LAS VEGAS — The term world champion took on a whole new meaning after the final round of the National Finals Rodeo on Saturday night.
Eight new world champions were crowned — Sage Kimzey three-peated in in bull riding — in some of the most dramatic races in PRCA history.
Four world champions came from outside the United States.
Junior Nogueira became the first cowboy from Brazil to win the world all-around title. He and partner Kaleb Driggers turned a final round time of 9.4 seconds in team roping into a sixth-place check and fourth place in the average. The money won allowed the 26-year-old Nogueira to emerge from a crowded field for rodeo’s most coveted buckle.
Nogueira won titles at 17 rodeos during the regular season. He won the all-around by $3,621 over steer wrestler Clayton Hass. Less than $27,000 separated the top four in the standings.
Nine cowboys had a mathematical chance at the all-around going into the 10th round at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Dustin Bird of Cut Bank, who led the all-around after the ninth round, took a no time in team roping with partner Russell Cardoza. Bird finished fourth in the world all-around standings and sixth for team roping headers.
Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler became the first Canadian cowboys to win world team roping titles, while Zeke Thurston swept both the world and NFR average titles in saddle bronc riding.
Simpson and Buhler shared first place in the 10th round with Zac Small and Wesley Thorp, to make Canadian rodeo history. Both were 4.3 seconds.
Thurston, whose father Skeeter was a six-time NFR qualifier, won both the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit year-end and Finals titles in 2004.
Thurston closed his NFR with an 86-point ride to slip past defending world champion Jacobs Crawley by $2,831 in the final standings. Crawley was bucked off his final horse. Thurston is the first cowboy from Canada to win the world saddle bronc title since Glen O’Neill in 2002. O’Neill was a transplant from Australia.
The other 2016 world champions are: Tim O’Connell, bareback; Tyler Waguespack, steer wrestling; Tyson Durfey, tie-down roping; Mary Burger, barrel racing.
Durfey won his title by $3,519. Only $7,000 separated the top three.
Waguespack earned the Ram Top Gun Award, with $213,217 won at the NFR.
Circle native Lisa Lockhart won the NFR barrel racing average for the second time in three years. The mother of three, who lives in South Dakota, was 137.98 seconds for 10 runs. She was the only barrel racer under 140 total seconds. Lockhart, who earned $151,730 while in Las Vegas, closed with a time of 13.67 seconds in the final round to tie for fifth place.
"We are ecstatic," said Lockhart via text on Saturday night of her NFR. "It is such a huge accomplishment to make 10 clean runs here. I owe it all to my amazing partner, Louis."
Lockhart finished third in the world standings, her seventh consecutive top-5 finish.
J.R. Vezain, of Cowley, Wyo., tied for second in the average and finished eighth in the final world bareback standings. Vezain, who missed the 2015 NFR after suffering a back injury, was 84 points on his last ride in Las Vegas.
Power’s Jessy Davis was 81 points on Saturday. He finished ninth in the average and 15th in the world standings.
Steer wrestler Ty Erickson of Helena took a no time in the final round. Erickson, who entered the NFR leading the world standings, finished seventh this year.
After riding his first seven bulls, Shane Proctor was bucked off his final three. The 31-year-old Proctor, the oldest bull rider in the field, still won the average and was third in the world standings. The 2011 PRCA world champion entered the NFR 15th. The former Northwest College rodeo standout also competed at the Professional Bull Riders World Finals in November.