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Staying home works for Ohl

If Cody Ohl’s 2013 season were one of those clever AT&T commercials, the script might go something like this:

Moderator: “So what’s better, more rodeos or less rodeos?”

Cute 5-year-old kids, screaming: “More rodeos!!”

Except the kids would be wrong. At least in Ohl’s case. Because what’s really better is making a lot of money at fewer rodeos.

National Finals Rodeo contestants can count up to 75 rodeos toward their season earnings each year, and most riders and ropers have to get somewhere in that neighborhood to be assured of qualifying for the season-ending event.

But Ohl, as has been his wont the past few years, hit just 41 rodeos, although you’d never know it by his winnings in tie-down roping. He made $94,943, good for third in the world standings. Entering the NFR, which began Thursday at the Thomas &Mack Center, he trailed leader and two-time defending world champion Tuf Cooper by about $40,000.

But if Ohl keeps up with his average rate of return, that ground absolutely can be made up over the course of 10 days at the world’s richest rodeo.

“It’s worked well,” said Ohl, a five-time world champion from Hico, Texas. “I’ve gotten to stay home quite a bit and still compete in enough rodeos to make the Finals.”

And he finished strong, winning the last two rodeos of the regular season, at Omaha and at Stephenville, Texas.

The schedule has allowed him to spend more time with his kids, who are getting more involved in sports, particularly baseball for sons Hunter, 13, and Blake, 11, while his 7-year-old daughter, Saylor, plays softball.

“It’s a blessing,” said Ohl, who has also helped coach some youth football. “My dad was always there and worked on a normal job. I knew what it meant to have him around, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with my kids. That I can still qualify for the Finals while doing pretty much half of what everyone else is doing, and still have a shot at the world championship, is great.

“This is the fourth year I’ve done this. I’m just glad I’m able to compete at this level and not have to rodeo the wheels off my truck, and be able to keep up with my kids.”

Another benefit from the schedule is that Ohl comes into the NFR relatively fresh.

“I’m feeling as good as I’ve felt in probably three years,” he said. “I’m living a high right now. Everything has been rolling and falling my way, and I’ve been capitalizing on it.”

And he’s certainly eager to get that sixth world title, after having it within his grasp each of the past two years before stumbling in the ninth round each year.

“It’s been the same thing the last few years. I teeter-tottered, in the lead, not in the lead up until the ninth round. Then I stub my toe and it costs me,” said Ohl, who ended up sixth in the world standings in 2011 and third in 2012. “I’ve just got to get off to a steady, strong start in that first round and start making up that $40,000 as quick as I can. That way I don’t have to press too much to where I would make a mistake, like I have the last two years.”

Based on how well he’s roped with such a limited schedule, Ohl knows he’s ready physically. The mental aspect will be key to determining who wins the world title. A little good fortune often is a deciding factor, too.

“I’m probably more mentally prepared than last year,” he said. “It will come down to who’s gonna be on fire and start the week strong, and who’s gonna be lucky through 10 rounds. Luck has a lot to do with it.”

Regardless of how things end up, Ohl is going to enjoy yet another 10-day run at the NFR. This will be the 19th year he’s made it to the season finale, and he still treats it like it was the first time.

“It doesn’t get old,” he said. “The NFR is what keeps me around. The money’s good, but the fans in Las Vegas take it up and over the top. When you get on a roll in Las Vegas, it’s like no other feeling.”

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