Graybeards Ohl, Whitfield coming of age at rodeo Finals

“Over the hill” to Cody Ohl and Fred Whitfield only conjures thoughts of a rise in the road ahead.

It doesn’t lead to thoughts of retiring from rodeo. After four go-rounds of the National Finals Rodeo, it’s easy to understand why.

They are two of the three oldest competing in calf roping at the NFR, but neither has shown signs of age at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Ohl, 37, tied with Clint Cooper, 28, to win the go-round Sunday before a crowd of 17,050.

Two nights earlier, Whitfield, 43, tied for first with 26-year-old Jerrad Hofstetter.

“They might be younger, but that doesn’t make them smarter,” Ohl said of the 15-man field that includes only six who are 30 or older.

Whitfield, the oldest in the field by three years, was more politically correct in weighing the benefits of experience.

“At 43 years old, there’s a lot of kids here that probably rope a little bit better than me, but they’re not as wise as I am,” he said.

Ohl, of Hico, Texas, was thrilled to see Whitfield tie for first in the second round, after Whitfield didn’t qualify for two of the past three Finals after making it 16 straight years, and winning seven calf roping and one world all-around championship.

“It was great to watch Fred split first on Friday night just to shut up the people who said he was finished when he missed last year,” Ohl said. “He ain’t done yet.”

And neither is Ohl, who has five calf roping titles and one all-around world crown.

“Fred’s quite a few years older than me,” Ohl said. “We need to get after it for a couple more years. We’ve still got it.”

Whitfield has had the stronger season and NFR. He leads the event standings and has moved up to third in the world championship race.

Ohl doesn’t expect to challenge money leader Trevor Brazile, who has won $145,560 and leads runner-up Tuf Cooper by about $13,000.

Whitfield, however, is in the hunt for his first world calf roping title since 2005.

“It would mean a lot, but it’s a long way from over,” said Whitfield, a native of Hockley, Texas.

Ohl, competing in his 16th overall and eighth straight NFR, competed in only 50 rodeos, half of the maximum number allowed. One reason for his short season was devoting more time to his bull-breeding business.

The NFR is the second time in two months Ohl is competing at the Thomas & Mack, but the last time he let his bucking bulls do the work.

Three of his 50 bulls were picked to compete in the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, and Ohl hopes some are selected for next year’s NFR.

“It would be great to finish calf roping, then have to run to the other end of the arena and flank my bulls,” he said.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

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