Riley Webb may not have achieved that Secretariat/Belmont Stakes-lead level quite yet but the 20-year old Denton, Texas phenom is determined to carry as big a lead as regular season payoffs allow into his second Wrangler NFR come December.
The 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) boasts ten go rounds that pay $30,706, and the average will award $78,747—meaning a season leader would have to be nearly $400,000 ahead of the field to mathematically eliminate all rivals.
With just eighteen days left in the 2023 season, Webb has continued a torrid pace all year, setting and re-setting the regular season earnings record with each rodeo. He’s done so with go round wins and crucial average victories, wins in tournament and standard format rodeos, and by just flat finding his way to the pay window every week.
Riley Webb’s Puyallup
Already comfortably dominating, Webb marched through the Cinch Playoffs in Puyallup, Washington on September 7-10, clinching the championship with a final round time of 7.6 seconds to dash any hopes his contenders may have had of eating into Webb’s lead in the PRCA | RAM World Standings.
Riding his great horse Rudy, Webb roped during Playoff 2 in the preliminary action in Puyallup on Saturday, September 9, taking second behind second-ranked Haven Meged in the opening round.
“I had a calf that was a little taller than the rest,” Webb said. “I knew I could make a good run but I wasn’t sure if I could win a round on her.”
“Then Haven went 7.6 right ahead of me,” Webb chuckled. “So I just went and made the best run I could.”
With advancement to the finals resting on the two head average, Webb knew he just needed a good run to ensure he would get to continue roping.
“I was last out in the first round so first out in the flip and I had another good calf,” Webb noted. “I went 8.1 again and I knew with 16.2 in the average I was guaranteed to come back.”
Webb won the second round and was the highest in the average for Playoff 2.
Once in the finals, he went into hyperdrive.
“In the eight-man, I was third from the end and the second guy out went 8.2,” he explained. “It just got faster and faster. Cory went 7.8 and Caleb was 8.1.”
“I got a good start and was fortunate to win that round and come back high call,” he said of his blistering 7.4 second run that held up as the fastest of the rodeo and allowed him to rope last in the four-man, sudden death finals.
“In the finals, I drew a calf I’ve been waiting since Hermiston to have,” he joked. “Everyone wants to draw her.”
“I got a great start . . . actually, all four runs, when I left the box I thought I might have broken out, but it worked out,” he said.
Needing to be better than 7.9 for the win, Webb stopped the clock in 7.6 seconds. He earned a total of $18,863 for the rodeo.
Before heading to Puyallup, Webb stopped in at the Lewiston Roundup and picked up another $4,054 there for a second-place finish to push his weekend total over $22,000.
In just his second year in ProRodeo, Webb has earned nearly half a million dollars.
“I just quit worrying about how much it pays or where I am in the standings, all that outside stuff and just focus on doing my job,” Webb said when asked the secret to the season long roll he’s been on. “I used to change up depending on the format but now I just try to make the best run I can every time out.”
Webb grew up with a rope in his hand, the son of roping producers Dirk and Jennifer, and actually first put his feet into the dirt of the Thomas & Mack Arena, home of the Wrangler NFR, at age 9 when he participated in the opening acts with trick roper Rider Kiesner.
“I try not to,” Webb laughed when asked if he still works on his trick roping skills, “it might mess me up in catching necks.”
Webb was competing against NFR-caliber guys long before he was old enough to have a PRCA card, winning the National High School Finals Rodeo in 2020 and making history as the youngest roper to be invited to compete at the Roping Fiesta in San Angelo, Texas.
With the skills forged against the best while still a teenager, it was little wonder that Webb’s transition to ProRodeo was seamless. He easily made the Finals in his rookie year in 2022 and ran away with the Rookie of the Year title.
With the next obvious goal being a gold buckle that says World Champion Tie Down Roper, Webb is taking a few days at home before hitting the road for his final five ProRodeos of the season including the Governor’s Cup in Sioux Falls, where the final round winner will take home $25,000.
In between the regular season’s end on September 30 and the kickoff of the Wrangler NFR on December 7, Webb will be found competing as much as possible including in a head-to-head match with Haven Meged, the guy closest to him in the world standings, at the Oklahoma’s Richest Calf Roping on October 14.
“I do [like match ropings],” Webb said. “It sharpens both guys up, especially when you’re going against someone like that. When you’re roping head to head, you can really see where you’re at too.”
Elsewhere in the Cinch Playoffs . . .
The Cinch Playoffs represented one of a very small number of remaining events with enough money up for grabs to be significant to the world standings chase. In addition to the big purse, the final four in Puyallup earned an automatic bye into the $1 million Governor’s Cup to be held on the final weekend, September 28-30 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Joining Webb in the finals were Cory Solomon, reigning World Champ Caleb Smidt and Shad Mayfield.
Solomon was lingering around the bottom five of the top 15 so the $11,426 he earned in Puyallup goes a long way towards a more restful two weeks until September 30 for him as he appears safe for his tenth Wrangler NFR.
Smidt was in much the same situation and he picked up $9,850 at the Playoffs to move up to 10th in the standings while Mayfield’s $7,857 helped him jumped back ahead of Shane Hanchey into third place.
The Bubble and the Governor’s Cup
With Puyallup in the rearview mirror, there are just a handful of big money opportunities left and the edge for making the NFR has to go to the guys who will be in Sioux Falls. Along with the final four from Puyallup, the top eight in the Playoff Series standings following this week’s Pendleton (Ore.) Roundup and West Texas Fair & Rodeo in Abilene will also advance.
Because Webb, Mayfield and Solomon were already inside the top eight of the Playoff Series standings, it’s likely it will drop to at least eleventh in those standings to get the eight competitors. Right now the positions from ninth to eleventh are held by Westyn Hughes, Luke Potter, and Zack Jongbloed with a max of about 225 Playoff Series points available at the two remaining rodeos.
Hughes is currently ranked sixth and looks safe but Potter and Jongbloed could be huge beneficiaries of the advancement opportunity to Sioux Falls. Potter is currently 15th and Jongbloed is 14th in the world standings.
Blane Cox is also close to moving into an advancing spot in the Series standings and he too could use the chance, ranked 13th in the world.
Most of the ropers already inside the top eight are sitting solid in the standings: guys like Hanchey, Ty Harris, and John Douch. But Kincade Henry could be the spoiler—he’s fifth in the Playoff standings with a great chance to rope in Sioux Falls but is ranked 19th in the world standings, less than $6,000 behind the current occupant of 15th, Potter. Henry picked up a first round check in Pendleton too.
Wild West Shootout
The last eighteen days of this season could look like a wild west shootout and the guys who end up in Vegas will be those who rope the best under pressure and get a little bit of luck along the way.
Only $763 separates 15th-ranked Potter from 16th-ranked Michael Otero. Twentieth-ranked Tuf Cooper is only $7,711 outside the top 15, an amount easily won at the Pendleton Roundup alone if a guy performs well on the grass.
Going inside the top 15, the field is tight as well. Cox at 13th is less than $4,000 ahead of Potter with a bit of a gap, about $6,000, up to 12th-ranked Brush Minton.
A year ago, Henry survived the storm to finish 15th with $101,946. Potter currently holds that spot with $97,333.
How much more will it take to rope in Vegas in 2023? We’ll know the answer in eighteen days.
PRCA World Standings as of September 12, 2023
(Standings courtesy of ProRodeo.com, may not reflect all completed rodeos)
|Miles City, Montana
|Clovis, New Mexico
|San Angelo, Texas
|Prairie View, Texas
|Witter Springs, California
|Maple City, KS
|Mount Pleasant, Texas