LAS VEGAS – Coleman Proctor looks back at his 10 days during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and he sees many positives for himself and the sport he loves.
It was an amazing competition that featured the largest purse in the game. When the final round concluded Saturday night, the former Miamian and his heeling partner, Jake Long of Coffeyville, Kansas, had finished second in the Wrangler NFR average, placed in four go-rounds with one victory.
They left Las Vegas with more than $110,000 each.
“What a great NFR,” said Proctor, a two-time Wrangler NFR qualifying header from Pryor. “Those are the best team ropers in the sport, and it seems like they always do put on a show in Las Vegas.”
Proctor and Long were a big part of the show. They roped smart all week long and took advantage of some situations when they arose. Heading into Saturday’s final night of the 2015 season, they were firmly locked into third place in the average as one of just three teams to record a time in all nine previous rounds.
“All we had to do was catch one and make $43,000,” Proctor said of the third-place payout for having one of the top cumulative times of the rodeo. “Things played in our favor and won us a little more.”
The top team, header JoJo LeMond and Junior Nogueira, had a solid lead in the aggregate over Luke Brown and Kollin VonAhn. Had LeMond and Nogueira finished it off, they stood a good chance at winning the world championship. LeMond scored a quick head catch in the 10th round, but he wasn’t able dally – wrapping the end of his rope around his saddle horn.
When the rope trickled away from him, so did the hope of the gold buckle. The next two teams – Brown and VonAhn, then Proctor and Long – moved up a spot. VonAhn utilized the average title to his second heeling world championship. Aaron Tsinigine, who roped with heeler Ryan Motes, won the heading title.
For his part, Proctor moved up nine spots to fifth in the world standings, thanks to his average of earning $11,000 per day while in Las Vegas.
“I’d go to work for that,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a lot more than I used to make working construction. Now I’m going to try not to spend it as fast as I made it.
“A lot of this success is thanks to Riverbend Arena, which allowed Jake and me to be able to practice. We had a lot of long hours, but that crew really took care of us. I hope they’ve enjoyed the experience as much as we have. I’m also thankful to Heather Clayton; she rode my chubby roan horse and got his feet moving. She had him geared up and ready to go.”
It all played out well over the course of ProRodeo’s finale. Every round and ever run offered new challenges. Though they only cashed in during four rounds, Proctor and Long made the most of every opportunity.
“I’ve been there twice, and I thought I was prepared again,” Proctor said. “I now know it takes guts to win a gold buckle. Hats off to Aaron Tsinigine and Kollin VonAhn; I thought the team ropers represented our sport well. They made it one of the best finals I can remember. It was quality roping for 10 straight days.
“What a neat deal to watch Kollin. To win a gold buckle, you have to risk more than I did.”
Sometimes the biggest rewards come to those the biggest risks. Tsinigine and Motes won at least a share of four rounds, including the outright Round 10 victory; that $102,000 added to a fourth-place finish in the average made all the difference to the Arizona header, who outlasted Brown by $2,685 to win gold.
“My family and my sponsors were out there to help me, I had a lot of family and friends that were back home rooting for us,” Proctor said. “We had a busy week with autograph signings and appearances, and I got to meet a lot of awesome people. That made you realize what your job is all about. Our job as professionals is so much more than how we compete.”
For most of his life, he has competed with his good friend in Long. They found other avenues for a few years, but they returned to the elite in rodeo the past two years. Their second straight trip to the Wrangler NFR together is one they’ll remember for some time, even as they go in different directions next season.
Proctor will compete with Buddy Hawkins, a heeler from Columbus, Kansas, who qualified for the Wrangler NFR in 2013.
“I like to keep those Kansas heelers,” Proctor said. “We’ve roped together a lot, and Buddy and I go way back – not as far as Jake and I – and I’m excited about the opportunity. I think he has a great attitude and ropes awesome.”
With that, the Oklahoma cowboy will continue to pursue rodeo excellence.
“I’ve learned a lot about what I need to do to be a better header,” he said. “I’m ready to get back to work. I haven’t got to be the best I could be yet. I’ll take a couple days off and get caught up on things around the house, then it’s back to work.”