Though the members of the Wright family all live within a few miles of each other in Utah, there’s likely to be a big family reunion come December in Las Vegas.
With five weeks left in the season to earn money for the National Finals Rodeo, Rusty Wright (second), his younger brother Ryder (14th), and their uncles CoBurn Bradshaw (third) and Jake Wright (ninth) are all in position to earn trips to the NFR to compete in the saddle bronc event.
Not to be left out, Rusty and Ryder’s dad, Cody, a two-time world champion (2008, ’10), is sitting 17th, just two spots and $4,077 out of the running. Jake’s twin brother Jesse is 21st, about $12,000 out of 15th place, while older brothers Alex (47th) and younger brother Spencer (50th) are out of the running.
“It has been a good year for all of us,” said Rusty, who has $117,942 in earnings this year. “It kind of makes it more fun when you are sitting near the top of the standings. It makes this time of year less stressful. I still get nervous, but I’m pretty safe at this point.”
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Rusty, 20, will compete in the Champions Challenge on Tuesday at the Benton County Fairgrounds. The native of Milford, Utah, won the 2014 saddle bronc rookie of the year title, and he was third in the world standings last year with $244,448.
With family bragging rights on the line, Rusty will compete as part of the Wrangler team. Jake is on the Coors team, and Bradshaw, who is married to Cody, Jake and Jesse’s sister Rebecca, is on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) team.
Most of the Wright crew will compete later this week at the Horse Heaven Round-Up.
Making a living at his craft has become more important to Rusty now that he is a new dad. Rusty and his girlfriend, Morgan Hardy, have a 5-month-old son, Rookie.
“I’m no longer a 20-year-old single guy,” Rusty said. “I have two others to support, not just myself. Having a kid makes it harder to leave every time I go home.”
Ryder, 18, is a rookie on the PRCA circuit, but he has been honing his skills for years. He won the National High School Finals Rodeo saddle bronc title as a junior, and he was second as a senior last month.
He leads the PRCA rookie saddle bronc standings with $55,626 — $23,949 more than second-place rider Audy Reed of Spearman, Texas.
“It’s awesome,” Rusty said of his brother’s accomplishments. “He has more money now than I did at that point. That’s the thing — you get to learn from the guys ahead of you, and in this family, there’s a lot to choose from.”
Ryder, who had to wait until his 18th birthday in March to buy his PRCA permit, didn’t waste any time in filling his permit to get his PRCA card.
“I’ve always wanted to buy my card,” Ryder said. “My 18th birthday seemed to take forever.”
Ryder is hoping to follow the path of Rusty, Jesse (2009), Bradshaw (2015) and Spencer (2012) in winning the rookie saddle bronc title.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Ryder said.
Cody, who has been laid up with an ankle injury, was out on the rodeo trail last week trying to play catch-up.
“I have been sore up, but I am good to go,” Cody said. “It didn’t seem to matter how you landed, but it seems to start factoring in when you get older. I need the money for more reasons than one. You’ve got to be out there rodeoing. There are so many talented people, you can’t take anything for granted.”
Cody, 39, has a lot of pride in watching his boys succeed.
“The kids are making more than me right now,” he said. “That’s a good thing. It’s awesome to see them do good. I really hope they do better than me. They already have. That rookie deal is something I never done. That is a great honor. They are supposed to get better and not make some of the mistakes I made.”
Cody and his wife, ShaRee, soon will have another son joining the pro ranks. Stetson will be a junior in high school this year, but with his 18th birthday coming in July, Cody said he will have to rein him in.
“I will have a hard time keeping him in school,” Cody said. “That will be my main goal, keeping Stetson in school.”
That, and making up ground to join the rest of the Wright crew at the NFR.
“It would be cool to go with anybody,” said Cody, who made 12 consecutive trips to the NFR from 2003-14. “I just want to go.”
Champions Challenge Teams
Justin Boots — Bareback: Tim O’Connell. Steer wrestling: Jason Thomas. Team roping: Clay Smith/Paul Eaves. Saddle bronc: Heith DeMoss. Tie-down roping: Marcos Costa. Barrel racing: Mary Walker. Bull riding: Brennon Eldred.
Wrangler — Bareback: Tanner Aus. Steer wrestling: Ty Erickson. Team roping: Riley Minor/Brady Minor. Saddle bronc: Rusty Wright. Tie-down roping: Ryle Smith. Barrel racing: Ivy Conrado. Bull riding: Joe Frost.
Coors — Bareback: Orin Larsen. Steer wrestling: Clayton Hass. Team roping: Jake Cooper/Jake Minor. Saddle bronc: Jake Wright. Tie-down roping: Cade Swor. Barrel racing: Carley Richardson. Bull riding: Shane Proctor.
Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame — Bareback: Bill Tutor. Steer wrestling: Blake Knowles. Team roping: Colby Lovell/Kory Koontz. Saddle bronc: Jacobs Crawley. Tie-down roping: Rhen Richard. Barrel racing: Cassidy Kruse. Bull riding: Parker Breding.
RAM — Bareback: Teddy Athan. Steer wrestling: K.C. Jones. Team roping: Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler. Saddle bronc: Tyrel Larsen. Tie-down roping: Reese Riemer. Barrel racing: Jana Bean. Bull riding: Brett Stall.
B&W Trailer Hitches — Bareback: Winn Ratliff. Steer wrestling: Dakota Eldridge. Team roping: Luke Brown/Jake Long. Saddle bronc: Sterling Crawley. Tie-down roping: Hunter Herrin. Barrel racing: Taylor Langdon. Bull riding: Sage Kimzey.
PRCA — Bareback: Anthony Thomas. Steer wrestling: Matt Reeves. Team roping: Coleman Proctor/Russell Cardoza. Saddle bronc: CoBurn Bradshaw. Tie-down roping: Ryan Jarrett. Barrel racing: Kimmie Wall. Bull riding: Ty Wallace.
Horse Heaven Round-Up/Kennewick — Bareback: Evan Jayne. Steer wrestling: Jacob Talley. Team roping: Spencer Mitchell/Dugan Kelly. Saddle bronc: Allen Boore. Tie-down roping: Michael Otero. Barrel racing: Pamela Capper. Bull riding: Cody Rostockyj.
ProRodeo Gear — Bareback: Caleb Bennett. Steer wrestling: Tyler Waguespack. Team roping: Zac Small/Wesley Thorp. Saddle bronc: Clay Elliott. Tie-down roping: Blane Cox. Barrel racing: Jackie Ganter. Bull riding: Garrett Tribble.
Las Vegas — Bareback: Ty Breuer. Steer wrestling: Riley Duvall. Team roping: Dustin Bird/Jeremy Buhler. Saddle bronc: Joe Lufkin. Tie-down roping: Riley Pruitt. Barrel racing: Cayla Melby. Bull riding: Jeff Askey.
Experience Kissimmee — Bareback: Clayton Biglow. Steer wrestling: Josh Peek. Team roping: Kolton Schmidt/Kinney Harrell. Saddle bronc: Jake Watson. Tie-down roping: Timber Moore. Barrel racing: Stevi Hillman. Bull riding: Tyler Smith.