Matt Shiozawa missed qualifying for the past two National Finals Rodeos.
But the all-state basketball player for Moapa Valley High School in 1998 will arrive at the Thomas & Mack Center tonight for the last of 10 go-rounds with a chance to catch tie-down roping money leader Tuf Cooper and win his first world championship.
The 31-year-old Shiozawa, who lives in Pocatello, Idaho, started the Finals ranked 11th in tie-down roping world standings. He has moved to sixth in season money on the strength of two go-round wins and consistency that has given him the lead in the NFR event standings.
The top NFR performer in each category will earn $45,865 bonus from a $173,077 purse.
Cooper, 21, leads the world standings with $181,368 and is $53,458 ahead of Shiozawa. But Cooper is ninth in event standings that pay only the top eight.
Shiozawa will have to maintain his lead over Cooper in event standings and earn $7,593 more than Cooper in tonight's round to win the world championship.
■ BAREBACK RIDING -- Kaycee Feild clinched his first world championship Friday, and Casey Colletti won his first NFR go-round with a score of 87.5 on Smith Harper & Morgan's Jessie's Girl.
■ STEER WRESTLING -- Luke Branquinho slipped a bit in Thursday's round with a time of 6.8 seconds, and the money leader failed to earn a check for the first time in eight rounds.
But he rebounded Friday by tying for first with Casey Martin and Jake Rinehart after each turfed his steer in 3.6 seconds.
Branquinho has finished first in two rounds and leads Jason Miller by $23,890. Miller is second in event standings, and Branquinho is third.
■ TEAM ROPING -- Clay Tryan and Travis Graves placed second, and that moved Graves back into the lead in the heeler world standings. Tryan continues to lead the header standings.
Chad Masters and heeler Jade Corkill won for the first time this year when they caught their steer in 3.6 seconds.
■ SADDLE BRONC RIDING -- The world championship battle is down to money leader Taos Muncy and Jesse Wright, who won his fourth round with a score of 87 on Beutler and Son Rodeo's Cimarron Jack.
Muncy tied for second in Friday's round when only five of 14 riders completed rides.
Wright, 22, trails Muncy in season money won by $14,310 but ranks first in the event standings where Muncy ranks second.
■ TIE-DOWN ROPING -- Shane Hanchey won the round with a time of 7.6 seconds.
■ BARREL RACING -- Lindsay Sears continues to close on money leader Brittany Pozzi.
Sears, who won the championship in 2008, placed sixth in the round and is second in the world standings but leads the event race.
Pozzi placed third in the round and leads Sears by $13,860 but is eighth in event standings.
Three-time world champion Sherry Cervi is third in the world and fourth in aggregate.
Lisa Lockhart won her second round of the week with a 13.79-second run.
■ BULL RIDING -- J.W. Harris has rode valiantly with a broken ankle, but when the three-time and reigning world champion was bucked off, money leader Shane Proctor got closer to his first world championship.
Proctor placed sixth to extended his lead over Harris in season money to $22,830.
In event standings, Proctor is third and Harris fourth.
Cody Whitney won his second Finals check with a 90.5-point ride on Robinson Pro Rodeo's RMEF Bugle.
Jeff Wolf is a freelance reporter. He can be reached at (702) 406-8165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.