Las Vegas Events announced today that two Vegas NFR Icons will be honored at the 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. The Vegas NFR Icons this year are Billy Etbauer and Cody Ohl.
During the Dec. 8 and 9 performances, each of the rodeo champions will be honored on the hallowed dirt of the Thomas & Mack Center. The presentation will include each receiving a 14” commemorative bronze statue and a ceremony to unfurl a banner in the rafters at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The in-arena schedule for the icons is as follows:
Friday, Dec. 8 – Billy Etbauer
Saturday, Dec. 9 – Cody Ohl
“Las Vegas Events is committed to honoring the legends who have defined what it means to be a champion at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo,” said LVE President Tim Keener. “Billy Etbauer and Cody Ohl are true icons of the sport and synonymous with the events they competed in at the Thomas & Mack Center. The history and legacy of the Wrangler NFR is driven by its great champions, and we are honored to continue this tradition that was launched in 2022 when we honored Trevor Brazile, Charmayne James and Ty Murray.”
For each icon, LVE will develop a promotional campaign to promote the two legends and build a daily activation calendar to build anticipation for the ceremony inside the Thomas & Mack Center that evening.
In addition to the banner ceremony during the second and third Wrangler NFR performances, several events are planned for the Icons. They will appear at The Cowboy Channel Cowboy Christmas on Wrangler NFR programming on The Cowboy Channel. The 2nd Annual Vegas NFR Icons Tribute Luncheon is set for Friday, Dec. 8 at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas where they will spend time with hosts Butch Knowles and Jeff Medders. The two announcers are icons themselves as they have been the broadcast team for the NFR for more than 30 years.
Additional details about the 2nd Annual Vegas NFR Icons Tribute Luncheon will be announced at a later date on www.NFRexperience.com.
One of the most popular cowboys of his generation, Etbauer won five saddle bronc world titles (1992, 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2004) and garners respect for both his go-for-broke style and his humility during his career that covered parts of four decades. A native of Huron, South Dakota, he was the middle brother of three world-class bronc riders. Etbauer qualified for the NFR in his second year as a professional in 1989. He went on to make the field a record 21 consecutive years, win an NFR-record 51 rounds and surpass $3 million in career earnings. He still shares the NFR record with his 93-point ride on Kesler Championship Rodeo’s Cool Alley in 2003. He tied the record a year later on a 10th-round ride that clinched the last of his five gold buckles.
“It is an honor and blessing to be part of the Vegas NFR Icons,” said Etbauer. “I’m thankful to so many that helped me throughout my career and allowed me to make a living doing what I love. I still feel very fortunate to have won world titles during my career and had the support of sponsors like Express Ranches that made it possible to keep competing. As for Cody, when you rodeo with guys like that, even though we were in different events, you knew you had to raise your game.”
Ohl put his stamp on ProRodeo in 1994 by winning Rookie of the Year and earning his first trip to the NFR. It would take Ohl a few years to win his first gold buckle. He edged out Fred Whitfield to capture the 1997 Tie-Down World Title and roared through the 1998 season, capturing his second title. He had another record-setting year in 2001 as he added steer roping and team roping in order to compete for the All-Around title. In the ninth round of the NFR, Ohl missed his calf on the first loop. A second loop caught the calf by the hind legs. As Ohl dismounted, he twisted his knee, tearing two major ligaments. He had to be carried out of the arena by the Justin Sportsmedicine Team. However, he had amassed enough money earlier in the week to secure both the tie-down title and the All-Around title. He accepted both buckles from crutches on the 10th night. He went on to capture his fifth and sixth tie-down roping titles in 2003 and 2006. He still owns the record for the most NFR rounds won, 52.
“When you compete at this level, the world championship is what you shoot for,” said Ohl. “Being inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame was the icing on my career, but Vegas is where everything got started, so I’m so appreciative of this honor. There is no other town where you get a feeling like Vegas…that’s how much Vegas means to me. And, going in with Billy, he is one of my all-time heroes who always shined at the NFR, especially in the 10th round when it counted the most. I’m a huge fan and honored to be included with him.”
Known as the richest and most prestigious rodeo in the world, the Wrangler NFR attracts the top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding to compete for a share of the increased purse and the coveted PRCA Gold Buckle. In 2022, the event had a total attendance of 173,350 over the 10 days of competition at the Thomas & Mack Center and has sold out more than 350 consecutive performances in Las Vegas.
For more information on the Wrangler NFR, please visit NFRexperience.com or through social media at @LasVegasNFR and use #WranglerNFR. For the latest NFR news and Wrangler NFR coverage, please visit NFRstreamingpass.com or through social media @PRCA_ProRodeo.