Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Calf Roping/Steer Wrestling

Steer wrestler Josh Peek competes in the fourth go-round. © Matt Cohen 2010

Steer wrestling is probably the least glamorous rodeo event, yet many of the
men who make their living jumping off of horses and tackling steer are
former college football players. Unlike bull or bronc riding where it's not
surprising to see even the best riders get bucked and drilled into the dirt,
if a steer wrestler misses his jump, the result is likely to be more than a bit
embarrassing.

Peek, the 2009 NFR All-Around champion, had a tough 2010 in Vegas, including
this attempt where he missed the tackle and then got stepped on by his
horned adversary.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Ethen Thouvenell lost the handle during the third third go-round.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Former Canadian champion Curtis Cassidy gets a face full of dirt in the first
go-round. © Matt Cohen 2010

When things go right, steer wrestling can produce dramatic pictures.

Wade Sumpter stares down his steer during the third go-round. © Matt Cohen 2010

Dean Gorsuch came to Vegas in third place, and left with the champion's buckle
and season total earnings of $186,477.18.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Luke Branquinho is a regular at the California rodeos, and I've shot him many
times over the last few years. I was rooting for him, but Branquinho couldn't
improve on his standing coming into Vegas and finished fourth with
$160,048.83 on the season.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

The only question coming into the roping events was whether Trevor Brazile
would win his second triple crown and cross the $500,000 mark for the
season. Brazile did both, finishing with an amazing $507,921 for the season,
thanks to winning $211,509 over the 10 days in Vegas.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

Texan Stran Smith is also a regular at California rodeos, and a very nice guy,
so it was tough to watch his disappointing NFR results. Smith dropped from
third to sixth in the standings.
© Matt Cohen 2010

As the number of rodeos I shoot has increased, I've tried to learn as much about
the contestants as possible. In Red Bluff last April, I was watching a roper warm
up and asked him if he would sit for a quick portrait. When I was done, I asked
him his name and when he told me, it was with almost puzzlement that he
said his name: Fred Whitfield.
© Matt Cohen 2010

Well, it turns out that Texan Fred Whitfield is a legendary cowboy, with 8 world
titles in tie-down and the all-around title in 1999. No wonder he was shocked
that someone didn't know who he was. At 43 years old, Whitfield finished
the season in fifth place with a total of $140,653.99.

© Matt Cohen 2010

© Matt Cohen 2010

Also from the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Saddle Bronc & Bareback Bull Riding Barrel Racing