They are two of the greatest team ropers who have yet to be crowned world champions.
They were raised on roping not far from one another; between them, Resistol heelers Jake Long and Travis Graves have a combined 25 qualifications to the National Finals Rodeo. While Montana Silversmiths gold buckles are the century mark for cowboys competing in ProRodeo, it’s not what defines either of them.
Long is the No. 2 man in the world standings with $130,332, but he trails the leader, Brazilian Junior Nogueira, by nearly $98,000. Now, though, they are about to compete at the richest rodeo on the planet, which offers a $1.4 million payout. Long can catch Nogueira by the time Night 4 comes to a close, because go-round winners will pocket just shy of $29,000 a day for 10 nights.
Graves is seventh on the heeling money list with $106,737, but he is one of the most experienced men in the field. This season marks his 14th appearance in the big show, his 13th straight. The only time he’s missed the finale was in 2009, and he still finished among the top 25.
From the small town of Jay, Oklahoma, on the eastern edge of the Sooner State, the 38-year-old Graves has been dominant. This his the third straight year he will rope at the with Floridian Dustin Egusquiza, and the two have made quite a team. This year, the duo collected eight event titles, including a solid run through the Northwest with wins in Washington communities Moses Lake and Bremerton and Hermiston, Oregon.
Graves travels the rodeo trail with his primary partners: wife Tamika, son Tee, 10, and daughter True, 9. Because the kids are homeschooled, it allows the talented cowboy the chance to handle his business while also remaining close to his family – that’s not often the case for contestants making a living in the sport; they oftentimes leave home the middle of June and don’t return until the regular season comes to a close the end of September.
Over his storied career that began two decades ago, Graves has teamed with some of the greatest ropers ever to have played the sport. From Turtle Powell to Clay Tryan to Chad Masters to Colby Lovell to Kaleb Driggers to Trevor Brazile, his list of teammates reads like a who’s who of world champion headers.