Five years ago at the World Sheep and Wool Congress in Quebec City – the last time Cliff Metheral and little brother Don squared off in the final of a big-stakes sheep shearing competition – Cliff was a cut above.
But on July 5th, Don returned the favour, by winning his fourth North American Sheep Shearing Champion title at the Calgary Stampede.
“I owed it to him,” said Cliff, of Nokomis, Sask. “I knew I just had to try and stay with him. He was the better man this time. But I’m his biggest fan, so it’s all good.”
The Metheral brothers emerged at the top of the heap following the eight-man elimination in the open division of the Stampede’s 13th annual sheep shearing competition. Don, the Stampede’s only four-time champ, walked away with $2,000 in prize money and a Stampede buckle, while Cliff claimed $1,000 as runner-up.
According to Mike Rieberger, a member of the Stampede sheep committee, the Calgary shearing competition is the richest event of its kind in North America. The North American challenge usually attracts Australian and New Zealand competitors every second year, when they are on their way to the world championships. Competition is usually very strong when they compete but the tough, hard-shearing Canadian sheep are a real challenge for them, says Rieberger.
Darren Kennedy of Kaycee, Wyoming, the two-time U.S. national champion, and Tony Troendle of Belle Fourche, S.D., the reigning American titleist, were ousted in the semi-final round. Kennedy finished third, while Troendle was fourth and Kevin Hickman of Humansville, Mo., placed fifth.
Maria Stiglmayr of Fraserwood, Man., was crowned the North American Sheep Shearing Challenge’s intermediate champion for the second straight year.
The Stampede’s shearing challenge is both a timed and judged competition, with board judges docking points for second passes with clippers and later examining the animals for remaining ridges and tufts of wool and cuts or nicks in the skin. The Stampede also adopted a new format in 2009, with competitors squaring off two at a time, trying to beat each other and the clock.
Don and Cliff Metheral each shear between 20,000 and 25,000 sheep a year, occasionally teaming up for big feedlot jobs. But neither takes pleasure in being a speed demon with the clippers.
Prior to the open division final, the United States narrowly defeated Canada in the International Team Challenge. The U.S., comprised of Troendle, Wade Kopren of Bison, S.D., and Hillary Gietzen of Minot, N.D., edged the Canadians, consisting of the Metheral brothers and Pieter Demooy of Saanichton, B.C., by 0.3 points.