LAS VEGAS – After a lukewarm start to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Elko steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge is heating up.
His time of 3.3 seconds Wednesday in the seventh round of the WNFR was fast; the fastest of 105 runs throughout the rodeo.
The WNFR record in the steer wrestling was set in 2013 by Matt Reeves, who threw his steer in the blink of an eye at 3.1 seconds.
The 3.3-second run tied the fastest run of Eldridge’s career at the WNFR, matching the time he posted in the ninth round of the 2014 WNFR.
The run did not just add $26,230.77 to Eldridge’s jeans, it also changed his mind set and put the rest of the competitors on notice that he is coming up quickly in their rear-view mirrors.
While he holds a remotely-outside chance, Eldridge is still alive in the race for the world championship.
Eldridge has climbed to seventh in the world standings with $144,006.21 in earnings, just a little more than $5,000 from fourth place.
He is also fourth in the average with a time of 32.6 second on seven runs, one-tenth of a second from third.
While the average will loom large in the total money Eldridge can win at the WNFR and his eventual placing in the world, he is not interested in playing it safe.
“The feeling when you win is something you never want to get rid of. The crowd goes crazy and it’s incredible. They had not done anything on that steer, but you have to have a good attitude and stay positive,” he said. “I finally got close to the barrier. I’ve been giving them a head start. I’m done being nice; I’m going to get greedy.”
The No. 1 and No. 2 men in the world are also one-two in the average, Ty Erickson’s seemingly-safe lead entering the WNFR dwindling to less than $20,000.
Erickson leads the average with a time of 30.3 seconds on seven head, but Tyler Pearson has charged from behind and is second in the average with a time of 30.7 seconds.
In the world standings, Erickson leads with a total of $230,267.32, but Pearson ($210,880.10) is now essentially less than a round victory away from overtaking the lead.
The steer wrestling has boiled down to a three-head battle for the gold buckle.
Eldridge’s approach for his final three runs is simple; throw them fast.
“I’m going to try to win the next three go-rounds and keep moving up in that average and get out of here with as much money as I can,” he said.
He spoke sentimentally of his horse and the feeling of having so many fans at the rodeo.
“Rusty has been great. I need to capitalize because he’s 18 and he only has a few god years left in him,” he said. “I have a bunch of people down here and it’s just unbelievable to have this rodeo in your home state, six hours from my house. You get down here, and sometimes you get caught up and get tired, and you just have to realize how much money you’re running for. It doesn’t get any better than having your home-state crowd cheering for you. That really pumps you up.”
Minden bareback rider Wyatt Denny could not get in time and remain square aboard Bridwell Pro Rodeo’s “Beaver Fever,” notching his second-lowest marked ride of the week in the seventh round with a score of 74.5 points.
The ride placed 12th in the round.
In the eighth round, the bareback riders were pitted against the dreaded “E” pen, the eliminators – the nastiest, trashiest, hardest-bucking horses in the world.
Denny’s draw, Northcott Macza’s “Spilled Perfume,” is a horse he can score a lot of points on. Jake Vold rode the horse to the tune of 87 points and placed third in the fourth round.
After heating up during the middle rounds of the WNFR, three-time world champion heeler Jade Corkill did not get to throw his rope in Round 7.
Corkill’s partner, Clay Tryan, saw his head loop come back empty for the third time in seven rounds.
Tie-down roper Matt Shiozawa’s 10th trip to the WNFR has been a forgettable one.
On his third run aboard his bay mare, Alotta, Shiozawa finally drew a good calf – one that Cooper Martin tied down in 7.2 seconds during the third round.
Shiozawa knocked a perfect start at the barrier and roped the calf quickly, but he missed his slack – allowing his loop to open up and the calf to nearly run through it – causing a tough go on the ground.
He finished with a time of 13.4 seconds in a round that was there for the taking.
The seventh round of the tie-down roping was the easiest of the week, a 9.6-second run taking fourth, a 9.7 finishing fifth and sixth place for a check dropping all the way to an 11.3.
The eighth round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was scheduled to air at 7 p.m. Thursday on CBS Sports Network.
Watch the action nightly through Saturday on Dish Network Channel 158 or DirecTV Channel 221.