Nine competitors earn world championships at NFR

Hagadone News Network | February 10, 2024 1:00 AM

LAS VEGAS — The 2023 National Finals Rodeo was held at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas last month, bringing in competitors from all around the world for nine days of events.

Four cowboys earned world championships for the first time in their respective careers.

Hayden, Colorado native Keenan Hayes captured his first world championship in the bareback riding competition, scoring 90 points in the final round to leave the NFR with $168,154 in earnings. The 20-year-old’s lone go-round victory came in the final, round-10 ride in Las Vegas.

Tyler Waguespack won the steer wrestling competition at last month’s NFR, boosted by tying for first place twice over the 10 rounds; the 33-year-old tied with Stan Branco in the seventh round and tied with Will Lummus in the 10th round, earning $27,487 on each ride. The Gonzales, Louisiana native left with earnings of $156,928 and had finishings of second (round one), tied for third (round six) and tied for sixth (twice; round two and three). Waguespack won his fifth world championship at this year’s NFR.

First-place finishes in rounds eight and nine allowed Tyler Wade to win the headers section of team roping, who also had placings of third in round four and fourth in round three. The Terrell, Texas native left with earnings of $153,131 and his first world championship.

Wesley Thorp’s two go-round wins in rounds eight and nine allowed the 28-year-old heeler to win his second world championship, also picking up placings in round three (fourth) and round four (third). Thorp earned $153,131 at the 2023 NFR.

Hailing from Big Valley, Alberta, Zeke Thurston ran away with the 2023 saddle bronc competition, finishing first in four go-rounds. Thurston tied for first in round one with a score of 86.5 points, then picked up a standalone win in round five with a 91-point score. The 29-year-old tied for first again with an 87.5-point ride in round eight, then won round nine with a score of 88.5 points. Thurston earned $234,247 at the NFR and won his fourth world championship.

Top-two finishes from rounds three through five boosted Denton, Texas native Riley Webb to win his first world championship in tie-down roping last month, leaving Las Vegas with $172,446 in earnings. Webb, 20, had a time of 6.9 seconds in the third round.

Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi had five top-two finishes, including one win, in the NFR’s barrel racing competition, earning $225,935 and her third world championship. Tonozzi, a Lampasas, Texas native, also had finished of fourth (round four), tied-fifth (round two) and sixth (round nine). Her fastest time was 13.47 seconds, which came in her round seven win.

The bull riding competition also had a first-time world champion, with Mackay, Australia native Ky Hamilton earning $341,249 across the 10 rounds. Hamilton, 23, won three go-rounds with scores of 86.5 (round one), 89 (round four) and 88 (round seven) while also recording placements of third (round two), second (round three) and tied-third (round six). 

Stetson Wright of Beaver, Utah won his fifth all-around title, adding $20,000 from the NFR to his season earnings of $479,620. It was Wright’s eighth world championship.