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Salt Lake and Cheyenne champs, World Se­ries and USTRC re­sults and more

When Tyler McKnight pulled into Salt Lake City to rope his first steer in the first per­for­mance of the Days of ’47 Cow­boy Games, he had $300 to his name and a blown trailer tire, and his 19-year-old header JR Dees had $19 in his bank ac­count and drove there on bor­rowed fuel money. When they got to­gether to run some prac­tice steers just hours be­fore the first perf, they only caught three over the few pens they ran.

“I had never roped with him in my life, and I could not imag­ine be­ing him and still think­ing we had a chance to win it be­cause I roped ter­ri­ble,” Dees said of the ill-fated prac­tice ses­sion with his part­ner for the day. “We had never roped to­gether in our lives and I was ter­ri­ble. He told me not to worry about it, we’d win it, but I don’t know how he thought that way.” But McKnight wasn’t wor­ried.

“JR is pretty gamey,” McKnight said.

They were 4.5 on their first steer and fin­ished sec­ond in the round be­hind Nel­son Wy­att and Matt Kas­ner, worth $3,467 a man. They got to move on to the gold medal round the next Mon­day night.

“I won the #15 at the US Fi­nals, and I had the same feel­ing (at Salt Lake City) I had the morn­ing be­fore I won that,” Dees said. “I wasn’t stressed—I was just ready. I think I was at the stage where I ac­cepted

that if it went bad, it went bad, but I’d try my hard­est. If it worked out, it worked out. My goal was to ac­cept it ei­ther way.”

Dees was in Salt Lake City with his part­ner for the last year and a half and long-time men­tor, three-time WNFR heeler Matt Zan­canella. “Zanc” took Dees in when the South Dakota na­tive was 7 years old and the kid’s par­ents ran into some tough times. Dees has been with him ever since.

“I haven’t had $20 since the Fourth of July,” Dees said. “No matter what I need, Zanc does it. Horses, fuel, if I’m broke he pays my fees. He might not have the money to do it, but he does it. He’s been rodeo­ing for 20 years. When you rodeo for 20 years, you know what you’re do­ing. It’s funny—he told me he didn’t want to fol­low every­one all around the coun­try this sum­mer. He wanted to get into Salt Lake through our cir­cuit stand­ings, and he told me if I got in there I’d make the NFR. I’ve been try­ing to get my cir­cuit money. He didn’t get in, but I did.”

Nei­ther Dees or McKnight say they were very ner­vous for that sec­ond steer on July 24, but both knew what was at stake.

“I kept telling my­self I was go­ing to win it,” McKnight said. “It worked out. I told my­self the whole time that’s the only steer I needed to catch and I’d make the NFR.”

They drew the steer Lane Ivy and Trace Porter were 4.7 on in the first round, and Ivy told them it tried and ran right. McKnight told Dees he planned to take an ag­gres­sive haze, as Dees prefers his steers down the mid­dle.

“He wanted to step right, and I think I scared him,” McKnight said. “He threw his head up and took a half a step and was just per­fect. He han­dled re­ally good and let me get a fast shot off on him.”

McKnight took such a good start thanks to his 23-year-old heel horse, Skeeter, that came from Matt Kas­ner, who hap­pened to win the bronze medal with Nel­son Wy­att for their 14.7-sec­ond short round run. Dees rode a 10-year-old geld­ing he calls Pis­tol Pete that he and Zan­canella have had for the last six years, and Dees cred­its the horse with a lot of his suc­cess.

“I wish I had 20 of him,” Dees said. “He scores and never tries to screw me.“

The un­prece­dented pay­day put Dees at sixth in the PRCA world stand­ings with $68,625 won af­ter mostly cir­cuit rodeo­ing all year, and bumped McKnight up to fourth among heel­ers with $77,120 won at press time. Both num­bers sur­pass the thresh­old it took to qual­ify for the WNFR in 2016. This year, cir­cuit fi­nals and All-Amer­i­can Fi­nals money counts to­ward the world stand­ings, so in the­ory, it will take more to qual­ify in 2017, but sure enough both rop­ers are in con­tention for a trip to the Thomas & Mack.

DEES AND MCKNIGHT SKY­ROCKET UP THE PRCA WORLD STAND­INGS AT SALT LAKE CITY’S DAYS OF ’47 COW­BOY GAMES.

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