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Trevor Brazile competes in the steer roping

After a one-year absence, Trevor Brazile returns to the National Finals Rodeo. The 23-time world champion leads his brother-in-law, Tuf Cooper, in the world all-around standings.

BILLINGS -- There is more at stake than a world all-around title.

This could be for family bragging rights.

Trevor Brazile and Tuf Cooper are 1-2 in the PRCA world all-around standings entering the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

The 10-performance, $10 million rodeo begins Thursday at the Thomas and Mack Center and continues through Dec. 16. The NFR will determine the year-end champions for the 2017 season.

The NFR will be televised nightly on the CBS Sports Network starting at 8 p.m.

Brazile and Cooper return to the NFR after a one-year absence after both competed for another rodeo organization last year. Brazile, of Decatur, Texas, has won a PRCA-record 23 world titles, including 13 all-around championships, his last in 2015.

He vaulted into first place for the 2017 all-around standings by earning $63,273 at the National Finals Steer Roping in November. Brazile has a lead of $13,738 over Cooper, his brother-in-law. Brazile has earned $243,760, while Cooper has $230,022. Cooper, also of Decatur, Texas, leads the tie-down roping standings while Brazile is sixth.

“There’s no secret,” Brazile told the ProRodeo Sports News. “We practice together every day and it’s just part of it (standings race). Iron sharpens iron and we push each other. It’s been a good dynamic and worked for both of us.”

Cooper is also a two-time (2011-12) tie-down roping world champion.

Other all-around contenders include Caleb Smidt (tie-down roping), Ryle Smtih (steer wrestling), Junior Nogueira (team roping), Erich Rogers (team roping), Russell Cardoza (team roping), Dakota Eldridge (steer wrestling). Last year, Nogueira became the first cowboy from Brazil to win the PRCA all-around world title.

Local talent

J.R. Vezain heads up the list of area qualifiers for the NFR. The bareback rider, who now lives in Melstone, enters the NFR fourth in the world bareback standings. He will be competing at his fifth NFR.

He is joined by three-time world champion Clay Tryan of Billings and Cut Bank’s Dustin Bird, both in team roping, along with steer wrestler Ty Erickson of Helena and Circle native Lisa Lockhart in barrel racing. Erickson leads the world steer wrestling standings, while this is Tryan’s 15th NFR and the 11th consecutive for Lockhart, a two-time average winner.

Brody Cress, of Hillsdale, Wyoming, is making her first NFR appearance in saddle bronc. Cress, a three-time Wyoming state champion in wrestling, won some of the biggest rodeos this summer, including Cheyenne Frontier Days and Salinas, California. He also won the Yellowstone Round Up in Billings in August.

Chasing history

Sage Kimzey, of Strong City, Okla., will be after his fourth consecutive bull riding world title. The youngest PRCA cowboy to reach $1 million in career earnings, Kimzey is trying to become the first bull rider to win four straight since Don Gay (1974-78).

Kimzey won the bull riding at 15 rodeos in 2017.

Numbers switch

In previous years, the No. 1 back number went to the competitor – man or woman – who earned the most money during the regular season.

The high money winner was barrel racer and first time NFR qualifier Tiany Schuster with $250,378. But she won’t be wearing the No. 1 tag.

That was given to Cooper. Schuster was awarded No. 5.

NFR officials also did not award No. 58 this year. The number is reserved in remembrance of the victims of the Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas.

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