MULVANE, Kan. — Chet Herren lived up to his advance billing as one of the favorites in the 2016 National Finals Steer Roping.
Unfortunately for Herren, Rocky Patterson also lived up to his.
Patterson won the fourth world championship of his steer-roping career Saturday following two nights of dramatic competition at the Kansas Star Arena. The annual steer-roping finals of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association featured this year’s 15 top money-winners in 10 high-stakes rounds.
Herren, a 37-year-old Pawhuskan, reached his ninth consecutive national finals as the second-place qualifier in the PRCA’s Steer Roping World Standings. With almost $70,000 in regular-season earnings, Herren came into the competition trailing the 2016 money-leader — his good friend, Patterson — by about $15,000.
This was the 20th-straight NFSR appearance for Patterson, who has 22 finals’ qualifications, in all. The 50-year-old Pratt, Kansas, resident claimed his previous world titles in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Going into the event, Patterson knew his lead was not safe in the finals, where the prize pool is more than $425,000.
Patterson placed in all five of Friday’s opening-night rounds — bolstering his overall lead by adding more than $22,000 to his winnings.
Herren finished in the money in Round 1, 3 and 5 — good for another $15,000. But, he dropped to third place in the world standings after being passed by one of the eight Texans in the finals, Cody Lee.
Saturday night’s opening round of the finals was won by Lee, while Herren placed fifth. Herren also scored times on the last four rounds, making him 10-for-10 on his steers in the finals. His total time on those 10 head (143.2 seconds) put Herren second in the NFSR average competition between first-place Lee (125.9 seconds on 10) and Patterson, who finished third in the average (105.2 on 9 head).
Patterson’s two-day NFSR earnings of $56,432 pushed his 2016 world-championship total to $141,350, which broke the PRCA’s all-time record for most money won in a single season of steer roping.
Trevor Brazile established the previous season-earnings’ mark — $121,112 — at the 2015 National Finals. During the same event, the 22-time world champion also set a record for most money earned at an NFSR amount — $62,390 — at the 2015 NFSR. (Lee established a new record amount at this year’s finals.)
After winning his sixth steer-roping championship (as well as a record 22nd PRCA world title) here last November, Brazile did not return to Mulvane to defend his title. Instead, the Decatur, Texas, cowboy also established the new single-season earnings’ mark for steer ropers — at $121,112. (Brazile will not be defending his steer-roping title at this year’s NFSR. Instead, he will participate in the first-ever Elite Rodeo Athletes (ERA) Championships taking place in Fort Worth.)
Pay-offs from four finals’ rounds and the $22,632 for the average put Herren’s 2016 winnings at $109, 747 — making him No 3 in the year’s final PRCA World Standings behind world champion Patterson ($141,350) and runnerup Lee ($124,455).
Herren hasn ow finished among rodeo’s top steer ropers 11 times during his 16-year pro career. He was ranked No. 8 in the world at the conclusion of the 2015 finals concluded at Mulvane, ended last year’s event with a No. 8 world ranking. The initial NFSR success for Herren came when he won the average at the 2002 finals —in only his second pro season.
In July, Patterson — the three-time world champion — scored a come-from-behind victory over Herren in the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association’s Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping. The next afternoon, Herren reversed the result in the Shoat Webster Classic at Pawhuska’s Bar K Arena. Herren and Patterson recently split nearly $10,000 at two Texas ropings that will count toward their earnings in the 2017 World Standings.
Patterson has three Ben Johnson championships, while Lee is a two-time winner of the 63-year-old Pawhuska event.
All three of this year’s PRCA top finishers are members of the Pawhuska-based Osage Steer Roping Club. (Herren has won the OSRC championship the past two years.)