Newcomers Claim Top Honors

Five of 10 Resistol Rookies of the Year to Compete at the NFR

It wasn’t much, but it was enough for Riley Webb. At one of the last rodeos of the year in Fort Worth, Texas, Webb stepped out of his tie-down roping comfort zone.

The $183 he won while team roping with Cole Clemons at the Stockyards Pro Rodeo boosted Webb’s overall earnings and helped him to two Resistol Rookie of the Year awards for 2022. He had clinched the tie-down roping rookie title long before that date in late September, but the money he collected in Fort Worth’s historic Cowtown Coliseum was enough to give him the all-around crown, too.

“The all-around was a last-minute thing,” said Webb, 19, of Denton, Texas. “The calf roping has been aa goal for a long time.”

It was a spectacular inaugural campaign for Webb, who finished the regular season with $117,505 in tie-down roping and has earned his first qualification to the National Finals Rodeo. He is one of five Resistol Rookies of the Year to not only win that title but also advance to ProRodeo’s world championship event as one of the top 15 contestants in his respective discipline.

He will be joined in Las Vegas by barrel racer Bayleigh Choate, breakaway roper Josie Conner, bareback rider Rocker Steiner and bull rider Lukasey Morris.

“To win the rookie and make the NFR is very huge,” Webb said. “I’m just very blessed to get to do something I love. This is definitely a dream come true.

Making the NFR was his primary goal, and he will enter the competition as the No. 11 tie-down roper in the world standings. By making the NFR, the Resistol Rookie of the Year followed suit. All winners will be recognized during a luncheon, which takes place Tuesday, Dec. 6. They will be honored again during intermission of that night’s Round 6 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It takes great talent and a powerful mindset to finish any season that well, and each Resistol Rookie of the Year has proven that. To compete on the biggest stage in ProRodeo is just another reflection of all that goes into being the very best in each category in their opening year in the game.

“The NFR pays so good that anybody has a chance to have a big week out there,” Webb said of winning a world title in his rookie campaign; if he were to do that, he’d be just the third tie-down roper in the sport’s history to have accomplished a world title and a rookie title in the same season, joining Joe Beaver in 1985 and Haven Meged in 2019.

“I don’t want to change anything when I get there. I want to go out there and have fun and see what happens.”

Bareback Riding Resistol Rookie of the Year

Unlike many who compete in professional rodeo, Rocker Steiner didn’t grow up in the sport. He took a different direction, working with some of the greatest bareback riders around while taking new avenues to his first National Finals Rodeo qualification and the Resistol Rookie of the Year.

He didn’t go to his first rodeo until he was almost a teenager, then only went to two by the time he was 15. His third rodeo ever was during a Cinch Toughest event at Des Moines, Iowa, this past Janury, and it started to shake things out.

“It makes me feel good that I got to do this and make the finals,” the 18-year-old Weatherford, Texas, cowboy said of winning the rookie title. “I was never just going after the Rookie of the Year. It’s a title I definitely wanted, but it wasn’t my only focus.

“I was focused on making the NFR, and I figured that if I could do that, then I’d win the rookie title. It’s a dual accomplishment.”

Along the way, he pocketed $134,328 and enters the NFR fourth in the world standings. He won titles in Calgary; Denver; Odessa, Texas; Ellensburg, Washington; and his hometown rodeo in Weatherford.

If that weren’t enough, his victory at the Riggin’ Rally in Darby, Montana, came with a world-record setting 95-point ride on C5 Rodeo’s Virgil, a former Bareback Horse of the Year.

Part of it is the talent he possesses, but others talk about the work ethic he’s had for years as a rising star. Of course, he has strong genetics; his father, Sid, was the 2002 world champion steer wrestler, while his mother, Jamie, has qualified for the NFR in barrel racing. His paternal grandfather, Bobby Steiner, was the 1973 bull riding world titlist.

Now, it’s Rocker’s turn.

“You get to come out here and travel across the country while making money doing what you love,” he said. “It’s always fun.”

Steer Wrestling Resistol Rookie of the Year

There were many lessons to be found through the tens of thousands of miles Landris White crossed in 2022.

It’s all part of the path for the Steer Wrestling Rookie of the Year, who finished the season with $32,669 to claim the prize. He traveled much of this year with Stetson Jorgensen, a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who sits No. 1 heading into this year’s finale; Jace Melvin, who competed at the 2020 NFR; and Ty Allred.

“They helped me a lot by knowing what rodeos to go to and showing me how to win,” said White, 21, of Angleton, Texas. “They were showing me the ropes throughout this whole summer.

“The key to winning was being able to rodeo with a great group of guys all summer and getting on good horses and using good steers whenever I got them.”

Like bulldogging is every year, the races for championships were tight. Oftentimes, it comes down to the final run of the campaign to decide that year’s titlist. That was certainly the case for White in winning the rookie title.

The top five men in the steer wrestling rookie standings were separated by less than $5,000. That could be a couple nice go-rounds and or placing in the average at a large rodeo. By the time the season came to a close Sept. 30, White won the Resistol title by about $1,500 over Kyler Dick.

“I consider Kyler a pretty good friend,” he said. “We went to school together at Tarleton (State University), but I’m glad I was able to win it.

“Resistol means a lot to me and to rodeo. Resistols are the hats guys want to buy. They’ve got a comfortable fit, and they last a long time. The straw hat I wore lasted me all summer … in the rain, in the mud. It did what you want a good hat to do.”

Heading Resistol Rookie of the Year

Tanner James had a few aces in the hole when it came to his bid to be the Heading Resistol Rookie of the Year.

“My partner, Max Kuttler, was a big help to me this year,” said James, 26, of Porterville, California. “It’s good to have somebody that knew how to enter and show you which rodeos to enter and where to be at the right rodeos at the right times so you can get the better runs. There’s a lot that falls into it. It was nice to be able to rope with someone like that.

“We also had Quinn Kessler and Caleb Hendrix with us as well. To have Quinn with us as an NFR header, he was there to talk to us about anything. There are other people I went to in order to talk, but he was in the rig, so it was just easier to talk to him about things, breaking down runs or doing things to make the runs faster and make it possible to keep winning.”

The combination worked wonders. James finished the season with $46,223 and won the rookie title by more than $15,000. He closed his campaign by being ranked among the top 40 headers in the world standings, and his traveling posse also had some other benefits to his run.

“They were always positive,” James said. “Even when it felt like you did bad, they pulled out the good of each run, and that kept me going and pushing forward.”

Like most, his goal entering the 2022 campaign was to come out on top in the Resistol Rookie of the Year race.

“I set my goals up high to achieve the rookie,” he said. “You only get one shot at it. I really put everything I had to make this Rookie of the Year possible. I tried to set myself up for all the good rodeos I could possibly get into.

“I had a lot of help behind me. My family supported me throughout the whole year. It takes a team to do this. I had my dad with me this summer, and my sister was out with me to help me drive and take care of my horses.”

It paid off in a big way.

Heeling Resistol Rookie of the Year

Junior Zambrano was persistent. He needed to be from the beginning of the season to Sept. 30, when it came to a close.

“I learned what it takes to be a PRCA cowboy full time,” said Zambrano, the Heeling Resistol Rookie of the Year. “I’m just very lucky to have all my hoard work pay off.”

He concluded the campaign with just shy of $30,000 in earnings to claim the top prize for all first-year competitors, edging Arkansan Blaine Turner by about $1,000.

“It was definitely a dream come true,” said Zambrano, 24, of Nogales, Arizona. “I’ve worked at this ever since I bought my permit when I was 18. Everything was learning about the ropes so I could make a good run my first year, and fortunately enough, I was able to learn enough to get through on the opportunity.”

He started the season roping with header Josh Higgins, then jumped in with Rhett Anderson for the final two months of the 2022 campaign. By sticking with his plan, Zambrano was able to push through the challenges that come with rodeo. There are no guarantees in this sport, and he understands that as well as anyone.

“It took a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard work to get where I’m at,” he said. “Just deciding to work on my craft every day and not letting things throw me off course has been a struggle, but a lot of people say the best lessons come through the struggle.

“I was trying to stick to my goal and not give up on myself. Most of the year I felt like I had a chance. I didn’t want to lose the momentum I gained so early.”

Now, he’ll have something on his resume that only a handful of people obtain each year. It’s a cherished prize for all who compete in ProRodeo.

“To be able to win an award and be recognized by Resistol is a dream come true,” Zambrano said. “To receive Resistol hospitality is also a dream of mine. I’m very thankful for them and the opportunities they give us rookie cowboys.”

Saddle Bronc Riding Resistol Rookie of the Year

Saddle bronc rider Damian Brennan is just 23 years old, but he already understands he holds a magical place in ProRodeo.

Brennan finished the 2022 regular season with $92,707 and finished 17th in the world standings, just missing his first bid to the National Finals Rodeo by a few thousand dollars. Making the NFR was one of a couple goals for the cowboy from Injune, Queensland, Australia.

“I wanted to make the NFR, but winning (Resistol) Rookie of the Year was one of my goals, and to be able to get that done with the competitors who I was competing against means a heck of a lot,” Brennan told ProRodeo Sports News. “To have my name in ProRodeo history is awesome, especially coming from Australia. That makes this even more special.”

There were some great things that happened this year for the cowboy, who qualified to the College National Finals Rodeo this past June while competing for Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas. A few weeks later, he was competing at one of the most prestigious events in all of rodeo, the Calgary Stampede.

While competing in Pool B of the stampede, Brennan shared the second-round victory with Canadian Ben Anderson, then Brennan won the third round outright. He placed in the fourth round to advance to the semifinals. In all, he got on five broncs and made money on four of them, pocketing $16,000.

“Winning two rounds in Calgary … that was pretty cool,” he told the PRCA’s magazine. “It was pretty cool to do a victory lap there, that’s for sure.”

Breakaway Roping Resistol Rookie of the Year

The stress of the season was always a little bit there for Josie Conner. She had hoped to end her inaugural season in the WPRA at the National Finals Breakaway Roping in Las Vegas, but it was a dogfight to get there.

“It was the second-to-last rodeo of the year before I realized I had made the finals,” said Conner, 19, of Iowa, Louisiana. “It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. It really made me proud of my team, my parents and my horses. I feel like they deserve it as much as I did.”

Conner never made it publicly known she was hoping to win the Breakaway Roping Resistol Rookie of the Year award, hoping that a qualification to the event’s championship would lead to that. If a rookie makes the finale, then the chances are the Rookie of the Year crown is going in that direction.

“It’s such an honor, because you only get one shot at this,” she said of being celebrated by Resistol. “You only get to be a rookie one time. I’m glad I get to make the most of it. My rookie year will be something I remember for the rest of my career, just like the lessons I gained this year.

“I’m super thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given.”

She may have been given some chances, but she took advantage of them when her time came. She capitalized on her moments in the final month or so of the 2022 campaign, collecting more than $9,100 of her $49,233 from Aug. 27-Sept. 30 to clinch her spot in the finale.

“I think the reason I had success was having a great support system,” Conner said. “I’ve always heard about how much driving you have to do. My parents went with me almost everywhere. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have done this.

“If you’re doing it by yourself, you’re not going to make it.”

Barrel Racing Resistol Rookie of the Year

Even as a little girl, Bayleigh Choate knew she wanted to compete on the biggest stage of ProRodeo, the National Finals Rodeo.

“I drove my mom crazy,” said Choate, 19, originally from Cohutta, Georgia, but now living in Fort Worth, Texas. “From the time I knew what the NFR was, I would beg for my mom to let me stay up and watch it on TV at least through barrel racing, and then I would run my stick horse around barrels I’d set up in the living room while they were running on the TV.”

She won’t have a stick horse to ride this year. Instead, she’ll be on her own mounts while she competes at the NFR. She finished the 2022 season with $90,893 in earnings and will enter the sport’s grand finale No. 11 in the world standings. With that, she also became the Barrel Racing Resistol Rookie of the Year.

Here’s the thing: She wasn’t planning on running this season as a card-carrying WPRA member. She was hoping to run herself and her untested horses on a permit season, but that changed when she went to an event in Denton, Texas, which served as a qualifier into the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. She couldn’t run in Fort Worth on her permit, so she bought her card just in case.

It turns out she made a whale of a decision.

“I tell people all the time that it was a rookie on a rookie,” she said, pointing out her horses, Boozer and Dash. “None of us knew what we were doing. We were going into every situation blind and doing just the best we could.”

The three blind mice found their cheese, and they have a chance to pack it in even more over the course of 10 days in Las Vegas. Of course, a big part of that was winning the Ponoka (Alberta) Stampede, which not only helped qualify Choate for the NFR but also the Canadian Finals Rodeo; she also was the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s Barrel Racing rookie of the Year.

“I’m just so blessed to be here,” Choate said. “I’m so thankful for everyone that supported me. I couldn’t have done it without my horses and my mom and dad.”

Steer Roping Resistol Rookie of the Year

Since he set his sites on ProRodeo, Logan Currie had a goal of being named the Resistol Rookie of the Year.

“I’ve always wanted to steer rope,” said Currie, 27, of Wharton, Texas. “I grew up in south Texas, across the road from Phil Lyne, and we’d talked about it a little bit, but I never had the horses.”

He started out as a youngster roping calves, then focused on team roping through high school and college. As with any trade, life happens and things change through the course of each year. When he met his now wife, Bailey, and the two started dating, he began to realize his dream.

“Her dad has tripped steers that last 15 years,” he said of Tony Reina, a five-time qualifier to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping and the 2013 NFSR average champion. “He helped me a lot. He prepared me to be able to do it. He would always call it doctoring and told me to just use your horse, tie your steer down and don’t worry about the time.”

Those lessons became invaluable during the 2022 season, one in which he traveled with Reina and four-time world champion Scott Snedecor. The road to his rookie title continued through each mile, each run in practice and in a season that saw Currie earn more than $17,000 to dominate the race to the Resistol crown.

“I was going to consider making the finals a bonus, but winning the rookie has always been my goal,” said Currie, whose biggest accomplishment leading up to the rookie title was winning the Pendleton (Oregon) Round-Up this season. “That’s why I waited until I was 27 to buy my (PRCA) card.

“With Tony and Scott, no matter what the situation was, I had the best two guys in my corner. I felt like I was in the best place I could be to accomplish the goal. Those two made the world of difference.”

This is just his second year competing in steer ropig, and he is already showing signs that the training he’s received from two of the sport’s greats is working.

“Resistol is a name that is second to none,” Currie said. “It’s the Resistol Rookie of the Year, and it is a coveted deal. If you win this, you should be extremely honored to have your name in that book with all the others that have won the Resistol Rookie of the Year.”

Bull Riding Resistol Rookie of the Year

Like every cowboy that makes a living in ProRodeo, Lukasey Morris had to overcome adversity to find success.

“For me, the key to my season was not getting distracted and not letting any speed bumps slow me down or discourage me,” said Morris, 20, of Union City, Oklahoma.

It worked, and he finished the 2022 campaign with $100,667 in earnings, good enough for 14th in the bull riding world standings. With that, he accomplished some things that he had long dreamed about and had focused on as he considered his life as a professional cowboy.

“For as far back as I can remember, I had two goals: To win the Resistol Rookie of the Year and make the National Finals Rodeo my rookie year,” he said. “I can’t describe what that means to me.”

It wasn’t without a bit of trepidation. He dealt with several injures: A broken leg, a broken nose, a torn rotator cuff.

“My grandfather passed away this year, so I’ve had a lot of distractions,” Morris said. “I’m just glad this year is over with.”

He was in the top 10 in world standings when he suffered a broken leg in July. That put him on a downward spiral, and he was having trouble getting out of the gutter. That’s when a conversation turned the tide.

“My dad set me straight, because I was in sixth place at the time when I broke my leg,” he said. “He told me to give myself a chance. I changed my attitude.”

On his fourth bull back in late August, Morris was tossed to the ground and stepped on and knocked out, suffering a punctured lung and a separated shoulder that caused the rotator cuff issues. He’ll have surgery after the NFR to fix what ails him.

For now, he’ll celebrate his Resistol status while in the mix for a world championship.

“It’s something I’ve worked my whole life for,” Morris said. “There’s no better feeling than to accomplish that.”