Conexión San Ángelo/ Ted Harbin, Media Director, contributor

 SAN ANGELO, Texas – The 2018 ProRodeo season has started off rather slowly for Dakota Eldridge.

He’s not among the top 50 in the world standings, but that can change within the next week or so after his two runs Saturday at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Eldridge, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Elko, Nev., downed two steers in a cumulative time of 7.1 seconds to take the steer wrestling lead.

“I knew my first steer was pretty good, because they were good on that steer the first time they ran him here,” said Eldridge, who won NFR average championships in 2015 and 2017. “I knew I needed to use every opportunity I had. I scored good and bulldogged great, so it worked out.”

Yes, it did. His afternoon time of 3.1 seconds placed him into the first-round lead. He ran his second-round steer during Saturday evening’s seventh performance and stopped the clock in 4.0 seconds. He is just one-tenth of a second out of placing in that round.

But the important piece of the puzzle is having a fast two-run aggregate time, because only the top 12 return next Friday for the championship round.

The key behind all of his success lies with Rusty, a 19-year-old sorrel gelding that has been his key partner each of the past six years. That includes all five trips to Las Vegas and the two average saddles.

“He’s getting a little age to him, but he’s feeling better than he ever has,” Eldridge said. “He’s seasoned, and now I’m getting seasoned. This horse has been with me since I was a little kid.”

He’s also been an important mount for others along the way. Clayton Hass, a three-time NFR qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, has been riding the talented red horse this winter. He is second in the San Angelo average, just a tenth of a second behind Eldridge.

“With Clayton being right in there, Rusty should have a good day Friday when we head back over here for the short round,” Eldridge said. “It’s great to have a little momentum as we get ready for our set in San Antonio.”

He and others will compete at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo from Tuesday-Thursday, then return to the Foster Communications Coliseum for championship night.

“I’ve had a lot of luck at San Angelo,” Eldridge said. “You’ve always got a great crowd, and it’s a short, fast setup.

“I’ve finished second and third here in years past. You’re always trying to get the kinks worked out by the time you get to San Angelo. I’ve been drawing pretty good, but I’ve dropped the ball a little. Hopefully it’s all coming together at the right time.”

Sometimes things just don’t go a competitor’s way, but the Nevada cowboy knows how to take the roller-coaster rides that come with ProRodeo. He’s eager to return to the NFR for a sixth straight year, and he’s got the partner he needs to do it with Rusty.

“That horse has made 50 runs with me at the finals, and it’s been six years of hauling him professionally down t he road,” he said. “That horse has been there for me time and time again. For him to be that consistent is amazing.”

Below are the results from the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo's sixth rodeo performance:

 Bareback riding leaders: 1. Luke Creasy, 86.5 points on Lancaster and Jones’ Total Equine’s North Country; 2. (tie) Will Lowe, Tanner Aus and Justin Pollmiller, 85; 5. Kaycee Feild, 82.5; 6. (tie) BoDell Jessen and Wyatt Denny, 82; 8. (tie) Jake Brown and Tilden Hooper, 81; 10. Kash Wilson, 80.5; 11. (tie) Clayton Biglow and Trenton Montero, 80.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 3.1 seconds; 2. (tie) Brandon Harrison and Cameron Morman, 3.5; 4. (tie) John Kloeckler, Jarret New and Rowdy Parrott, 3.7; 7. Clayton Hass and Bridger Anderson, 3.8. Second round leaders: 1. (tie) Dirk Tavenner, Clayton Hass, Jacob Talley and Cody Devers, 3.4 seconds; 5. Chason Floyd, 3.5; 6. Cade Staton, 3.6; 7. Denver Berry, 3.8; 8. (tie) Blake Knowles, Blake Mindemann, Mike McGinn and Dru Melvin, 3.9. Average leaders: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 7.1 seconds on two runs; 2. Clayton Hass, 7.2; 3. Jacob Talley, 7.5; 4. Blake Mindemann, 7.9; 5. Denver Berry, 8.2; 6. (tie) Tyler Waguespack, Blaine Jones and Cameron Morman, 8.5; 9. Scott Guenthner, 8.6; 10. (tie) Tyler Pearson and Will Lummus, 8.7; 12. Stockton Graves, 9.0.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Steven Duby/Evan Arnold, 3.6 seconds; 2. Tanner Green/Cody Hogan, 3.8; 3. Brock Hanson/Ryan Motes, 3.9; 4. (tie) Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, (tie) Lane Ivy/Buddy Hawkins, J.B. James Jr/Cesar de la Cruz and Bobby Baize/Justin Fox, 4.1. Second round leaders: 1. Nelson Wyatt/Trace Porter, 3.6 seconds; 2. Bubba Buckaloo/Joseph Harrison, 3.8; 3. Luke Brown/Jake Long and Cody Snow/Wesley Thorp, 3.9; 5. (tie) Tom Richards/Jake Smith, Tyler Mangus/Truman Leo Mangus and Colby Lovell/Ty Arnold, 4.0; 8. (tie) Tyler Wade/Trey Yates and Paul David Tierney/Tanner Braden, 4.1. Average: 1. Steven Duby/Evan Arnold, 8.2 seconds on two runs; 2. (tie) Clay Smith/Paul Eaves Tom Richards/Jake Smith, 8.3; 4. Brock Hanson/Ryan Motes, 8.4; 5. Paul David Tierney/TannerBraden, 9.5; 6. (tie) Nelson Wyatt/Trace Porter and Tyler Wade/Trey Yates, 9.0; 8. (tie) Logan Olson/Matt Kasner and Tyler Waters/Britt Bockius,9.2; 10. Tate Kirchenschlager/Tyler Worley, 9.5; 11. Lane Ivy/Buddy Hawkins II, 13.1; 12. (tie) Tyler Mangus/Truman Leo Mangus and Aaron Macy/Wyatt Cox, 13.8.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Ryder Wright, 85.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Sweet Maria; 2. Audy Reed, 84.5; 3. Sterling Crawley, 84; 4. Rusty Wright, 81.5; 5. Lefty Holman, 80.5; 6. (tie) James Greeson and Shade Etbauer, 80; 8. Layton Green, 79.5; 9. (tie) Isaac Diaz and Troy Crowser, 79; 11. (tie) Preston Burr and Ty Manke, 78.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Weldon Watson, 7.1 seconds; 2. Scott Kormos, 7.3; 3. (tie) Cory Solomon and Westyn Hughes, 7.7; 5. (tie) Blane Cox, Zack Jongbloed and Cody Huber, 7.8; 8. Cody Craig, 7.9. Second round: 1. Tuf Cooper, 7.0 seconds; 2. Trevor Brazile, 7.4; 3. Michael Perry, 7.7; 4. Cade Swor, 7.8; 5. Garrett Jacobs, 7.9; 6. (tie) Trent Creager and Ryan Watkins, 8.0; 8. Brent Walden, 8.2. Average: 1. Scott Kormos, 16.2 seconds on two runs; 2. Timber Moore, 16.9; 3. (tie) Weldon Watson and Zack Jongbloed, 17.42; 5. (tie) Michael Perry and D.J. Parker, 17.52; 7. Marcus Theriot, 17.6; 8. L.D. Meier, 17.7; 7. Brice Ingo, 17.8; 9. Brice Ingo, 17.8; 10. Garrett Jacobs, 18.0; 11. Joseph Gernentz, 18.8; 11. Trent Creager, 18.9; 12. John Wall, 18.9.

Barrel racing: Second round leaders: 1. Teri Bangart, 14.21 seconds; 2. Cindy Smith, 14.27; 3. Carman Pozzobon, 14.28; 4. Kaycie Teague, 14.35; 5. Callahan Crossley, 14.41; 6. (tie) Kelli Barichello and Madeline Dickens, 14.44; 8. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 14.46; 9. Kim Coleman, 14.48; 10. (tie) Kasey Hall and Carley Richardson, 14.49. Average leaders: 1. Cindy Smith, 30.50 seconds on two runs; 2. Kim Coleman, 30.53; 3. Carman Pozzobon, 30.56; 4. (tie) Teri Bangart and Kimberly Cockrell, 30.59; 6. Callahan Crossley, 30.62; 7. Carley Richardson, 30.71; 8. Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, 30.73; 9. Cassidy Kruse, 30.77; 10. Kaycie Teague, 30.78; 11. Madeline Dickens, 30.85; 12. Kelli Barichello, 30.86.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Trey Benton III, 90.5 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Air Marshal; 2. Jordan Wacey Spears, 88.5; 3. Tyler Bingham, 87; 4. Ednei Caminhas, 85.5; 5. J.T. Moore, 85; 6. Austin Patterson, 84; 7. (tie) Colten Gardner and Garrett Tribble, 83; 9. Nate Perry, 82; 10. Dustin Muncy, 81.5; 11. Tyler Hessman, 81; 12. Reid Barker, 79.5.

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