LAS VEGAS — For Hardy (Chad) Braden, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) was nothing short of a Cinderella story. The Oklahoma cowboy qualified for his first trip to Las Vegas in the saddle bronc riding and capitalized on the last ten days of rodeo action; winning day money in eight of the ten rounds and placing second in the average with a combined score of 764 points on nine head of bucking horses. His efforts were worth $150,192, nearly $30,000 more than he won throughout the regular season. Braden landed in fourth place in the world standings.
Also adding money to the pockets of their Wrangler jeans in the saddle bronc riding were Audy Reed, Taos Muncy and Clay Elliott. Reed was perfect for the first nine rounds of action, making the whistle on every horse he climbed aboard. Things headed south though in the final round on Saturday night when Reed hit the Las Vegas dirt a little too early. The Spearman, Texas cowboy still earned fifth in the average worth $22,846.
Muncy and Elliott were uncharacteristically quiet inside the Thomas and Mack Center. Elliott earned two checks during the week while Muncy decided to leave Vegas in style. The two-time champ of the world reminded everyone how he earned those gold buckles with an 87.50-point ride in the tenth round.
In the bull riding, Joe Frost continued his consistent performance. The newlywed from Utah placed third in the final round of action with an 82.50-point mark. When the dust settled, he was the second best across ten head with a total score of 585 points on seven qualified rides. Frost finished the year with $304,565 in earnings from the regular season and his WNFR performance, making him the fourth place bull rider in the world.
Panhandle State was represented in all three of the roughstock events with Orin Larsen in the bareback riding. After a solid start to the 10-day affair, Larsen ran into trouble in the ninth round by failing to make the whistle, dropping him from the top eight money holes in the aggregate. He still headed home with $61,769 for his efforts at the WNFR.
Also earning accolades in Las Vegas was Shade Etbauer. Living up to his name, Etbauer was crowned the 2017 Resistol Rookie of the Year in the saddle bronc riding. The Goodwell native won $41,725 his first year as a cardholder, almost $12,000 more than the rest of the field of rookies. Shade’s newest title will be added to the Etbauer collection, including the All-Around Rookie of the Year championship that Trell Etbauer claimed in 2008.
“My goal was to win Rookie of the Year like my dad did in the past, and I’m just excited that I was able to accomplish it,” Etbauer said.
With the Panhandle State University ‘P’ adorned proudly on their vests, it is safe to say these cowboys continued the winning tradition as the books close on 2017.