Steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge has been winning – winning big.
The Elko cowboy recently captured one of the most storied and prestigious titles in the history of rodeo, the $50,000 grand prize at RodeoHouston on March 19. Eldridge qualified for the Championship Shootout through a bracket format, winning the first of five Super Series with a total of $4,750 back on March 3.
He advanced to the semifinals on March 16, placing second with a 4.4-second run and pocketing another $2,000. His time of five-seconds flat in the shootout bested Nicky Guy’s time of 5.2 seconds, claiming the top prize. Guy won $20,000 in the shootout round.
Eldridge won an event-best $56,750 in total at RodeoHouston.
Although the money is an ample amount and helps tremendously with bills and expenses, RodeoHouston has not been a sanctioned rodeo of the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association for years — thus, the money does not count toward qualifying Eldridge for his potential fourth-consecutive National Finals Rodeo. He won the NFR average in 2015 and finished as the runner-up for the world championship.
Eldridge is currently seventh in the 2016 PRCA World Steer Wrestling Standings, tallying $20,486.42. Fallon cowboy Sterling Lambert, who is Eldridge’s traveling partner, is currently 11th in the standings with $17,503.02 in prize money.
The top 15 qualify for the NFR in December in Las Vegas.
“It’s been kind of a weird year. I have never won this much money during the winter, but I’m not real high up in the standings. It’s taking more money to make it to the NFR,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge has won more $90,000 steer wrestling this year, winning more than $70,000 that does not count toward the PRCA standings.
What do both Eldridge and Lambert have in common? Other than talent, both cowboys ride one of the best horses in the business – Eldridge’s 17-year-old sorrel horse Rusty.
Lambert is fresh off riding Rusty at Rodeo Austin in Texas, placing third in the finals with a time of 4.2 seconds for a $4,700 check on March 26. Lambert tied for fourth in the first round with a run of 4.5 seconds and won $2,436, finishing fourth in the semifinals with a time of four-flat and collecting another $2,139.
In total, Rusty carried Lambert to $9,275 at Rodeo Austin.
Eldridge was bumped out of the final round of Rodeo Austin by one spot.
“Sterling rode Rusty at Austin, and I was on him for the final at RodeoHouston,” Eldridge said. “I rode my other horse (Cruiser) for a steer in the Super Series in Houston. He is coming along and working really well. I hope he keeps getting more solid.”
After a considerable break from PRCA rodeos (other than Rodeo Austin), Eldridge is preparing for a lengthy and busy time of rodeos out West.
Tuesday, he is traveling to Logandale to compete in the Clark County Fair and Rodeo. From there, he will compete in multiple California rodeos — beginning with Oakdale. After Oakdale, he will go to the Red Bluff Round-Up and then travel to the Clovis Rodeo.
“Those are the big ones, but I will be out there for about three weeks or a month,” Eldridge said. “I might dink around and hit some of the smaller rodeos too.”
Generally, there is a time frame from the middle of May until the middle of June when the cowboys get a little bit of a break – all gearing up to start the summer run at the Reno Rodeo.
Eldridge was not the only Nevada native to cash in at RodeoHouston.
Fallon cowboy and three-time PRCA team roping champion (heeler) Jade Corkill also took the big money in Houston.
Corkill and heading partner Clay Tryan tied for third in Super Series V, winning $3,000 each. The duo advanced to the second semifinal but did not place in the money – having to qualify for the final through the Wild Card round.
The team made a run of 4.7 seconds, splitting $4,000 for second place.
Tryan and Corkill matched their 4.7-second run in the Championship Shootout – winning $50,000 each –besting JoJo LeMond’s and Jim Ross Cooper’s time of 5.2 seconds. LeMond and Cooper split $40,000.
Tryan and Corkill could not complete the journey of winning four PRCA team roping world titles in a row at the 2015 NFR, but the team has shifted gears – and organizations in 2016.
The duo is now part of a new rodeo organization known as the ERA (Elite Rodeo Athletes) League of Rodeo Champions, which is in its first year of existence.
The ERA consists of approximately 90 competitors, comprising mostly of cowboys and cowgirls who split away from the PRCA in an effort to expand and improve the world of professional rodeo.
The current ERA tour includes eight regular-season rodeos – already completing two – the inaugural rodeo on March 25-26 in Redmond, Oregon, and the second on Friday and Saturday at the Idaho Center in Nampa.
Tryan and Corkill took first place at the Nampa event over the weekend with one of the fastest team roping runs in the history of rodeo – stopping the clock almost as quickly as it started – blazing their way to a time of 3.42 seconds.
Including Tryan and Corkill, the ERA is a who’s-who of rodeo fame:
Trevor Brazile (23-time PRCA World Champion, including 13 All-Around titles)
Charmayne James (11-time PRCA barrel racing world titles)
Bobby Mote and Kaycee Field (four PRCA bareback riding world titles each)
Fred Whitfield (eight PRCA world titles, including one All-Around and seven tie-down roping crowns)
Cody Ohl (six-time PRCA tie-down champion)
Five-time PRCA steer wrestling world champion Luke Branquinho (who rodeo “Rusty” during his final world title)
Eight-time PRCA world champion header Speed Williams and seven-time world champion team ropers Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper (not competing with each other in the ERA tour)
The list literally includes just a few names but shows the type of firepower the ERA has in its arsenal. The next ERA stop will take place Friday and Saturday in Salt Lake City.
The tour will conclude with the ERA World Championship from Nov. 9-11 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. For more information on the ERA, purchasing tickets, or finding the broadcast schedule on Fox Sports 2, visit eraprorodeo.com.