NAMPA — The biggest rodeo in his hometown hasn't been kind to Bryan Martinat, as the saddle bronc rider had yet to reach the finals in his three previous visits to the Snake River Stampede.
The fourth time was different for the Homedale High graduate, who briefly held the lead during Saturday's finals at the Idaho Center before his good friend, Brady Nicholes, snatched it away. Still, Martinat finished tied for third with a score of 163 on his two rides.
"I'm blessed - I've had a very unfortunate time here. You want to compete as well as you can in your big hometown event,'' Martinat said. "It's good to kind of get that monkey off your back.''
Nicholes, a Hoytsville, Utah, native who competed at the College of Southern Idaho, scored a 167, thanks to an 86 on Saturday, the second-best score of his career.
"I've done OK here before, but not this good,'' Nicholes said after his first Stampede win. "It was just a really, really good horse to get on.''
Martinat, who won the College National Finals Rodeo championship in the saddle bronc in 2009 while competing for Blue Mountain Community College, reads off the list of injuries that have held him back in his professional career the past two years - multiple lung punctures, broken ribs, knee problems, back problems.
The list got big quickly.
"I think that's held me back from the (national) finals. This is a fresh year, I'm healthy, and I'm not letting any of that affect me,'' Martinat said. "This is a big boost. I was working my butt off to try and get into the finals here.''
The strong showings will boost Nicholes and Martinat, who were 34th and 35th, respectively, in the world saddle bronc standings going into the week. Nicholes pocketed more than $7,000, while Martinat earned $4,000 during the five-day, $376,000 rodeo.
"It just helps keeps your confidence up, it's cool,'' Nicholes said, adding of Martinat, "he's been doing really well this year - he's riding great.''
Steven Dent's 87 in the first go-round was tied with two others for second-best. On Saturday, he matched that 87 with not only the night's best performance, but the best total for the week with a 174.
Dent came into the Snake River Stampede 21st in the world standings in his event, but winning one of the top rodeos in the country will help him toward a big goal.
"You're always going to want to be in the top five by the end of the year, so you can win a world title,'' Dent said. "But you've got to get in the top 15 and make the finals, first. This bank sure helps that cause.''
Coors Light in hand, K.C. Jones deserved it after his tough day.
After hopping onto a charter flight in Salinas, Calif., he landed in Nampa about a half-hour before he was supposed to compete in the steer wrestling finals. His 4.0-second mark in the short round was tops, and his 12.1-second total on three gave him the Snake River Stampede title in front of Greenleaf's Dean Oliver, an 11-time world champion who Jones calls "one of my heroes.''
"Photo finish,'' Jones said with a laugh. "This is one of my favorite rodeos, and I've never won I was texting with guys on my cell phone when we were 15,000 feet up, so I'm really happy it worked out, it all came together.''
Drew Horner and Buddy Hawkins II were the last to go Saturday night, and they knew they needed to tie up their calf in a little less than 10 seconds to win.
Piece of cake.
The pair tied their first two earlier this week in 10.5 seconds combined, and took only 6.7 to win with a combined time of 17.2 seconds.
"It's a little nerve-wracking, but it's just a matter of going out and doing your job,'' Horner said. "We know what we've got to do to win, so that's a good position to be in. We essentially made a practice run, each of us took two more swings than usual to just make sure we had it.''
Six-time world champion Cody Ohl, who won the all-around title in 2001, and tie-down titles in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2006, came into Nampa eighth in the world standings but was a favorite, and he showed why Saturday.
Ohl was second heading into the short round Saturday night, with a two-head time of 16.9, but his 8.7-second mark vaulted him to the top. The only man in front of him, Jeremiah Peek, had a 10.6-second round to finish 1.1 seconds behind Ohl.
Steve Woolsey was the only rider to hold on for 8 seconds twice this week, making him the only man standing on top of the final standings. His 84 in the first go-round was tied with four others for fourth, but no one else besides Woolsey, who got an 83 Saturday, could hold on in the final round.
Michele McLeod's 15.71-second run was second-best in the first go-round, and she follow that up with a 15.66-second mark Saturday, 0.01 seconds off the best mark of the entire week, to win the title.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn