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Oakdales Ryle Smith Qualifies For NFR
Oakdale native Ryle Smith has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo for the first time in his career. Smith will compete in Las Vegas this December. DENNIS D. CRUZ/THE LEADER

Oakdale is known as “The Cowboy Capital of the World” and resident Ryle Smith is letting it be known on a global level. Smith, an Oakdale High School alum, is currently ranked 13th in the world in tie down competition. So far, 2016 has been a special year for the 29-year-old, as this is the first year he has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, NFR, which will be held in Las Vegas in December.

“I am excited; it’s a childhood dream of mine to get there. I’ve gotten close a few times, but to actually get there, man it is surreal,” said Smith, who has been competing in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, PRCA, for six years.

Smith competes in steer wrestling and in the tie down and has won seven total events this calendar year.

“I did not change a lot this year from previous years to be honest; I got off to a great start in January and won half of my earnings by March,” Smith said, adding with a chuckle that his biggest adjustment was getting married.

His wife’s name is Nika.

The first-time NFR qualifier realizes he could not make this on his own and he is quick to give credit to his horse, Trouble.

“Trouble also hails from Oakdale. I bought him when he was just a colt from Bill Caudle in 2006. He has been an awesome horse,” Smith explained. “Together we have won the California Circuit five times, qualified for the Canadian National Finals, and we won several major rodeos together along the way.”

Smith has earned over $250,000 since joining the PRCA and finally heard the news of his NFR qualification in August.

“I was in Ellensburg, Washington when I qualified. I drew some good calves and Trouble was feeling like his old self. When I heard the announcer say I made it, I could not believe it,” admitted Smith. “I won $64,000 to that point and it made me even hungrier as a competitor. I hadn’t won $70,000 in a year yet and I wanted to do it.”

Though he fell just a little short of that plateau, Smith did rake in $67,000 in earning and achieved the 13th overall finish in the world standings.

Now, he gears up for his first trip to the NFR in just a couple of weeks.

You can catch Smith compete in Las Vegas from Dec. 1 through Dec. 10 at Thomas and Mack Center on the UNLV campus.