Monday Notebook: Putting a Bow on the Texas Swing

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The Texas Swing is crucial to the success of a cowboy’s season.

Comprising of five big indoor rodeos in the Lone Star State - Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston, Austin and San Angelo - the February-April stretch can make or break NFR hopes before the calendar year even gets off the ground.

The five rodeos paid a grand total of $5,481,510 in 2023 with winners taking home tens of thousands of dollars in each one, including north of $50,000 at RodeoHouston.

Here are 10 things you need to know about the beginning of the 2023 rodeo season, which has already seen a total of 24 athletes bank more than $50,000.

  • Bareback rider Leighton Berry made about $95,000 during the Texas Swing. After not pulling a check in Fort Worth, Berry went on to win San Antonio, Houston and San Angelo and finish second in Austin. He won a little more than $80,000 combined between San Antonio and Houston alone. Berry, who has made over $115,000 for the season, leads World No. 2 Keenan Hayes by about $27,000 and World No. 3 Rocker Steiner by about $52,000.
  • Stetson Wright, like Leighton Berry, won 3-of-5 Texas Swing Rodeos. As a saddle bronc rider, Wright also won a trifecta of the season’s biggest rodeos. Wright went 90 on all three of his winning rides - 90.5 in Fort Worth, 92.5 in San Antonio and 90 in Austin. Over the last two seasons, Wright has won seven times on the Texas Swing between saddle bronc riding and bull riding. He is currently No. 2 in the PRCA Saddle Bronc Riding World Standings.
  • Every RodeoHouston winner is still No. 1 in the PRCA World Standings. The lucrative $50,000 check given to the Shootout winners in Houston goes a long, long way as the champions are all still No. 1. The rodeo concluded almost a month ago on March 19. In 2022, three of the RodeoHouston winners finished the regular season No. 1 in the world.
  • 38 of the 40 athletes ranked in the Top 5 in the PRCA World Standings at this time last year made the NFR. There are no sure things in rodeo, but if last year is any indication, you can bet those currently in the Top 5 will also be in Las Vegas in December.
  • The lowest ranked 2022 World Champion was No. 19 at the end of last year’s Texas Swing. That athlete was tie-down roper Caleb Smidt, who has won four Gold Buckles in the last eight years. He and saddle bronc rider Zeke Thurston, who was ranked No. 14 after the Texas Swing, were the only ones not in the Top 5 at the end of the April that won the world. Which brings us to our next note...
  • Six of the eight PRCA World Champions in 2022 were in the Top 2 at the end of the Texas Swing. Four of the World Champions - Jess Pope, Kaleb Driggers, Junior Nogueira and Stetson Wright - were No. 1 at this time last season and two - Tyler Waguespack and Haily Kinsel - were No. 2. Smidt and Thurston weren’t just the only cowboys from outside the Top 5 to win Gold Buckles in 2022, they were the only ones outside the Top 2.
  • Tie-down roper Riley Webb currently has the largest lead of anybody in the PRCA World Standings. Webb leads No. 2 Hunter Herrin by about $45,000. The second-year professional has made about $69,000 in the five Texas Swing rodeos, meaning if he only went to those rodeos all season, he would still be No. 1 in the world.
  • Bull rider Josh Frost rode 75 percent of his bulls in the Texas Swing. For context on just how out of this world that is, the best riding percentage of Sage Kimzey’s career is 72 and the best of Stetson Wright’s career is 70. Frost was 15-for-20 with $74,200 earned during the Texas Swing and made the Finals of all five rodeos, which means he was frequently facing off against NFR bulls.
  • Every event except bareback riding and saddle bronc riding had five different winners during the Texas Swing. There were no repeat winners in steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing or bull riding.
  • There were a total of three repeat champions in this year’s Texas Swing. Barrel racer Jordon Briggs and Sage Newman picked the best rodeo to do it at as they both won the $50,000 grand prize at RodeoHouston back-to-back years. They both used their Houston wins in 2022 to enter the NFR No. 1 in the world. The other repeat champion in 2023 was Stetson Wright in saddle bronc riding as he won San Antonio for the consecutive year.