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10:06 AM Sat, Sept. 22nd

Top-ranked pro steer wrestler Thouvenell, travel partners possess true passion for rodeo

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Riley York had an 8.9-second run in the steer wrestling event during the second performance of the 125th Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Friday at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Riley York had an 8.9-second run in the steer wrestling event during the second performance of the 125th Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Friday at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds.

PRESCOTT - Ethen Thouvenell currently holds the No. 1-ranking in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's (PRCA) 2012 world standings for steer wrestling, but one wouldn't expect it considering how modest and unassuming he is.

The 32-year-old from Napa, Calif., travels the pro rodeo circuit with fellow steer grapplers and Golden State residents Riley York and Rhett Kennedy, each of whom appeared at the second performance of the 125th annual Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Friday night.

Although Thouvenell did not register a time here after the steer he chased failed to cooperate, York - a PRCA rookie - tallied an 8.9-second takedown while Kennedy recorded a slightly better 7.9-second pin.

Through the end of the second performance, 13th-ranked Sean Santucci of Prineville, Ore., sat in first place with a 4.3-second time, as Baylor Roche of Trementon, Utah (2nd, 4.4 seconds) and sixth-rated Olin Hannum of Malad, Idaho (3rd, 6.7) followed closely behind.

Thouvenell, York and Kennedy may not have cracked the top 3 of the Frontier Days steer wrestling standings Friday, but they'll keep moving on to other big rodeos this coming week with high hopes, like most every other highly ranked pro rodeo cowboy during the busy summer season.

At least a guy such as Thouvenell - a PRCA cardholder since 1999 who has career earnings of nearly $312,000 and one Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) appearance to his credit in 2010 - has some breathing room for a hiccup here and there.

In 2012, Thouvenell's already been to 30-plus rodeos. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder got off to a blistering start, winning his event at five different rodeos, including the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo, the La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson, the Wild Rogue ProRodeo in Central Point, Ore., the Oakdale (Calif.) Saddle Club Rodeo and the Woodlake (Calif.) Lions Rodeo.

But Thouvenell's keeping his recent success in perspective. He's done rodeo for a living only since 2009, despite having his PRCA membership a full 10 years prior to that.

"I've just gotten lucky (this season)," said Thouvenell, who also travels with steer wrestler Josh Garner, late Friday afternoon at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds. "I ride a decent horse that I get along with real well, and I've been drawing good (steers). Things have been lining up where they've needed to."

Thouvenell grew up in southern California and picked up steer wrestling from his father, Roy, now deceased, who did not become involved in the sport until age 36.

"At about that time I was probably about 7 or 8 (years old), and I always did what my dad did," he said. "When I got old enough, I started doing it."

Through the end of this past week, Thouvenell had already compiled earnings of $40,322 at the mid-way point of the 2012 season - putting him nearly $8,000 ahead of Les Shepperson of Midwest, Wyo., who presently holds down the No. 2 spot in the steer wrestling world standings.

The top 15 cowboys in the world standings qualify for the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in November with the opportunity to win a world championship.

York, who received his PRCA card only this year and is now fourth in the rookie standings, and Kennedy, a longtime pro who joined the PRCA in 2001 and has career earnings of nearly $200,000, are pretty close friends with the laid-back Thouvenell.

"We've practiced at his house and he'll help me with little things that help speed up a run," York said of Thouvenell. "It's a pretty good group to travel with. Everybody's pretty positive."

For as long as he remains in competition, Thouvenell said he's not going to let himself get caught up in the world standings' race. Thouvenell has a desire to win major championships, but he focuses more on the bond he has with his traveling partners.

"I do this more for the sport," Thouvenell said. "I enjoy how it is. We all get along. We're all friends. Camaraderie's real good, and we see each other all the time. It's kind of more of a family aspect than it is anything else."