard his 11-year-old RaisedaBobcat gelding, aka Schmidty, said he has been working on roping his game, no one else’s.
“I’m going to play my game,” Flenniken said. “I’m going to get out of the barrier, and I’m going to put it on his head. If I keep it simple, I do better. If I start complicating it like, ‘You got to blast the barrier; you got to have your rope cocked; you got to get it on him fast,’ I don’t do as good. I feel like, with Worley, he heels every steer I turn, so I’m just going to try to go back to what was our game plan when we made the Finals.”
A close friendship with three-time and reigning world champion Junior Nogueira has aided in his confidence, too.
“I feel like a lot of the success I’ve had has in part been because of him,” Flenniken said. “When I’m in Texas I always stay with him, and when he’s up North he stays with me. He’s always helped me with my horses; people don’t understand how good he is with a head horse.”
Flenniken and Worley first banded together at Reno Rodeo in 2019. That year, Flenniken would finish 23rd in the world with $55,090 won, and Worley would make his first appearance at the NFR and finish 11th in the world with $142,677. Then, 2020 took them both to the NFR—Flenniken’s first—where they finished second in the average, and each took home $99,692.
They stayed hooked through 2021, until Flenniken decided to take a step back from the road.
“I really liked being in Idaho, and I was tired of being gone all the time,” said Flenniken, the 2018 PRCA Resistol Rookie Header of the Year. “I just kind of thought, ‘I’m going to take a couple years off just to circuit rodeo.’”
Flenniken had also sold his good horse, Sherwood, who carried him through the 2020 NFR, to Kaleb Driggers that year.
“Well, I didn’t really want to rodeo, and I knew Driggers would win everything on him,” Flenniken said. “And I’m not against seeing somebody else do good on my horse.”
Flenniken finished 45th in the world in 2021 with $26,665, and Worley 38th on the heeling side with $21,989. In 2022, they both won their respective circuit finals—the Columbia River Circuit Finals in Redmond, Oregon, for Flenniken and, for Worley, the Texas Circuit Finals in Waco, Texas.
The win sparked Flenniken’s roping fire. He texted Worley.
“I’d rodeoed quite a bit the end of last year, and I just kind of made the decision: if I’m going to rodeo, I’m going to rope with him,” Flenniken said. “So, I just texted him and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about getting the band back together?’”
There was no hesitation for Worley on the decision.
“He’s like a brother to me; we’re real close,” Worley said. “I mean, we enjoy being around each other. I feel like we rope good together—it’s super comfortable. We know exactly what to expect with each other. It just seemed like what we needed to do and I’m glad we did.”
The pair will rope at the BFI in Guthrie, Oklahoma, April 1 before heading to the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo April 6–7.