Woolsey returns from injury in time for National Finals

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Payson's Steve Woolsey hasn't climbed aboard a bull since August.

That's about to change.

Woolsey, sidelined for three months because of a foot injury, returns to action Thursday night in the opening round of the 2009 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"The first bull I get on in Las Vegas will be my first one since I got hurt," Woolsey said this week. "But I'm ready to go -- 100 percent."

Woolsey's spectacularly successful season came to a screeching halt at the late-summer Golden Spike Rodeo in Tremonton.

Woolsey did not complete his eight-second ride at the Box Elder County Fairgrounds and, when he was thrown to the ground, his bull slipped and ended up next to him.

"When he got up," Woolsey said, "he stepped on my foot with his back foot."

The result?

Woolsey suffered a torn ligament, which ended his regular season.

The good news?

Woolsey had already earned over $108,000, more than enough to finish among the top-15 bull riders and clinch a berth in the National Finals Rodeo.

"I was having a pretty good year, at least until I got hurt," he said.

As the No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world, Woolsey tops the list of four Utah cowboys who qualified for this year's National Finals.

Joining him as competitors in the 10-night, $5.75 million rodeo are Spanish Fork's Clint Robinson, Elk Mountain's Kaycee Feild and Milford's Cody Wright.

Robinson finished fourth in the tie-down roping standings with earnings of $91,733.

Feild finished seventh in bareback after earning $102,835.

Wright finished 14th in saddle bronc with earnings of $67,652.

With a little luck, two other Utah cowboys could have reached the National Finals.

But tie-down roper Jake Hannum of Ogden and bull rider Wesley Silcox of Santaquin finished 16th among money-winners in their respective events -- one spot shy of qualifying.

Hannum missed out by just $1,070, while Silcox missed by a mere $547.

The near-miss capped a difficult 14 months for Silcox.

After winning the 2007 world championship, he fractured two bones in his leg and underwent surgery late last year at Bremerton, Wash.

Silcox still qualified for the 2008 National Finals, but his ability to defend his championship was compromised by the injury.

Somehow, Silcox managed to win one round and placed in another, but did not come close to threatening eventual champion J.W. Harris.

The leg injury also hampered Silcox early this season and likely cost him a berth in the 2009 finals, considering how close he came to qualifying despite an understandably slow start.

Another championship-caliber bull rider from Utah, Shawn Proctor of Tooele, also had his NFR aspirations cut short by injuries.

After riding four of his 10 bulls and placing fourth overall at the 2008 National Finals, Proctor underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in May.

"I just wasn't performing as well as I should and decided it was time get it fixed," Proctor said at the time.

"This will be the first time I've ever sat out. ... I took that money I made at the National Finals and bought some land, so I've got plenty to do. But it's still frustrating. I'd rather be out there rodeoing."


Utah rodeo riders

Four Utah cowboys have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Kaycee Feild

Event » Bareback

Residence » Elk Ridge

Age » 22

Career earnings » $257,463

NFR appearances » 2

World championships » 0

Career highlights » Finished seventh in the 2009 world standings with earnings of $102,835. ... Won the Black Hills Rodeo and Stock Show and the Snake River (Idaho) Roundup. ... Also won at Reno, Missoula and the Dixie Roundup in St. George. ... Finished eighth in the 2008 world standings. ... Won Round 6 at last year's National Finals with a score of 90.5. ... Placed in two other rounds. ... As an amateur, won the bareback title at the 2008 College National Finals. ... Father Lewis Feild is a former five-time world champion and Hall of Famer.

Clint Robinson

Event » Tie-down roping

Residence » Spanish Fork

Age » 27

Career earnings » $786,997

NFR appearances » 3

World championships » 0

Career Highlights » Finished fourth in the 2009 world standings with earnings of $91,733. ... Won the tie-down roping at Heber City, Red Bluff, Calif., Ellensburg, Wash., and Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. ... Also competes in steer wrestling and team roping. ... Finished second in this year's all-round standings with total earnings of $143,950. ... Won all-around titles at Forth Worth, Greeley, Colo., Redding, Calif., and Rancho Mission Viejo, Calif. ... Won the steer wrestling at Wainwright, Alberta, and Kamloops, B.C. ... Finished 10th in the 2008 world standings. ... Won Round 4 at the National Finals.

Steve Woolsey

Event » Bull riding

Residence » Payson

Age » 23

Career earnings » $628,237

NFR appearances » 4

World championships » 0

Career Highlights » Finished second in the 2009 world standings with earnings of $108,444. ... Won the Laughlin (Nev.) Xtreme Bulls competition as well as the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo, the Spanish Fork Fiesta Days Rodeo and Red Desert Roundup in Rock Springs. ... Also competes in saddle bronc and won all-around titles in rodeos at Cedar City and Afton, Wyo. ... Finished fourth in the 2008 world standings. ... Won Round 2 and Round 8 at the National Finals. ... Placed in two other rounds. ... A brother and two cousins are also PRCA members.

Cody Wright

Event » Saddle bronc

Residence » Milford

Age » 32

Career earnings » $1,195,289

NFR appearances » 7

World championships » 1

Career Highlights » Finished 14th in the 2009 world standings with earnings of $67,652. ... Won the Fiesta Days Rodeo in Spanish Fork and the Fort Herriman (Utah) Rodeo. ... Also won at Redding, Calif., Santa Fe, N.M. and Riverton, Wyo. ... Won Round 4 and Round 7 at the 2008 National Finals en route to his first world championship. ... His road to the title was tracked by documentary filmmakers from Southern Utah University and premiered in Cedar City last April. ... He is the oldest of seven brothers. All but one are saddle bronc riders.

Nationals Finals Rodeo

Where » Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas

When » Dec. 3-12

Who » The top 15 money-winners in each event during the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's regular season qualify for the National Finals.

TV » ESPN2, ESPN Classic

Web site » prorodeo.com


TV schedule

The live television schedule for the 2009 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. All times MST:

Dec. 38 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 48 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 57 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 67 p.m.ESPN2
Dec. 78 p.m.ESPN2
Dec. 88 p.m.ESPN2
Dec. 98 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 108 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 118 p.m.ESPN Classic
Dec. 129 p.m.ESPN2