The rodeo season for purposes of qualifying for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s California Circuit finals begins in September, and when Hemet bull rider Eli Necochea mounted his Honeycutt Rodeo stock Sept. 7, at the Dysart Equestrian Park rodeo grounds in Banning, his objective was to place and earn money for the 2020 standings.
“I was trying to make circuit finals,” Necochea said.
Necochea was not only successful in placing, but his 85-point ride won the Sept. 6-8 Banning Stagecoach Days rodeo and gave him the 2020 standings lead.
“It was probably my best ride yet,” Necochea said.
Necochea was born in Hemet, and after moving to Romoland during his early childhood, he returned to Hemet when he was 12. He graduated from Hemet High School in 2017. When a cowboy begins his career in the PRCA, he does so as a permit holder, and Necochea obtained his PRCA permit in October 2017.
A cowboy fills his permit, allowing him to obtain a PRCA card and have full PRCA membership, once he has earned $1,000 from PRCA-sanctioned rodeos. The money to fill a permit does not need to be earned in the same event. A 73-point ride at this year’s June 7-8 Jurupa Valley Pro Rodeo gave Necochea his first PRCA win along with $1,403 in prize money.
During the recently concluded 2019 rodeo season, Necochea accumulated $2,516.40 of bull riding earnings to place 18th in the California Circuit. The cowboys and barrel racers with the top 12 earnings in each event qualify for the circuit finals rodeo, which this year will be held Oct. 4-6 in Lancaster.
The bull a cowboy rides at a rodeo is determined by a draw. Necochea drew a bull known as “D36” rather than by a name. Banning Stagecoach Days was the second rodeo for D36.
“I’d never seen him before. I didn’t know what he did,” Necochea said.
Necochea was able to research the bull’s previous outing at the June 21-22 Alamosa Round-Up in Colorado. Each of the two rodeo judges provides a score of up to 25 points for the rider and a score of up to 25 points for the bull, and the four scores are added to determine the rider’s total score. The judges at Alamosa gave D36 scores of 22 1/2 and 22 points.
“They marked him pretty high,” Necochea said.
Necochea observed the Banning Stagecoach Days stock for future reference, he said.
“They were all sweet,” he said. “The whole pen was nice.”
A bull rider must remain on his animal for eight seconds to obtain a score. Necochea stayed on for the required time, and he also experienced the bull’s turns which resulted in his high score.
“It felt like a dream,” he said.
The feeling of hearing his score was also pleased Necochea, he said.
“I was pretty confident I was going to end up winning it,” he said.
Nuevo cowboy and 2011 Heritage High School graduate Corey Rickard placed second with a ride of 80 1/2 points. Dalton Shepard of Norco was given a score of 80 points which was worth third place.
Earnings from a rodeo are based on position, and the total purse is based on the number of entrants and added money from sponsors. First place at Banning paid Necochea $275, while Rickard earned $212 for his second-place ride.
The All-Around champion at a rodeo is the cowboy who earns the most money in more than one event. If no cowboy places in more than one event, the cowboy who earned the most money in one event while competing in at least two events is the All-Around champion. Temecula’s Jack VanderLans won Banning’s All-Around championship after fourth place in the steer wrestling gave him $202.
“I appreciate the city of Banning putting on a great rodeo. I wish I would have done a little better,” VanderLans said.
The Banning Stagecoach Days Association provides the actual rodeo committee, but Dysart Equestrian Park is a city of Banning facility and the city provides in-kind services for the rodeo.
If a tie-down roping calf is brought over backward and lands on its back or head with all four feet in the air, the cowboy is disqualified, which kept VanderLans from placing in that event.
“That wasn’t my plan,” he said.
VanderLans had a time of 10.2 seconds in the steer wrestling.
“I would have liked to have done a little bit better,” he said.
That time still gave VanderLans fourth place at Banning.
“The steers were really good, but when the gates opened they didn’t leave really quickly,” he said.
VanderLans had to address the demeanor of his own steer, however.
“Once he made that initial step forward he kind of took off and ran,” VanderLans said. “It doesn’t always come together like the plan. You just sort of make the best of it.”
VanderLans rode Larry for his steer wrestling run. Mike Barnes of Nuevo was the hazer who guided VanderLans’ steer.
“Mike did a great job of hazing,” VanderLans said. “Without him hazing, I don’t think I would have won anything.”
Interestingly, VanderLans also won the All-Around at the Jurupa Valley Pro Rodeo which provided Necochea with his other bull riding win. VanderLans was in the Sept. 8 performance at Banning.
Joe Naiman can be reached by email at email@example.com.