OAKDALE — Seven years ago, Taos Muncy entered the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo as a fresh-scrubbed 19-year-old eager to make an impression.
He won the saddle bronc competition that weekend and, eight months later, clinched the first of his two world titles at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A star was born.
Fast-forward to Saturday and Muncy’s first return to one of the venues where he cut his rodeo teeth. The New Mexico cowboy no doubt likes the Cowboy Capital of the World. He rode Last Call to a score of 86 and the lead going into today’s finale.
“I remember that ride in 2007. It was a nice horse, turned real nice to the right,” Muncy said. “Anytime you win, it helps you. I had nice memories today.”
Muncy, who also won the world title in 2011, is ranked second in the PRCA saddle bronc standings this year. If not for two major injuries, he already could have taken home three or four gold buckles.
“It’s rodeo. Injuries are part of the deal,” he said. “When you’re going against animals four times as big as you, stuff will happen.”
Thankfully for the cowboys, no serious injuries were suffered during a virtually perfect afternoon. Experience was served this day – see Muncy – but so was youth.
Lockeford bull rider Clayton Brum, 18, won’t forget his pro rodeo debut. Less than a month after he received his PRCA permit, Brum parlayed a reride into an 80 and first place. Someone needs to tell him it’s not this easy.
“I was a little nervous but it was just a bull and another rodeo,” Brum said. “Hopefully, I’ll keep that lead.”
Currently in second place behind Brum is hometown hero Bo Bacigalupi, who ended the performance with a crowd-pleasing 76 aboard Silver Legacy.
Not all went as planned for Bacigalupi. He was forced to switch bulls after the first failed to cooperate after about a 10-minute ordeal in the chute.
Later, he adjusted his hips and waved his arm in a nifty mid-ride adjustment to reach eight seconds.
“He nearly threw me off,” said Bacigalupi, 24, who competed in junior rodeo with Brum. “It’s all by feel. You’re just reacting.”
A hot bareback section was topped by Tim O’Connell, last year’s PRCA Rookie of the Year. O’Connell, 23, mastered Gold Coast for an 86, one of five cowboys who scored 80 or higher.
“You gotta be 80 just to get a piece of this thing,” said O’Connell, 23, who competed in Oakdale for the first time. “That shows the quality of the livestock and the cowboys that are here.”
O’Connell is making a strong rally this spring toward his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He placed second at Austin, fourth at Houston and prefaced his Oakdale performance with an 86 Friday at Logandale, Nev.
“Last month was great. I’ve been drawing outstanding. That’s half of it,” he said. “Today I had a great horse that bucked good and showed off for the judges.”
O’Connell will return to the classroom Monday at Missouri ValIey College, then travel to Red Bluff next weekend. Eventually for the PRCA cowboys, all roads lead to the rodeo.
And for Muncy, an old road took him back to Oakdale.
Notes – Grand entry begins today at 1:30 p.m. ... Trevor Brazile, the 11-time all-around world champion, bounced back from an indifferent Friday. His 8.4-second run in tie-down roping, annexed during the Saturday morning slack, vaulted him into into the lead in both the second go-round and the aggregate (17.8). ... The 2014 Oakdale Rodeo queen is Oakdale High senior Elizabeth Staal, who succeeds Christine Fox. The princess is Summerville High grad Ashley Taylor. ... Oklahoma cowboy Brennon Eldred, the 2013 Oakdale bull riding champion, was bucked. The bulls won the day 26-6. ... Rhett Kennedy of Chowchilla jumped into the lead of the second go-round of steer wrestling in a quick 4.7 seconds. ... First-year Oakdale announcer Jody Carper after one of the many short and unsuccessful bull rides: “That one lasted about as long as Kim Kardashian’s first marriage.”