The BFI win is in a league of its own for 2023 champs Curry Kirchner and Tyson Thompson.
BFI Photo by Andersen CbarC PhotoBy Kendra Santos
Curry Kirchner and Tyson Thompson had the biggest day of their young roping careers at the 46th annual Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping Classic, and thanks to the unprecedented 100% 2023 payback have a record $160,000 to show for it. Kirchner, 24, and Thompson, 25, roped six steers in 45.38 seconds to take center stage at the fabulous Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma at BFI’s end on April 1. After braving the BFI marathon, both were borderline speechless.
“The BFI is the biggest roping there is,” said Kirchner, 24, who works alongside his dad, Robert, at Myrl Mortenson’s cattle operation about an hour and 15 minutes northwest of Guthrie in Ames, Oklahoma. “To just be able to compete in this roping is great. To even think about winning it is crazy.
“Winning the BFI is everything. This is the first big roping I’ve ever placed at, let alone won. What’s funny is that I didn’t feel any pressure in the short round. I felt super calm, like just go out there and do my job and see what happens.”
Kirchner and Thompson—who were awarded Coats Saddles, Gist Buckles, Resistol Hats and Hat Pacs, YETI Coolers, Best Ever Pads, Justin Boots, B&W Hitches, Equinety and BFI Wine on top of that cool $160,000—were the fourth callback behind the high team of Clint Summers and Cory Petska, Coleman Proctor and Logan Medlin, and Brandon Beers and Daniel Braman.
Biggest Win by Far
“This is absolutely my biggest win by far,” said Thompson, 25, who lives in tiny Munday, Texas about an hour north of Abilene. “The biggest one before this was winning the #11 Shootout heeling for Wesley Thorp at the 2012 USTRC Finals. Wesley headed for me at the high school rodeos, too.”
Kirchner and Thompson were 6.66 on their last run to take their six-steer total over the 21-foot BFI scoreline to 45.38 seconds. Beers and Braman were 7.80 on their last one, and finished the reserve champs at 46.43 on six. Proctor missed. Then Summers and Petska ran down a runner in 8.70, which with 46.63 on six landed them third in the average at roping’s end.
“I wanted to make sure I saw plenty, and to just go rope the steer for what he was,” said Kirchner, who had his lucky-charm girlfriend, Callie Hill, in the house. “I wasn’t real worried about what we won. I just wanted to do my job. We were sitting down at the back end when the last three teams roped. I didn’t even realize we’d won it when Tyson’s two brothers (Chace and Kreece) came running up and mobbed us, and told us we’d won it. I didn’t believe it.”
“About the only thing we said to each other today was ‘Good job’ after every run,” said Thompson, whose cheering section was headed up by his mom, Kelly, and girlfriend, Y’leigh Yarborough. “We didn’t talk before the short round. We just kind of did our deal. We kept our heads down, and roped what they gave us.”
The Rodeo Road
Kirchner’s rodeoed the last couple years, and had a top-30 finish in 2021 and a top-40 finish in 2022, which included fourth at RodeoHouston with Austin Rogers.
“Tyson and I have roped off and on at some jackpots since high school,” Kirchner said. “He texted me about roping here, and we’ve roped at a few rodeos, too. I don’t know how hard I’ll rodeo this year just yet. It’s been a little slow, but a win like this one definitely helps keep it rocking and rolling. I’d dang sure like to get in the top 30 to get into the winter rodeos next year. My good horse got hurt, but I hope to have him back by June.
“You have to ride that fine line here at the BFI, because you have to stay aggressive without stepping on your own toes. I’ve learned from past experience that safetying up is not the answer. I never worry about Tyson when we rope, and I wasn’t worried about him all day long here today. I know if I do my job there aren’t going to be any issues back there with Tyson.”
Thompson is entered up at the California spring rodeos with fellow Texan Jace Bland, but sure has fun roping with Kirchner.
“Curry and I have entered together a handful of times, and have had really good luck,” Thompson said. “We won second twice together at the Junior Patriot a few years ago. It seems like we just win every time we enter together. I love roping with him.”
Thompson’s having a breakthrough season all the way around in 2023. He got to heel for his brother Kreece at San Antonio, and won a little money in his bracket with his other brother, Chace, in his RodeoHouston debut. And this was the year the Thompson Ranch won it all at the RodeoHouston Ranch Rodeo.
“This has literally been a fairytale year,” Tyson said. “My family’s Thompson Ranch team—my brother Chace, Uncle Tyler, Chad Williams, Colton Burnett and me—finally won the ranch rodeo at Houston. Houston is the biggest ranch rodeo, and the greatest ranch rodeo by a ton. And now I get to win the BFI? Wow.”
With his horse temporarily sidelined, Kirchner’s been gratefully bumming a ride on a 13-year-old sorrel from his friend Jeff Tebo since December.
“I call him Memphis, and he’s a big running-bred horse,” Kirchner said. “Jeff’s been kind enough to let me ride him this winter, and he was outstanding here today. He caught up so fast, and was so easy to handle steers on. These long setups fit him really good.”
Thompson rode his 7-year-old sorrel horse Shoppa.
“Shoppa’s so calm and easy to rope on,” Thompson said. “He acts like he’s an old horse. He’s never in my way. He did a great job today.”
This was not the first time the BFI has blessed the Thompson family in a big way. Tyson’s dad, Todd, won $90,000 at last year’s BFI #12.5 Oilfield Classic heeling for Chick Wilfong, who won $90,000 of his own.
“I don’t even know how to narrow down how big a deal winning the BFI is to me,” Tyson said. “When we got to the short round, that was a big deal. I thought if we could just catch one at a big roping like the BFI and finish in the top four, that would be a major accomplishment. To actually win it against guys like Cory Petska, Kory Koontz and Wesley Thorp—I can’t believe I’ve won a roping they’ve won.
“Cory Petska is a hero of mine. I give all the credit for my heeling to my dad and Wesley. I’ve gotten to spend some time with Kory the last couple years, and that guy can teach you stuff even when you golf with him. He’s just a cool person, and is always there to help you, even when you aren’t asking for it.”
Horses of the BFI
Clint Summers’ 11-year-old bay Joe and Logan Medlin’s 7-year-old bay Cantina were named Head and Heel Horse of the BFI, respectively. Powered by Dixon Flowers Rope Horses, the Horse of the BFI winners’ sculptures were created by Steve Miller of Lost Prairie Art & Bronze. The winners also received Dixon Flowers horse blankets, Best Ever Pads and $500.
“Joe always scores and runs super hard, and he worked outstanding today,” said Wrangler National Finals Rodeo switch-ender Summers. “He’s very easy to handle cattle on, and I’m planning to ride him outside this summer. Ever since I started heading, I looked up to Trevor (Brazile). I knew when I started heading that I needed the best head horses. To win this award is a pretty special deal to me.”
Medlin has a pair of bay aces with stars on their foreheads and snips on their noses. There’s his 2020-21 Heel Horse of the Year, Drago, and then there’s his 2022 Heel Horse of the BFI, Cantina. Medlin bought Cantina, who’s 7 now, from the Tongue River Ranch the end of his 4-year-old year. Cantina looks just enough like Drago that even some of the Top 15 didn’t notice when he subbed him in during last December’s NFR from Round 4 on, when Drago needed to take a break.
“Cantina’s still a little green, but he’s really stepped up,” Medlin said. “It’s hard to get off of a horse you know so well to get on a green one, but I actually like to jackpot on Cantina better than Drago. Cantina’s answered the call.
“Cantina winning this award gives me some peace of mind that I’m not crazy. It choked me up a little bit when they called his name. I didn’t expect to win it. I was very proud of Cantina today. It’s kind of cool to know that other people thought he did as good as I did.”
Life-Changing Money at the Lazy E
“Everything about the BFI sets it apart from all other ropings,” Kirchner said. “It’s a horse race here at the Lazy E, and this is a wonderful place that’s been good to me over the years. The BFI is the top of the top roping. There’s just something special about it. I grew up watching BFI tapes, and still watch them today.
“We won life-changing money here today, and everything about the BFI is just top class. I’m trying to build a place and get more head horses. This hasn’t really all sunk in just yet, but I have plenty of places to go with this money.”
“I still have tags on a pickup I just bought,” Thompson added. “I’m ready to put a bunch of rodeo miles on it, and now I can get it paid for, too. Between that and my horse addiction, this money will come in very handy.
“There’s so much hype and prestige at the BFI, and the way they make you feel at this roping is unlike any other. They use spotlights, and the announcers know all the stats. The radio is blaring. This roping feels like a rodeo, and you’re in it every run. They get you in the zone at the BFI, and it’s a pretty fun place to be.”