Entering last weekend, J.R. Vezain was struggling.
It was new and unfamiliar territory for the young Cowley, Wyo., cowboy, who has experienced success at every level.
A two-time state high school wrestling champion, Vezain was the national high school bareback riding champion in 2009 and the College National Finals Rodeo all-around champion in 2011.
In between, Vezain found time to win the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit all-around title in 2010.
The past two years, he has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo and finished seventh and fourth in the final world standings.
But as the second weekend of August approached, the 22-year-old was caught in a slump, dropping to 15th in the world standings.
“My whole career I’ve never been in a dry spell,” Vezain said. “This year, something’s been going on. I wasn’t winning. I was drawing good and still getting low scores. I was fighting some equipment and kind of fighting my head. My (travel group) has been really supportive and just positive. I switched the style of riggings and started spurring again, and that’s just been awesome.”
Vezain drank from the fountain of triumph again, winning the bareback titles at Lovington, N.M., and Loveland, Colo. He earned $5,450 at Lovingston and $1,844 at Loveland. Vezain also placed second at Hermiston, Ore., for another $3,444 and won $821 at Logan Utah. He pocketed more than $11,000 and jumped from a tenuous 15th to a more comfortable 12th in the world standings.
The 2014 PRCA regular season ends on Sept. 30.
Vezain will try and continue his success this Friday at the MontanaFair Yellowstone Round-Up Rodeo.
“I’m having fun again,” Vezain said. “I can hardly wipe the smile off my face again. It’s outstanding to be winning again.”
• • •
Another big winner at Lovington was Ty Erickson.
The Helena steer wrestler earned the overall title and $3,571. Erickson is 11th in the world standings
• • •
Bud Munroe was one of the best saddle bronc riders of his generation.
The 1986 world champion – and the first to earn more than $100,000 in a single season – qualified for the NFR 12 straight years (1977-88). Along with the world title, he was also second twice (1978, 1980) and had eight top-five finishes in the world standings.
He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2007. Munroe, a graduate of Billings Senior, is also a member of the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Montana State University Athletic Hall of Fame after helping the Bobcats win a national collegiate title in 1975.
Now add another honor.
Munroe is part of the hall of fame class for the PRCA Ellensburg, Wash., Rodeo. The ceremony is Aug. 28 at the Student Union Center on the campus of Central Washington University.
• • •
The Northern Rodeo Association boasts a long tradition as the starting point for many of the top names in professional rodeo.
Some of those who started their careers in the NRA include former and current world champions Dan Mortensen (saddle bronc, team roping) and Clay Tryan (team roping), along with a host of others.
So it’s no surprise when a top cowboy drops into an NRA rodeo to compete.
This summer, Jory Markiss, one of the Professional Bull Riders young stars, won at Three Forks, while four-time NFR qualifier Doug Pharr won the tie-down roping at Bozeman.
• • •
In late July, bull rider Kanin Asay, of Powell, Wyo., became the 125th PRCA cowboy to reach the $1 million dollar mark in career earnings.
Asay, a five-time NFR qualifier, cleared the mark by winning the bull riding titles at Spanish Fork, Utah and Nampa, Idaho. He won Spanish Fork on Sankey Rodeo Company’s Soldier Boy, a bull that will be out for the Yellowstone Round-up this weekend.