Each year's Wrangler National Finals Rodeo fits the part of a 10-part dramatic production with all the drama, intensity, peaks and valleys one can handle.
And each year's Wrangler NFR takes on its own unique identity from all others in its storied history.
The 2002 Finals was no different.
Sunday's show, seen by 17,681 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center and countless others on ESPN's live broadcast, certainly made its case for one of the most exciting and unpredictable of all time.
Among the world-champion moments:
- Trevor Brazile of Anson, Texas, claimed his first world all-around title, winning $33,909 in Sunday's 10th round to secure the title over Jesse Bail, the event's only two-event cowboy. Bail finished second in the final round of bull riding and finished third in the average race.
- One year after experiencing heartbreak in the final round, bareback rider Bobby Mote of Redmond, Ore., took care of some unfinished business. On Sunday, Mote rode his 10-round horse, Kesler Championship Rodeo's Alley Ways Dip, for 88 points and the round title. That, coupled with a fourth-place average payoff, gave Mote the world title by $14,338 over average champion Jason Jeter, who set a Wrangler NFR event record by riding 10 head for 839 points.
- Sid Steiner of Bastrop, Texas, made the leap of the day. He entered the 10th round in sixth place in the world standings but well within leader Luke Branquinho. Steiner stepped up and stopped the clock in 3.3 seconds - tied for the fastest run of the Wrangler NFR - and shot to the top of the standings. He then watched challenger after challenger try to upstage him, but to no avail.
He became the latest part of a father-son duo to have claimed world titles; Tommy Steiner won the world bull riding championship in 1973.
- Speed Williams of Jacksonville, Fla., and Rich Skelton of Llano, Texas, made team roping history, snagging their sixth consecutive world crown. That broke the record of five, set by Jake Barnes and Clay OâBrien Cooper, that had stood since 1989. Williams and Skelton are now just one world title from tying Barnes and Cooper for most team roping titles in ProRodeo history.
Although they didnât win a round, Williams and Skelton placed six times, holding off challengers Wade Wheatley and Hughson, Calif., and Kyle Lockett of Ivanhoe, Calif., by $10,000 and $12,000 in the heading and heeling standings, respectively.
- Saddle bronc rider Glen OâNeill of Didsbury, Alberta, shared Mote's fate in 2001 by losing the lead on the final round of the Wrangler NFR.
On Sunday, OâNeill did his part, scoring 88 points to win the round. That also gave him the average title with a Wrangler NFR-record 825 points on 10 head. In one day, OâNeill bagged $49,628, and he needed all of it to outlast five-time world saddle bronc riding champion Dan Mortensen by just $6,723.
- Fred Whitfield further cemented his place among ProRodeo's all-time greats by winning his sixth world calf roping title and fourth Wrangler NFR average crown. Only Joe Beaver, Roy Cooper and Olin Young have won four NFR average crowns.
- Barrel racer Charmayne James finally reached the winner's circle after an eight-year hiatus, claiming her WPRA-record 11th world title and first aboard Cruiser.
From 1984 to 1993, James was virtually unbeatable on Scamper, the only barrel horse inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo. During the Wrangler NFR, James retook the lead from upstart Tammy Key on the final day, claiming her seventh average title - also a record - en route to the title.
- Blue Stone hadnât endured a more trying, and painful, year than in 2002. It started with a fractured sternum last February at the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo in Farmington, Utah, and Stone never was 100 percent.
Still, the reigning world bull riding champion had something to prove in 2002, and he arrived in Las Vegas as the No. 8-ranked bull rider. When the dust settled, he had bagged the average title, rallying from No. 3 to the top spot in Round 10.
He became the first bull rider since ProRodeo Hall of Famer Don Gay to win back-to-back bull riding titles. Gay, who won eight world bull riding titles, did it in 1980-81.
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