Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Round 1

American Quarter Horses take their riders to the top of Round 1 of rodeo's Super Bowl December 4 in Las Vegas.

Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association

AQHA member Fallon Taylor topped Round 1 of barrel racing at the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo aboard her trusted mount, American Quarter Horse Flos Heiress, aka "Babyflo," with a time of 14.09 seconds. But Taylor said she wasn't even aiming for the top spot.

"I am completely stoked," Taylor said. "I'm shooting for fifth every night and I'll keep doing so, and if the runs land me in first place that will be just fine with me. I couldn't be happier."

Taylor was dressed in a colorful tie-dyed outfit that definitely garnered attention.

"Tie-dye is my signature," Taylor said. "I am not sure what the outfit for tomorrow night is just yet. I'll just have to open the closet and see what jumps out at me each night."

Taylor's mount, who she lovingly calls Babyflo, was the 2013 AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Barrel Racing Horse of the Year

Steer Wrestling

Nick Guy became the first Wisconsin timed-event cowboy ever to win a round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and it catapulted him to the top of the steer wrestling world on the opening night of action before a sellout crowd of 17,591 at the Thomas & Mack Center Arena.

Guy, who entered rodeo's Super Bowl in fourth place among steer wrestlers in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, won Round 1 with a time of 3.6 seconds.

That earned the 30-year-old cowboy from Sparta, Wis., a paycheck of $19,002 – he has $96,757 for the season – and pushed him past Trevor Knowles, K.C. Jones and Casey Martin into the top spot.

"It feels good to get a nice paycheck in Round 1," Guy said. "We talked about winning Round 1 the whole way out here to Las Vegas."

Guy, who is making his second appearance at the Finals, felt even more confident after learning which steer he'd drawn for Round 1.

"I ran that steer when we broke these steers in a couple of weeks ago," he said. "We videoed all the runs down there, so I probably watched my run on that steer 10 times before we came in here. I knew he was just a good steer, but I didn't know if he was a 3.6 steer. I got a great start and the horse worked great, and I caught him quick and I just made a good run from there."

Martin tied four-time world champion steer wrestler Luke Branquinho – who has been sidelined since he injured his right lat muscle at the California Rodeo Salinas on July 18 – for second place in 3.7 seconds, just one-tenth of a second behind Guy. Martin moved into second place in the world with $93,457. Branquinho, who led the world before getting injured, is fifth.

Guy is just the fifth Wisconsin cowboy to win a round at the Finals, joining bareback rider Jack Buschbom and bull riders B.J. Schumacher, Cory Check and Fred Boettcher. Buschbom was the world champ in 1959-60, and Schumacher won the world in 2006.

Guy said not everyone in Wisconsin understands rodeo.

"It's not a rodeo part of the country, and that's why when I win, it makes me feel good about being where I'm from," he said.

Guy said the fast start will help put him at ease for the next nine days of the Finals.

"I'm going to sleep well tonight and try to keep doing exactly what I did tonight for the rest of the NFR," he said. "The horse I was on ("Roanie," 10 years old), gives me a chance to win every time."

Team Roping

AQHA members Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager posted the fastest team roping Round 1 time in NFR history when they won in 4.0 seconds. The previous mark was 4.1 by Speed Williams and Rich Skelton in 1997, and by Matt Sherwood and Cory Petska in 2011.

"It's the greatest thing in the world to come back to the Finals and get a 'W' in the first round," said Kirchenschlager, who is in his second WNFR. "This is what we work all year for."

Powell, who is competing in his ninth Finals and won the world with Jhett Johnson in 2011, was also thrilled with the fast start.

"This means a lot to get the momentum rolling for us," Powell said. "Winning the first round gives us a lot of momentum and confidence. The year I won the world with Jhett, we came in with the same mindset; to be aggressive on the first one. We placed in the first six rounds doing it."

Not everyone takes such strategic chances so early in the week.

"People think it's crazy to go at it in the first round when it's a 10-head average, but we're not going to let off," Powell said. "I'm going to rope this way all week. That's the pep talk I gave Dakota before we came here. This is what we practiced for. Dakota knows when I get my adrenaline going my handles aren't going to be layups."

Kirchenschlager said it's a winning formula when Powell is fired up.

"I love it when Turtle goes at 'em," he said. "Every time he ducks, we win. He tries to apologize for wild handles and I tell him, 'Do it again. That's fun.'"

Tie-Down Roping

Rookie tie-down roper Marty Yates won his event with a time of 7.4 seconds, one-tenth faster than 20-time world champion Trevor Brazile, who moved up a spot to second in the world standings behind leader Tuf Cooper, a two-time champ.

Yates, a 20-year-old AQHA member, is the youngest tie-down roper at the Finals.

"Words can't explain what I'm feeling right now," Yates said. "It's amazing and awesome. My first NFR to come out winning Round 1 gives me a lot more confidence for the remaining nine rounds. I was a little bit nervous and I was a little bit worried about myself. But when I backed in there and nodded my head, it felt like just another rodeo."

Visit www.prorodeo.com for full results from Round 1, plus coverage of the roughstock events. 

The 56th annual Wrangler NFR continues Friday with the second round at the Thomas & Mack Center. The action will be televised live and in HD on CBS Sports Net (DirecTV channel 221 and DISH Network channel 158) from 7-10 p.m. PST with Jeff Medders and Butch Knowles announcing.

WNFR Coverage on www.aqha.com/showing

  • Round 10 – Competing in timed events at the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, AQHA members claim world championships in Las Vegas.
  • Round 9 – These AQHA members are poised for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championships heading into the final round.
  • Round 8 – Winning both tie-down and team roping, AQHA member Trevor Brazile, the King of the Cowboys, reigns yet again.
  • Round 7 – AQHA members Cody Ohl and Tuf Cooper share the Round 7 tie-down roping title in Las Vegas.
  • Round 6 – AQHA members keep their ProRodeo world championship hopes alive December 9 in Las Vegas.
  • Round 5 – Stock of AQHA Professional Horsemen Charlie Cole, Jason Martin and Tom and Leslie Lange strike it big December 8 in Las Vegas.
  • Round 4 – AQHA members, including Fallon Taylor and "BabyFlo," showed their mettle December 7 at rodeo's Super Bowl in Las Vegas.
  • Round 3 – AQHA member Trevor Brazile earns his 21st gold buckle December 6 in Las Vegas.
  • Round 2 – AQHA members Turtle Powell and Dakota Kirchenschlager set a team-roping record for the round December 5 in Las Vegas.
  • Round 1 – American Quarter Horses take their riders to the top of Round 1 of rodeo's Super Bowl December 4 in Las Vegas.
  • 2014 AQHA-PRCA Horses of the Year