Jun 13, 2024

Bareback champ takes lead at Buffalo Bill Rodeo, Aussie wins first round of the steer wrestling

Posted Jun 13, 2024 11:55 AM

Story by Buffalo Bill Rodeo Communications

North Platte, Neb. (June 12, 2024) – A world champ left his mark on his first trip to the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte.

Keenan Hayes, Hayden, Colo., scored 84.5 points on the Beutler horse Top Gun to take the lead in the bareback riding.

The 2023 PRCA world champion bareback rider hadn’t been on the horse he’d drawn, a seven-year-old gelding, but he’d scouted by watching videos of his rides.

“He looked like a lot of work,” he said, “but if you could stay with him, you’d do well. He wasn’t easy to ride.”

Last year, Hayes dominated his event in pro rodeo, setting the PRCA record for the most money won by a bareback rider in the regular season ($265,805), and winning the world title with more than $434,000 in season earnings, more than $100,000 ahead of the reserve world champion.

This year, there’s been more competition at the top of the dogpile of bareback riders.

Hayes and fellow riders Leighton Berry and Cooper Cook have all three been vying for the number one spot.

Right now, Hayes is at the top, but the three are close, trading spots nearly every week. “We’re all within $2,000 of each other,” Hayes said.

He likes contending with the others. “It’s kind of a fistfight right now. It’s pretty fun, having that kind of competition this year.”

In the steer wrestling, an Australian is at the top of the pack.

Travis Munro, who lived in Townsville, Queensland, Australia till 2021, when he moved to Balko, Okla., turfed his steer in 4.0 seconds to win the first round in his event. 

Munro, who didn’t begin steer wrestling till he was in his twenties, excelled at the sport and decided to move to the U.S. to pursue steer wrestling in the States, where there is more money to be made in the sport.

On TV in Australia, the 31 year old watched his heroes: world champion steer wrestlers like Tyler Waguespack, Kyle Irwin, and others, and now he’s competing against them.

“Rodeo is a lot bigger in the U.S., and I wanted to be the best of the best.”

He became friends with fellow steer wrestlers Cody Devers and Marc Joiner, who he travels with, and their help has been immense.

“They’ve helped me out a bunch. I call them my best friends in this country. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

Making the transition to a new continent and culture halfway around the globe wasn’t easy.

“It was tough,” he said. “The fact of not knowing anyone, and stepping out of my comfort zone, and trying to meet people,” he said. “I’m not really an outgoing person anyway, so I had to step out of my comfort zone.”

But his efforts paid off.

“I had to try, and it was worth it. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.” 

Last year, he finished the 2023 season in seventeenth place in the world standings, two holes away from the top fifteen, who advance on to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where world titles are determined.

This year, his goal is to make the Wrangler NFR. “I want to be the first Australian to qualify for the National Finals (in the timed events.) I won’t stop until I make it happen, and this year’s going to be the year.”

In the barrel racing, a new arena record was set.

The reigning world champion barrel racer Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi rounded the barrels in 16.55 seconds to take the lead and set the record.

During the rodeo, the 2025 Miss Rodeo Nebraska was crowned.

Danielle Forster, Elwood, won the title. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor of science in animal science with an equine focus, she will work towards her master’s degree in animal science with specialization in extension and education from the University this fall.

The 2024 Miss Teen Rodeo Nebraska was crowned earlier in the day. The title went to Blue Hill resident Jaelyn Himmelberg. Himmelberg will begin her post-high school education at Doane University this fall, majoring in biology with an emphasis on a pre-physician assistant path.

Other leaders after the day’s slack and the evening’s competition include tie down roper Lane Livingston, Seymour, Texas (8.9 seconds); saddle bronc rider Jack Skavdahl, Harrison, Neb. (78.5 points); breakaway roper Layni Masters, Leon, Iowa (2.5 seconds); team ropers Payton Pirrung, Hartford, S.D. and Logan Schliinz, Whitewood, S.D. (4.9 seconds); and bull rider Chase Dougherty, Canby, Ore. (85 points).

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo continues with its second performance of four on Thursday, June 13 at 8 pm. Tickets range in price from $11 to $24 and are available online at www.NebraskalandDays.com and at the gate.

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Results, 1st Performance and slack, June 12, 2024

North Platte, Nebraska – Buffalo Bill Rodeo

Bareback riding

1. Keenan Hayes, Hayden, Colo. 84.5 points on Top Gun; 2. Jake Kesl, Tendoy, Idaho 78.5; 3. Colton Clemens, Blackfoot, Idaho 77.

Steer wrestling

1st round

1. Travis Munro, Townsville, Queensland, Australia 4.0 seconds; 2. (tie Riley Duvall, Checotah, Okla. and Austin Hurlburt, Norfolk, Neb. 4.1 each; 4. Seth Peterson, Wellington, Colo. 4.3; 5. Marc Joiner, Loranger, La. 4.5; 6. Kalane Anders, Bayard, Neb. 4.7.

Tie-down roping

1st round

1. Lane Livingston, Seymour, Texas 8.9 seconds; 2. JD MCuistion, Estes Park, Colo. 9.0; 3. Denton Oestmann, Auburn, Neb. 9.3; 4. Zane Kilgus, Pryor, Okla. 9.6; 5. Connor Matheson, Stephenville, Texas 9.8; 6. Clint Graves, Oxford, Kan. 9.9.

Saddle bronc riding

1. Jack Skavdahl, Harrison, Neb. 78.5 points on Mean Dream; 2. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa 78; 3. Garrett Long, Valentine, Neb. 77; 4. Cooper West, Phillip, S.D. 72.

Breakaway roping

1. Layni Masters, Leon, Iowa 2.5 seconds; 2. Brooke Curuchet, Belle Fourche, S.D. 2.6; 3. Beau Peterson, Council Grove, Kan. 2.8; 4. (tie) Morgan Foss, Rhame, N.D. and Josie Mousel, Colman, S.D. 3.2 each.

Team roping

1. Payton Pirrung, Hartford, S.D./Logan Schliinz, Whitewood, S.D. 4.9 seconds; 2. Trevor Olson, Mud Butte, S.D./Tracer Olson, Wanblee, S.D. 5.4; 3. Coleman Proctor, Pryor, Okla./Logan Medlin, Tatum, N.M. 5.6; 4. Layne Carson, Grassy Butte, N.D./Jesse Chase, Mandaree, N.D. 6.2; 5. (tie) Rio Nutter, Rapid City, S.D./Coy Johnson, Buffalo, Wyo. and Bodie Mattson, Sturgis, S.D./Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho 6.3 each.

Barrel racing

1. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, Lampasas, Texas 16.55 seconds; 2. Summer Kosel, Glenham, S.D. 16.79; 3. Dona Kay Rule, Minco, Okla. 16.80; 4. Leslie Smalygo, Skiatook, Okla. 16.88.

Bull riding

1. Chase Dougherty, Canby, Ore. 85 points on Bracket Buster; 2. Hudson Bolton, Milan, Tenn. 83.5; 3. Garrett Uptain, Craig, Colo. 83; 4. Brandon Ballard, New Hope, Kentucky 81.

** All results are unofficial.