By Tom Zulewski
Iron County Today
LAS VEGAS — As he walked into the media room after his Round 9 ride at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Ryder Wright heard two words he wasn’t quite ready to hear.
With only one more ride standing between the youngest member of rodeo’s first family of saddle bronc and a gold buckle, Friday night’s performance was as close to sealing the deal as the 19-year-old could get.
Wright won his fourth go-round of the WNFR with an 87-point ride aboard Kitty Whistle and earned another $26,230 paycheck. With the win — one short of matching last year’s total from his WNFR debut — Wright moved his money total for the season to $273,515, more than $46,000 ahead of Jacobs Crawley, who failed to score on his Round 9 ride.
“I’ve just tried to stay a little more positive, a little more calm this time around,” said Wright, who won his ninth WNFR go-round in 19 tries. “Last year, I let my nerves get to me a little bit.”
After winning the first four rounds a year ago, Wright didn’t score on his next four. Through nine rounds this year, he’s failed to score just once in Round 2.
Don’t call him champion, though — at least not until Saturday night.
“It’s crazy to come here, have so much fun, and get paid doing it,” Wright said.
Adding to Wright’s good fortune, he moved up a spot to fourth in the average when brother-in-law CoBurn Bradshaw of Beaver failed to score for the first time.
Brody Cress, who finished tied for third in Round 9 with 85.5 points aboard Stampede Warrior, moved to No. 1 in the average with 755.5 points on nine head. Wright moved up to fourth in the average and Bradshaw fell all the way from first place to sixth.
Action from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo wraps up Saturday from the Thomas & Mack Center and can be seen on CBS Sports Network starting at 8 p.m.