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If the first day of the 50th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is any indication, rodeo fans are in for a wild ride the next nine days in Las Vegas. A packed house of 17,341 fans created an electric atmosphere as the $5.625 million event kicked off at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the contestants and stock responded in fine form.

It took just two events of the first round of the Wrangler NFR for the first lead change atop the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings to occur, with 2004 World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho taking over the top spot from Wade Sumpter after winning the opening round. Branquinho, of Los Alamos, Calif., stopped the clock in 3.6 seconds to finish one-tenth of a second ahead of Canadian Curtis Cassidy to take Round 1 and put $16,767 in his pocket. The win gives him $147,547 for the season, while Sumpter, who finished out of the money in 4.4 seconds in the first round, is second with $133,685.

The run didn't feel outstanding for Branquinho, but it got the job done.

"It actually didn't feel like a very good run," said Branquinho, who was riding 2008 AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year Willy. "I ran that steer in Dallas, and I was 3.8. Tonight, I got off a little early and my feet ran on me, but he was good enough and I got his nose, so it worked out OK."

Not to be outdone, 45-year-old Billy Etbauer, who is looking to tie Casey Tibbs' and Dan Mortensen's PRCA record for most saddle bronc riding world titles with six, also took over the top spot in the world standings. Bryce Miller won Round 1 with an 89-point ride aboard Calgary Stampede's Knife Money, and Etbauer's second-place finish — with an 85.5-point mark on Three Hills Rodeo's Aces Full — moved him past Cody Wright and into the No. 1 spot thanks to the $13,251 second-place check. Etbauer, of Edmond, Okla., leads the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings with $153,624, while Wright is second with $145,192.

Miller, of Buffalo, S.D., celebrated his fourth career Wrangler NFR berth with a winning ride, and he couldn't have been more pleased with the result.

"He (Knife Money) is a great horse," said Miller, who shared a Round 10 victory with Jesse Bail in 2006. "Rod Hay just won the Canadian Finals on him a couple of weeks ago, and I've seen him two or three times this summer. He is just outstanding. He was really, really good tonight, I think. Everything felt really good, and hopefully I can do that again tomorrow."

Bareback rider Chris Harris qualified for the Wrangler NFR each of the last two years after a six-year absence, but he had never ended a round atop the standings. That changed during Round 1 when he rode Andrews Rodeo's Power Play for 88.5 points to win his first Wrangler NFR round in eight years. He finished two points ahead of standings leader Steven Dent for the top prize and moved from 11th to eighth in the standings heading into Round 2.

Harris, who won Rounds 4 and 9 at the 2000 NFR, was grinning from ear to ear after his triumphant ride.

"That's one of the greatest feelings I've had in a long time," Harris said. "If I could have grabbed my hat, I would have thrown it, and I've never thrown a hat in my life. It felt that good. That's why I ride bucking horses right there. That's a wonderful feeling."

Power Play was not a new horse to Harris, who had ridden him earlier this year.

"I think it was in Longview, Texas, at one of the Heartland rodeos this year (when I had him)," Harris said. "He hadn’t proved himself yet then; he is just a colt, and he was outstanding. I picked him up, kind of like I did tonight, got my feet into him and went to him. He’s just done nothing but gotten steadily better, better and better. I was excited to have that horse. I knew the horse and had just seen Justin McDaniel on him in Dallas too. I kind of thought he was the sleeper of the pen. Nobody knew who he was, and I was kind of like, ‘I’ve got the sleeper, and nobody’s even looking at me. They don’t even have a clue that this horse is going to do what he’s going to do.’"

No team was faster than Garrett Tonozzi and Kinney Harrell, who won Round 1 with a 4.6-second run to earn each $16,767 checks. Tonozzi, of Fruita, Colo., and Harrell, of San Angelo, Texas, finished two-tenths of a second ahead of Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith, who each earned $13,251. The win moved Tonozzi to seventh place in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings among headers, while Harrell moved to eighth place among heelers.

They were the first team out of the box in Round 1, and their time stood up through 14 other runs.

"It was nerve-racking sitting down there watching the 14 best teams in the world go, and we were just hoping it was going to work out for us tonight," Tonozzi said. "We're going to win as many rounds as we can and just keep going for first every night."

Harrell was delighted to earn a round buckle after failing to qualify for the Wrangler NFR each of the past two years.

"After having to sit out a couple of years, it just motivates you even more," Harrell said. "Getting to rope with Garrett all year and picking up a few new sponsors has really turned things around for me, and I'm just happy to be back."

Tie-down roper Hunter Herrin came into the 50th Wrangler NFR trailing Crusher Rentals World Standings leader Josh Peek by $36,147, but he got $16,767 closer by claiming the opening round. Herrin, of Apache, Okla., roped and tied his calf in 7.5 seconds, two-tenths of a second faster than Tyson Durfey, to claim the Round 1 win and gain some ground on Peek, who finished out of the money with a time of 9.1 seconds.

"We knew there were two or three calves in the pen that were really good, and I was fortunate to get one of them," said Herrin, who also won the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Championship, presented by Texas Stampede, in Dallas last month. "From then on, you just have to make sure you get out of the barrier, get your calf roped and just go and do what I did. I'm very lucky and fortunate to be here and that it happened that way."

For the second consecutive year, Round 1 at the Wrangler NFR in the barrel racing went to Jill Moody, who stopped the clock in 14.02 seconds. She edged closer to No. 1 Lindsay Sears, who finished out of the money with a time of 14.24 seconds. Sears leads the way with $184,567, while reigning World Champion Brittany Pozzi-Pharr is second with $135,229 and Moody is third with $131,530. Cassie Moseley was second in 14.06 seconds to move from 14th to ninth in the world standings, but the top seven spots remained the same.

"In the (indoor) buildings, this mare (Dolly) is just hard to keep barrels up on," Moody said. "She is really hit and miss, especially in the small pens. So, I just take it one run at a time. To me, the NFR is 10 really awesome rodeos rolled into one week, and I don't have to drive to get to them all. I just am thrilled to be here and have this one under my belt."

Three of the hottest bull riders from the last two months finished at the top in the opening round of the Wrangler NFR, with Bobby Welsh winning with an 89.5-point ride and J.W. Harris and Shawn Proctor tying for second with matching 88.5-point marks. Welsh, of Gillette, Wyo., rode Andrews Rodeo's Reeces Pieces to the top spot and a $16,767 check, while Harris' second-place finish came aboard Korkow Rodeo's Swamp Donkey and Proctor rode Silverado Rodeo's Black Gold to the second-place tie.

"I couldn’t have started any better," Welsh said. "I talked to J.W. and he said he was one of his favorite bulls. They said he was going to be right there to the gate and don’t be late. He comes out real strong and kicks hard. Praise God I matched him jump for jump.

"I have had a good feeling for the last month. I couldn’t wait to get here, and this is what I was expecting — not necessarily to win a round — but to ride my bull."

Welsh remains third in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings behind Chance Smart — who earned $4,327 for a fifth-place finish in Round 1 — and B.J. Schumacher heading into the second round. Smart leads the way with $164,908, with Shumacher second with $135,192 and Welsh third with $132,581.

Complete Round 1 results

Bareback riding: 1. Chris Harris, Itasca, Texas, 88.5 points on Andrews Rodeo's Power Play, $16,767; 2. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 86.5, $13,251; 3. Justin McDaniel, Porum, Okla., 86, $10,006; 4. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., 85, $7,031; 5. (tie) Tim Shirley, Conifer, Colo., and Tilden Hooper, Carthage, Texas, 84.0, $3,516 each; 7. (tie) Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., and Kelly Timberman, Mills, Wyo., 82; 9. Kaycee Feild, Elk Ridge, Utah, 81.5; 10. (tie) Royce Ford, Briggsdale, Colo., and Dusty LaValley, Crooked Creek, Alberta, 81; 12. Cimmaron Gerke, Brighton, Colo., 80.5; 13. Josi Young, Kimberly, Idaho, 78; 14. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 75.5; 15. Jessy Davis, Payson, Utah, 73.

Steer wrestling: 1. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 3.6 seconds, $16,767; 2. Curtis Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, 3.7, $13,251; 3. Cash Myers, Athens, Texas, 4.1, $10,006; 4. (tie) Les Shepperson, Midwest, Wyo., and Casey McMillen, Craig, Colo., 4.2, $5,679 each; 6. (tie) Jason Miller, Lance Creek, Wyo., and K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, 4.3, $1,352 each; 8. (tie) Wade Sumpter, Fowler, Colo., and Gabe Ledoux, Kaplan, La., 4.4; 10. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 4.6; 11. Beau Franzen, Sidney, Mont., 4.7; 12. Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., 4.8; 13. Ken Lewis, La Junta, Colo., 5.1; 14. Todd Suhn, North Platte, Neb., 5.4; 15. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 5.6.

Team roping: 1. Garrett Tonozzi, Fruita, Colo./Kinney Harrell, San Angelo, Texas, 4.6 seconds, $16,767 each; 2. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, 4.8, $13,251; 3. JoJo LeMond, Andrews, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, 4.9, $10,006; 4. Speed Williams, Deleon, Texas/Allen Bach, Weatherford, Texas, 5.0, $7,031; 5. Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., 5.1, $4,327; 6. Travis Tryan, Billings, Mont./Cory Petska, Lexington, Okla., 5.4, $2,704; 7. Luke Brown, Rock Hill, S.C./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 6.4; 8. Matt Funk, Hermiston, Ore./Bucky Campbell, Benton City, Wash., 6.8; 9. Matt Sherwood, Pima, Ariz./Randon Adams, Logandale, Nev., 10.5; 10. Jake Barnes, Scottsdale, Ariz./Clay O'Brien Cooper, Morgan Mill, Texas, 11.2; 11. Jake Stanley, Hermiston, Ore./Walt Woodard, Stephenville, Texas, 11.6; 12. Colter Todd, Marana, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 17.7; 13. Turtle Powell, Alpine, Texas/Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 19.0; 14. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Victor Aros, Tucson, Ariz., 19.6; 15. Chad Masters, Clarksville, Tenn./Michael Jones, Stephenville, Texas, 21.9.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Bryce Miller, Buffalo, S.D., 89 points on Calgary Stampede's Knife Money, $16,767; 2. Billy Etbauer, Edmond, Okla., 85.5, $13,251; 3. Shaun Stroh, Dickinson, N.D., 85, $10,006; 4. (tie) Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, and Cody Taton, Newell, S.D., 84.5, $5,679 each; 6. Chet Johnson, Gillette, Wyo., 84, $2,704; 7. Bobby Griswold, Geary, Okla., 79.5; 8. (tie) J.J. Elshere, Quinn, S.D., Anthony Bello, Oakley, Utah, and Rusty Allen, Eagle Mountain, Utah, 78.5; 11. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 77.5; 12. Dusty Hausauer, Dickinson, N.D., 75; 13. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, 74.5; 14. Rod Hay, Wildwood, Alberta, 69.5; 15. Justin Arnold, Santa Margarita, Calif., NS.

Tie-down roping: 1. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 7.5 seconds, $16,767; 2. Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 7.7, $13,251; 3. Stran Smith, Childress, Texas, 7.8, $10,006; 4. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 8.2, $7,031; 5. Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, 8.3, $4,327; 6. Clint Robinson, Spanish Fork, Utah, 8.5, $2,704; 7. Mike Johnson, Henryetta, Okla., 8.6; 8. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 8.9; 9. Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo., 9.1; 10. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 9.6; 11. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 9.9; 12. Jerrad Hofstetter, Portales, N.M., 10.3; 13.      Doug Pharr, Victoria, Texas, 11.5; 14. Jeff Chapman, Athens, Texas, 13.7; 15. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 24.7.

Barrel racing: 1. Jill Moody, Letcher, S.D., 14.02 seconds, $16,767; 2. Cassie Moseley, Farwell, Texas, 14.06, $13,251; 3.     Maegan Reichert, Mt. Pleasant, Texas, 14.07, $10,006; 4. Stephanie Fryar, Big Spring, Texas, 14.11, $7,031; 5. Shelley Murphy, Helena, Mont., 14.14, $4,327; 6. Tammy Key-Fischer, Ledbetter, Texas, 14.21, $2,704; 7. (tie) Lindsay Sears, Nanton  Alberta, and Deb Renger, Okotoks, Alberta, 14.24;

9. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.39; 10. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.42; 11. Traci Dawson, Erskine, Alberta, 19.00; 12. Mary Burger, Pauls Valley, Okla., 19.11; 13. Annesa Self, Valley View, Texas, 19.31; 14. Brittany Pozzi-Pharr, Victoria, Texas, 19.38; 15. Terra Bynum, Colorado City, Texas, 24.31.

Bull riding: 1. Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo., 89.5 points on Andrews Rodeo's Reeces Pieces, $16,767; 2. (tie) J.W. Harris, May, Texas, and Shawn Proctor, Tooele, Utah, 88.5, $11,629 each; 4. Mike Moore, Kankakee, Ill., 86, $7,031; 5. Chance Smart, Philadelphia, Miss., 85.5, $4,327; 6. Douglas Duncan, Huntsville, Texas, 78.5, $2,704; 7. Spud Jones, Tohatchi, N.M., 73.5; 8. (tie) B.J. Schumacher, Hillsboro, Wis., Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, Seth Glause, Rock Springs, Wyo., Wesley Silcox, Payson, Utah, Zack Oakes, Elk, Wash., Cody Hancock, Taylor, Ariz., Kanin Asay, Powell, Wyo., and Colin McTaggart, Las Vegas, Nev., NS.