South Dakota's designated state sport reigned supreme at the Black Hills Stock Show on Wednesday, as Sutton Rodeo’s Rodeo Rapid City hosted a day of saddle bronc events at the Civic Center Barnett Arena culminating with a performance of the prestigious PRCA Xtreme Bronc Match series in the evening.
And a South Dakota man, J. J. Elshere of Hereford, demonstrated why the state has crowned more saddle bronc champions than any other state, as he put together two standout rides to claim the Xtreme Bronc Match title capping off his two-ride display with a 93.5 ride aboard Burch Rodeo’s standout bucking horse, Lunatic From Hell.
“I had the good fortune to draw a great horse,” Elshere said. “That was the second time I’ve had that horse and the first time I rode him,” Elshere said of his winning ride in the three-man championship short go with a ride that is the top score thus far produced on the PRCA circuit in 2019.
The 39-year-old veteran rancher needed his very best stuff to top a couple of world champions, Spencer Wright (Milford Utah, 2014) and Zeke Thurston (Big Valley, Alberta, 2016). Wright claimed second money with an outstanding 90.5 ride, while Thurston turned in a very good 89.5 effort.
“All of those horses in that round were outstanding, and you just hope to be able to hang on and hope the judges like it,” Elshere said. “And it's pretty neat to win here with a whole lot of people that I know in the stands. At my age, I’m just glad to stay on any horse I get on, and to do it here makes it extra special. This is probably one of the most nerve-wracking rodeos that I ride, but to be able to win something in front of friends ice nice for sure.”
For Wright, of the legendary Utah Wright brother bronc riding family, it was a case of putting up your best effort and simply losing to a better man on that night.
“There really wasn’t anything I can do better. J.J. just made a great ride,” said Wright, who came into Rapid City off an impressive win at the National Western Stock Show in Denver on Sunday. “There’s really not anything that I can fault myself with. I will take that ride every single time I go out. It just didn’t work out today.”
Elshere also had the top scoring ride in the long go with an 89-point ride to top a 30-man field featuring 18 bronc riders with NFR resumes, including 12 performers from the 2018 NFR in Las Vegas and five world champions.
“I’m not sure why I’m riding so good, but I’m dang sure liking it,” said Elshere, who added a second win on the night as humor would have it, winning a cowboy singing contest during an intermission act over South Dakotans Cole Elshere (Faith) and Shane O’Connell (Rapid City).
“Wow. I did. I think the rodeo clown owes me some money. I better look him up,” Elshere added with a laugh.
The two Rapid City bronc riders in the special bronc riding event didn’t fare as well. Jade Blackwell, who currently sits 11th in world standings, drew a non-performing horse on his first trip out and drew re-ride before coming up empty in his second trip out.
Ty Manke, meanwhile, caught a runner out of the chute and posted a lackluster 77 points aboard Burch Rodeo’s Margarita Maker, a horse that hasn’t treated the Rapid City man well in two appearances.
“The other time I had him I ended up with a re-ride option, and tonight he didn’t do much for me either,” Manke said. “Just the luck of the draw, and sometimes the horse has a bad night, too, so you just have to accept that and move on.”
Rapid City and South Dakota earned another honor on Wednesday with an announcement by the PRCA that the Xtreme Bronc Match Finals will be held in Rapid City in conjunction with the Central States Fair Range Rodeo in August.
Rodeo Rapid City continues on Thursday with the third performance of the PRCA rodeo scheduled for 7:30 p.m.