Youngest Wright leaves biggest mark at WNFR

Ryder Wright knew that in spite of his record-setting start of four round wins in a row as a rookie at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016, it didn’t mean a hill of beans in the end.

Five round wins in all were nice, but five non-scoring rides were the biggest barrier to a gold buckle.

There would be no such thing as a sophomore jinx for the Milford resident and youngest competing member of the first family of saddle bronc riding. Wright failed to score only twice at the NFR in 2017 – including the crucial 10th ride Saturday night – which proved to be a huge key in giving him his first gold buckle as a world champion, and the family’s fifth.

As if winning five rounds wasn’t enough, Wright followed up with four more rounds in the win column this year. After qualifying eighth, he took the lead after winning Round 8 and didn’t let it go.

Thanks largely to non-scoring rides from Sterling Crawley and Audy Reed, it opened the door just enough for Wright, who scored 702.5 points on eight head, including a 92 on Show Me Again when he won Round 8. He collected a seventh-place bonus check for the aggregate good for an extra $11,423.

Had either Crawley or Reed scored in Round 10 – their only misses of the NFR – we wouldn’t be talking about another member of the Wright family as a saddle bronc riding world champion today.

The difference between seventh and eighth place in the aggregate is $5,077. Wright’s final margin of victory over runner-up Brody Cress was $2,651. There was no margin for error.

Adding to the general awesomeness, this is how good Ryder Wright has been in his two trips to Las Vegas. His combined total money haul in two full PRCA seasons is $496,696 with one gold buckle.

The kid is only 19 years old.

So who better to ask what the biggest difference in Ryder Wright has been than his dad, two-time world champion Cody Wright. Other than the simple platitudes of taking one horse and one ride at a time, Papa Wright witnessed the marriage of his young son last year to Cheyenne and celebrated the birth of his grandchild, a baby girl named Brexley, in July.

To top it all off, father presented the gold buckle to his son.

“Marriage makes you grow up real fast, and that’s been a big difference for him,” Cody Wright said. “His win was special.”

Financial security won’t be an issue for the youngest Wright couple – now or in the foreseeable future. After all, Ryder Wright is having way too much fun to do anything else.

-Southern Utah’s men’s basketball team has clearly turned a major corner after the T-Birds beat Central Michigan – the alma mater of head coach Todd Simon – 86-80 on Saturday. They’re 6-4 on the season and played one more non-conference game Tuesday at Iowa.

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