postheadericon Clements finds form in San Angelo

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Mason Clements’ first time to compete at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo turned out pretty well.

“This is a great way to kick off the most important month of my season,” said Clements, who rode Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo’s Black Pearl on Friday night for 84.5 points to take the lead in bareback riding on opening night of the tradition-rich West Texas rodeo.

“My goal is to come out on top at the end of this month. I’m looking at it that way, and I’m going to do what I can to make it happen.”

SanAngelo-LogoNow in his second year of ProRodeo, the Sandy, Utah, cowboy wants to capitalize on a strong inaugural campaign in which he finished second in the Resistol Rookie of the Year standings.

Mason Clements

Mason Clements

“I feel like I’m more mentally focused and more prepared than I have been for anything,” Clements said. “Physically I think I’ve been there, but mentally I’m stronger than ever.”

While bareback riding is probably more physically demanding than any other discipline in rodeo, a good athlete realizes he must have a strong mind to go with his talents. It all came together well Friday night. He had never seen Black Pearl before and only learned a few things about the horse from stock contractor Chad Lancaster.

“He had just bought the horse and liked him,” Clements said of Lancaster. “He liked him well enough that he put him in the draw. That’s all I knew about him. I figured it would be pretty good if Chad just bought him and decided to put him in the draw. I was right.”

It helps to have the right animal in the mix. Still, the young cowboy knows he needs to handle his end of the match up if he is going to come out at or near the top of the leaderboard. Of course, he had quite the learning curve his rookie season while traveling with four-time world champion Kaycee Feild, six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Jessy Davis and 2014 NFR qualifier Richmond Champion.

“Finishing second in the rookie race was probably the best thing that happened to me in my career,” Clements said. “It fueled my fire that much more and made me more competitive in the long run.

“Being around guys like a world champion and Jessy Davis, guys that can show you the ropes and critique you just right, is great, especially for a rookie like me. Getting along with them and being best friends with all three of them was a huge factor for me. It makes your job fun and takes the edge off things.”

Those lessons have proven quite valuable as he steps forward to the 2016 season. He wants it to be historic. Having a solid run in San Angelo is a great way to kick off a big month of rodeo.

“It’s such a good rodeo, and the production and everything around it was top-notch,” he said. “All the livestock bucks outstanding there, and the contractors have a huge part in that. To make a rodeo better, you’ve got to have top stock. It’s a key component to the rodeo.

“I think they’re definitely on the right track. It’s just going to keep getting better.”

San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo
Feb. 5-7, Feb. 12-14, Feb. 17-19
Bareback riding leaders:
1. Mason Clements, 84.5 points on Lancaster & Jones Pro Rodeo’s Black Pearl; 2. Luke Creasy, 84; 3. Teddy Athan, 83; 4. Zach Hilber, 78; 5. Zachary Lomax, 74; no other qualified rides.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Stan Branco, 4.0 seconds; 2. (tie) Nick Guy and Justin Shaffer, 4.6 each; 4. Clayton Hass, 14.3; no other qualified runs.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Cole Sherwood/Tanner Luttrell, 4.9 seconds; 2. David Key/Travis Woodard, 5.5; 3. Tee Luttrell/Clay Sieber, 6.0; 4. Jake Cooper/York Gill, 9.4; no other qualified runs.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. CoBurn Bradshaw, 79.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Kattle Katie; 2. Jake Wright, 78; 3. Alex Wright, 68; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Jake Pratt, 7.9 seconds; 2. Michael Otero, 8.0; 3. Mike Johnson, 9.3; 4. Marcos Costa, 10.6; 5. Cade Swor, 12.6; 6. Blane Cox, 12.7; 7. Hunter Herrin, 15.0; 8. Tim Pharr, 23.5.

Barrel racing: Second round leaders: 1. Kelsie Miller, 14.55 seconds; 2. Kelley Carrington, 14.59; 3. Jayme Robison, 14.63; 4. (tie) Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Brogan Macy, 14.80 each; 6. Jodee Miller, 14.87; 7. Shea-Lynn Leach, 15.01; 8. Ahnna Peterson, 15.08; 9. Miranda Mitchell, 19.74; 10. Katti Watters, 19.76.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cody Rostockyj, 80.5 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Razorback; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon McCoy to compete in McAlester

McALESTER, Okla. – Cord McCoy has something to prove, and he plans to start at the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.

The lifelong cowboy from nearby Tupelo, Okla., McCoy made his name as a young man in rodeo as an all-around hand who competed primarily in all three roughstock events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.

He had great success in bull riding, where he was a six-time qualifier to the PBR World Finals and was a 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. But he’s always loved riding bucking horses.

Cord McCoy

Cord McCoy

“A lot of people talk about things they want to do, and I didn’t want to talk about it,” McCoy said of his return to bronc riding after more than a decade away from it. “I’m not doing anything but getting older. I may be old as a bull rider, but I’ve got some years left in me in bronc riding.”

Now 35, the talented cowboy is ready to embark a season chasing gold buckle dreams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. This marks the first time since the 2006 season that McCoy has been part of the PRCA; he hasn’t been on a bronc in ProRodeo competition since September 2004, when he suffered a serious head injury on the final day of the Oklahoma State Fair Rodeo in Oklahoma City that season.

He focused on riding bulls for several years after that, then retired in the fall of 2013.

“Maybe nobody else believes in me, but I believe in myself,” he said. “I love riding broncs. Even the whole time when I switched over to the PBR, I felt like I left something behind. There’s a different challenge in it. It’s not just staying on; it’s who is making it look best.

“It’s different than bull riding, especially with the caliber of bulls out there now. If you make the whistle in bull riding, they’re going to write you a check.”

Saddle bronc riders not only must stay on for the qualifying eight-second ride, but they also must showcase a classic spur stroke in rhythm with the horse’s bucking motion if they are to receive adequate scores. While he has more than a decade away from that aspect of the game, McCoy has something of an X factor.

“At the level I want to compete at, I feel like I’ve got to ride better than I ever did before,” McCoy said. “It’s not like I could pick up where I left off. I’ve got to make some improvements.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of advantages over a whole group of 18- and 19-year-old kids. There are sure 15 years of knowledge that I think I can use to my advantage. Even though it’s a different sport, competing at the highest level gives you a lot of experience you can’t pay for and can’t learn in the practice pen.”

Nearly a dozen years ago, a bronc bucked off McCoy, then kicked him in the head. Surgeons had to repair a circular fracture to the cowboy’s skull, and doctors warned that he would need to wear a helmet if he were to continue to ride bucking animals. Since he had worn a facemask while riding bulls, it was an easy transition as he continued his career through his PBR career.

Now he may be the only bronc rider to wear a helmet, but he’s pushing forward with every horse he rides.

“When I got on that one bronc at a little open rodeo last summer, that was to say, ‘I did it again,’ ” he said. “Now the idea is to take it one bronc at a time; if it works, move on. You can’t get better training than to nod your head at a rodeo. A man spends $500 or $600 to get on one bronc and then messes up, it’ll make you remember your mistakes.”

Every step of the way is just part of the learning process for McCoy. He’s excited to be part of the McAlester ProRodeo.

“McAlester is the heart of rodeo country,” said McCoy, who will have some of his own bulls bucking at the rodeo as part of a lease agreement with Hi Lo ProRodeo, the stock contractor. “I think there’s so many people who are excited about rodeo coming back to McAlester.

“I went to college with Dustin Murray, who is producing the event for Hi Lo. He does a top-of-the-line event, so I’m excited about it.”

He should be excited. He’ll kick-start his 2016 ProRodeo season just an hour from his house in Tupelo. It’s the perfect location for a home-grown cowboy.

postheadericon Dirty Jacket is a proven winner

SAN ANGELO, Texas – Words aren’t necessary to tell just how much Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket loves his job.

His actions speak volumes.

“He sure likes to buck,” said Jake Brown, who won the third go-round of the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo in early January with an 87-point ride on Dirty Jacket. “When I jumped off him, he tossed his head in the air and pranced around the arena. He just looked so cool.”

Jake Brown

Jake Brown

He should be cool. He’s the reigning two-time Bareback Horse of the Year, and he’ll be one of the featured athletes at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, which takes place Feb. 5-20.

Now 12 years old, the powerful and athletic bay gelding is the horse every bareback rider wants to ride.

“That was my first time to ride him, and I was so excited,” said Brown, a 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Hillsboro, Texas. “He’s a big ol’ show-out. He jumps high in the air. In my mind, Dirty Jacket is the right kind of bucking horse.

“He tries so hard every time.”

Dirty Jacket knows his job, and he likes it. He explodes out of the chute and leaps high on every jump, bucking and kicking as hard as he can. When the whistle blows to signal the end of the ride, the athletic horse will slow down his bucking motion and allow the cowboy a clean exit.

“When I was getting ready, I had to calm myself down so I didn’t get over-excited,” said Brown, who admitted that the toughest part of riding Dirty Jacket is being matched with him via the random draw. “I’ve seen all my friends get on him, and I knew just how good he looked. He felt even better.

“That first jump out of there felt so awesome. He jumps so high. We’ve talked that he likes outdoor arenas better because he probably thinks he’s going to hit his head on an indoor arena because he wants to buck so high. He bucked pretty good at in that building in Waco (home of the circuit finals).”

Ryan Gray

Ryan Gray

He’s performed well any place he’s been. Dirty Jacket has been part of records in just about any type of arena. Last February, he and Jessy Davis matched for 93 points in San Angelo; Ryan Gray was 92 points on him four months later in Pecos, Texas.

“He’s just a great animal,” said Gray, an eight-time NFR qualifier from Cheney, Wash. “You can guarantee he’s going to perform at his best every time. He’s going to give you a chance to win first; that’s the neat thing about that horse.”

Over the last four seasons, bareback riders have chosen Dirty Jacket as one of the top three horses in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association; he has been at the top of that list in 2014 and ’15. There’s a reason behind it.

Richmond Champion

Richmond Champion

“There’s not another horse like him,” said Richmond Champion, who has won three times on the powerful bay. “He has a huge frame, but he’s so athletic from nose to tail. He just looks like an athlete. If you could pick a horse out of a herd that could jump nine feet in the air, he’s that horse. If you’re going to win a big rodeo, that’s the horse you want.”

Champion should know. He won the 2014 Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days with a 91-point ride, then followed it with an 88.5 to win the fifth round of that season’s NFR. In 2015, he posted a 90-point ride for the win in Eagle, Colo.

“Dirty Jacket is a bareback rider’s dream,” said Winn Ratliff, a three-time NFR qualifier from Leesville, La., who won the 2015 Weatherford, Texas, rodeo on the horse. “He’s got a lot of timing when he bucks; when a horse has a lot of timing, it’s easy for us to get in rhythm with him and be flashy. You get to show what the style of bareback riding is all about, and you get to show out.”

He was just 4 years old the first time he bucked at a ProRodeo, and Jerad Schlegel won the bareback riding title in Guymon, Okla., on him. Eight years later, they’re still winning on Dirty Jacket.

postheadericon Dudley brings comedy to rodeo

McALESTER, Okla. – Most cowboys dream of gold buckles, while singers hope for Grammys and actors pray for Oscars.

Johnny Dudley is not an ordinary athlete or entertainer.

“All the buckles and glory and big rodeos are things that most rodeo clowns want, but I just want people to say I’m a good guy,” said Dudley, who will be the featured entertainer/barrelman during the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.

Johnny Dudley

Johnny Dudley

“I’d say the first 10 years of my career, all I cared about was getting to work the NFR. Now I’d rather just be a good dude.”

That good dude is pretty talented. Known by his moniker of “Backflip,” Dudley is part comedian and part bullfighter all mixed in greasepaint. He travels the rodeo trail with a passion for entertaining folks of all ages.

“The best part of my job is the smile of a child,” he said. “I love being able to go to different towns and put smiles on people’s faces. I also like to do volunteer work, helping other people.”

That’s something he has done most of his life. Raised in Dayton, Texas, by a single mother, he began working to support his family at age 14. A few years later, he joined the Marine Corps, serving eight years between being an active Marine and a reservist. In fact, it was while he was in the Marines that he decided to be a rodeo clown.

While attending a rodeo at Marine Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, Dudley closely watched the clown and found the showman to his liking. Once he got out of the Marine Corps in the early 2000s, he went back to Dayton and began his career. He began as a bullfighter, then transitioned into the role he carries with him from one rodeo to another.

“In 2002, I quit my job,” he said. “I was in college with some money from the Montgomery GI Bill. Once I graduated college, I was doing well enough rodeoing that I was able to support myself with that.”

It took off from there. Now he utilizes six comedy acts as he entertains audiences at rodeos all across the country. He takes lessons taught him by other rodeo clowns, including establish comedians Lecile Harris and Rudy Burns.

“I’m kind of an old school guy trying to twist new school things in there,” Dudley said.

Part of that new-fangled stuff would be showcasing his athleticism, hence the nickname. Now 37, Dudley likes to shock the audience with his gymnastics talent. When he was younger, it was part of his arsenal as a freestyle bullfighter.

“That ‘Backflip’ name was awesome when I was 22,” he said. “Luckily I’m still athletic enough to do it.”

Dudley has adjusted his rodeo schedule a little this year to stay closer to his Denton, Texas, home. He and his wife, Emily, have a 2-year-old son, Jase, and another child on the way.

“It’s a tough life when you’re on the road as much as I can be,” he said. “They love me and try to travel with me when they can. With my wife having her own tack business and juggling that with taking care of a 2-year-old and pregnant with another child, it’s just too much for them to go with me.

“Within the last couple of years, I was trying to get to the NFR. Now I’d rather stay closer to the house.”

He also gets to continue his anti-bullying campaign, which is a major part of who Johnny Dudley is. Dudley will be part of school assemblies on Thursday, Feb. 11; he will be at Will Rogers Elementary from 9-9:30 a.m., Emerson Elementary from 9:50-10:20 a.m. and Edmond Doyle Elementary from 10:40-11:10 a.m.

“I love doing that kind of stuff,” Dudley said. “I get to meet a lot of people that way. I get to be part of some really cool things. (Recently) I drove two and a half hours on a Saturday to be a quarterback at a handicapped football game. That’s stuff most people don’t get to do, and I’m blessed that I have the opportunity to do it.”

postheadericon Rodeo brings community together

McALESTER, Okla. – There are many attractive things about this community.

“We’re the largest city in southeast Oklahoma with 18,000 people,” said Jeff Warmuth, the president and CEO of the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce. “We feel like we’ve got a town of 40,000, because people come in from other communities to shop and to work. It’s a small town with a big-town appeal.”

Jeff Warmuth

Jeff Warmuth

As the regional hub, McAlester also serves as a premier home to exciting activities, including the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.

This is the newest in a long line of world-class events to be showcased in Pittsburg County, but rodeo is nothing new to McAlester. In fact, the community was a showcase for the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo for decades. The prison rodeo was discontinued following the 2009 event.

“Rodeo has a strong history in Oklahoma, and it’s strong in this area of the state,” Warmuth said. “Rodeo is sort of like a hometown team. All of these towns have a heritage of winning traditions. All of those communities have somebody famous that was a rodeo athlete. I think it’s important for those communities to show pride and to not forget those superstars that they’ve produced.”

A one-hour drive in any direction of McAlester will reveal communities that can boast of ProRodeo world champions. That’s a pretty strong legacy.

“It’s an honor for us to be that regional hub surrounded by all that talent and all that history,” Warmuth said. “It’s cool to even put on an event of this size and reach out to those communities.”

People in those communities are used to making their ways to McAlester, whether it’s for CultureFest or Western Days.

“We also have the second-longest running armed forces parade in May,” Warmuth said. “It’s a two-day event, saluting all the armed forces, all branches of the military.”

Those types of the events not only bring people to town but also instill a high level of community pride. That’s just what chamber members want to see out of the McAlester ProRodeo. Though the inaugural event is planned for just two days in mid-February, there is always room for growth.

“I would like for the rodeo to be the event in the community in five years,” Warmuth said. “I’d like to see families plan to come to this year after year, that this is what they look forward to.

“We also want to tie other things into it as well. We’re trying to create an atmosphere and an event that people want to come to every year.”

That’s just what the community deserves.

postheadericon McCoy is back in the saddle

He may have retired from bull riding two years ago, but Cord McCoy never retired from being a cowboy.

McCoy, a six-time PBR World Finals qualifier who also earned a bull riding qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2005, has gained fame through his three stints on the CBS-TV reality series, “The Amazing Race.” On the program, he and his brother, Jet, were fan favorites all three seasons in which they competed for the $1 million prize.

Cord McCoy

Cord McCoy

On Saturday night, Cord McCoy began another race toward another $1 million prize, competing in saddle bronc riding at the World’s Toughest Rodeo in Moline, Ill. The event served as a qualifier for The American semifinals.

McCoy sent a text late Saturday that he was bucked off his horse in Moline. He will take another shot at qualifying for The American at next weekend’s World’s Toughest Rodeo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

His ride atop Three Hills Rodeo’s Pearl Snaps on Saturday marked the first time since September 2004 that McCoy has ridden a bronc in competition. He made a name for himself in rodeo by competing in all three roughstock events.

He earned five International Professional Rodeo Associations titles doing so: He earned the IPRA’s Triple Crown for 2002 by winning the all-around, saddle bronc riding and bull riding gold buckles. That year he also set an IPRA earnings mark with more than $100,000 in earnings. He returned to the top in the all-around and bronc riding in the 2003 season.

The last time McCoy competed in bronc riding, he suffered a serious head injury when he was bucked off his horse during the short go-round at the Oklahoma State Fair PRCA Rodeo. As he fell toward the ground, the horse kicked his back feet, with one connecting the side of the cowboy’s head.

Though he recovered, McCoy focused his attention on bull riding. He mounted his first bull in competition seven months after his injury, in April 2005. He did well enough that year to earn his only qualification to the NFR. He then turned his attention toward the PBR until retiring from it in 2013.

Now he’s in another race for a big payout. Anybody that knows him isn’t surprised.

postheadericon Injury sidelines Kirchenschlager

GUTHIRE, Okla. – Dakota Kirchenschlager was excited to compete at the CINCH Timed Event Championship.

Dakota Kirchenschlager

Dakota Kirchenschlager

After re-aggravating a shoulder injury recently, the two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier will miss this year’s Timed Event, set for March 4-6 at the Lazy E Arena. He will be replaced by another heeler, Jim Ross Cooper, a two-time TEC competitor who has qualified for the NFR five times in his career.

“My bulldogging performance in the past has embarrassed me there,” said Cooper, son of three-time Timed Event champion Jimmie Cooper, the 1981 PRCA all-around world champion and a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. “It’s a mountain I have to climb, because I don’t like the feeling of something getting the best of me, so I’m going to have another go at it.”

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper grew up at the TEC, where his father won titles in 1988, ’92 and ’94. The younger Cooper was part of the 20-man field in 2011 and 2012. Now he’s hoping for a little redemption as he carries on the Cooper legacy inside the Lazy E Arena.

“It’s one of the coolest events of the year for rodeo,” said Cooper of Monument, N.M. “There’s a lot more technical difficulty to it and a lot of cowboy to it. As much as it brings out the best all-around cowboy in rodeo – which is why Trevor Brazile has won it so many times – it shows who has the ability to adjust to the challenges, be mentally tough and figure it out.”

The CIINCH Timed Event Championship features 20 of the top cowboys competing in all five timed-event disciplines. It is called the “Ironman of ProRodeo,” because of the grueling tasks assigned to each cowboy over a five-round championship conducted over just three days.

postheadericon ProRodeo returning to McAlester

McALESTER, Okla. – For the first time since 2009, professional rodeo is returning to McAlester.

Local officials have teamed with Hi Lo ProRodeo to produce and promote the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.

“McAlester is a rodeo town, and people here are excited about it,” said Jeff Warmuth, the president and CEO of the McAlester Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve already put some information on Facebook, and we’ve had a lot of people commenting and sharing that information. You can really sense the excitement.”

Jeff Warmuth

Jeff Warmuth

The rodeo is the perfect match for McAlester. The largest town in southeastern Oklahoma with a population of about 18,000, it is a regional hub for a number of other communities in the region.

“I think the way the chambers look at themselves today in a regional footprint, our members are not bound by city limits,” Warmuth said. “Communication is not bound by city limits. We can reach a lot of people in the surrounding 120-mile radius. It gives our community an opportunity to show off something great.”

As most folks in this part of the world know, the McAlester ProRodeo will be a true display of family-friendly entertainment mixed with world-class competition. Oklahoma is well known for its rodeo prowess, with world champions coming from all corners of the Sooner State.

As part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the event will feature the very best in the game, including the team from Hi Lo ProRodeo, the fastest growing rodeo company in the United States. In fact, the McAlester ProRodeo is the brainchild of Dustin Murray, a former PRCA bareback rider who now serves as the Hi Lo ProRodeo general manager.

“Dustin brought it to our attention, and we really weren’t looking for an event of this scale at the time,” Warmuth said. “The Chamber of Commerce has a history of helping put on the prison rodeo in McAlester. The last prison rodeo was in 2009, but the chamber had been involved for many years.

“By bringing up the idea of having another rodeo in McAlester, it brought up the memories of what the chamber had with those prison rodeos, so we gravitated toward it. There are a lot of people excited for rodeo to come back to McAlester. This is the first step in bringing rodeo back to our community. We’re looking for capacity seating on both nights. We have good seating and excellent ticket prices, and we’re going to have great talent.”

That talent includes “Backflip” Johnny Dudley, an athletic former Marine who provides comic relief through both performances. As a barrelman and entertainer, he showcases a mixture of comedic acts and timing with his natural athleticism.

The McAlester ProRodeo will be a first-class operation. About 700 yards of dirt and 35 tons of portable rodeo arena will be taken into the expo center for the event. In addition, a video board will be in use to give fans that another viewpoint and to showcase replays of the runs, rides and antics that take place inside the building.

“We believe in Hi Lo productions,” Warmuth said. “We have a good feeling about them as an organization, and we’ve already demonstrated that we’re able to get sponsors excited about this event. We can see the future where this can be a three-day event for our community.

“We want to make sure the families are getting a lot of value out of the event. We have hopes about growing this rodeo into more days and more opportunities and growing that excitement in McAlester. Once it’s over, we want the community to be ready to buy tickets for the one next year.”

It’s been more than six years since Pittsburg County hosted a ProRodeo. The time is right for new beginnings.

postheadericon Tate Branch cowboys eager for 2016

Attitude says as much about a cowboy as any skill he might possess.

The rodeo trail is long and winding and features many obstacles and road blocks along the way. If allowed, one bad run can turn into another. Having a positive approach is vital in the game, and that’s why the top cowboys maintain a solid mental focus.

Clint Cooper

Clint Cooper

“Not making the finals this last year put me in a different position,” said Clint Cooper, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifying tie-down roper who grew up in Lovington, N.M. “To go back to Las Vegas and watch the finals from the stands was a little different. It has definitely served as a motivation for me.

“I think 2016 is going to be a big year, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Clint Cooper, who now lives in Decatur, Texas, is one of seven ProRodeo cowboys who are part of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team, joining his tie-down roping brother Clif and their legendary father, Roy; steer roper Marty Jones; saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy, a two-time world champion; and team roping twins Jake and Jim Ross Cooper.

All have ties to New Mexico, just like the auto group, which has dealerships in Carlsbad, Artesia and Hobbs. The Tate Branch relationship with the cowboys has been a major piece of the puzzle as they make their ways across North America chasing their gold buckle dreams. Having a reliable and dependable vehicle is just one aspect of what it takes to make it from one rodeo to the next.

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

“I learned a lot last year,” said header Jake Cooper of Monument, N.M., who earned his second NFR qualification in 2015. “With hard work and determination, you can reach your goals. I tried not to let anything bother me as much. If things went bad, I just tried to do my job.”

It worked pretty well. He added nearly $42,000 to his season earnings by making it to Las Vegas this past December, placing in two NFR go-rounds. That included a second-place finish on the final night of the 2015 season with partner Russell Cardoza.

“We caught in the ninth round, then made a nice run in the 10th round to leave there on a high note,” said Jake Cooper, who will begin the 2016 campaign by partnering with heeler York Gill. “It makes you a little hungrier. You’re hungry to do well when you’re not being successful. When you do have a little taste of success, it makes you want it a little bit more.”

Of course, it helps that Jake has a strong will to go with his talent.

“My dad is the ultimate positive guy,” Jake said of Jimmie Cooper, the 1981 all-around world champion and a member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. “I got a lot of that from him, and I always believe it’s going to turn around for the better.”

In addition to his two gold buckles, Muncy has now qualified for the finale eight times in the last nine years. The one year he missed the championship event was because of an injury. He has and will remain among the elite bronc riders in the game as long as he continues to compete.

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper

The same can be said about Jones and Clif Cooper. No 50, Jones has two NFR qualifications in tie-down roping on his resume, coming in 1992 and ’94. He also is a 14-time qualifier to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. He has remained among the leaders in steer roping for more than two decades.

Clif Cooper is a four-time NFR qualifier who has missed out on the finals each of the past two seasons. He knows how important it is to take a strong mental approach to the business of roping. That’s what has allowed Jim Ross Cooper to qualify for the finals five times.

“Talent trumps everything, but your attitude and work ethic and ambition matters a lot in this game,” said Jim Cooper, a heeler. “Joel (Bach) and I didn’t quite make it last year. I’m starting this year with a new partner, and I’m excited about that.”

He will begin the season with JoJo LeMond of Andrews, Texas, who finished the 2015 regular season 16th in the world standings. He was promoted to the NFR after seven-time world champion header Jake Barnes suffered a serious roping accident just days before the start of the 10-round finale.

“I’m excited about the year, especially getting to rope with JoJo,” Jim Cooper said. “He had a really good showing at the NFR, and he’s due to break out and show people the talent he has. I just want to be a consistent heeler for him and let him be the hero.”

That’s the attitude that makes these cowboys the best in the business.

postheadericon A true cowboy’s event

TOP ALL-AROUND HANDS TO BATTLE FOR CINCH TIMED EVENT CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

GUTHRIE, Okla. – There is one main reason the top 20 cowboys in the game look forward to the CINCH Timed Event Championship, set for March 6-8 at the Lazy E Arena.

“I think it’s the best event going,” said JoJo LeMond, a TEC regular from Andrews, Texas. “I think it’s a true cowboy’s event; a guy has got to be good at multiple courses and not just concerned with one event. Then there’s the consistency of it by running 25 head; a guy’s got to have patience to get through it.”

JoJo LeMond

JoJo LeMond

Dubbed the “Ironman of ProRodeo,” the CINCH Timed Event Championship features the 20 best all-around timed-event cowboys competing in all five timed-event disciplines: team roping-heading, team roping-heeling, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and steer roping. It’s a grueling test of ability, horsemanship, endurance and mental toughness.

“It shows who the more versatile cowboy is,” said Paul David Tierney, the 2014 TEC champion from Oral, S.D.; he also is a two-time runner-up. “It’s tough on your body, but you’ve got to be mentally tough to keep it all together.”

Paul David Tierney

Paul David Tierney

Tierney is one of just 12 men to have been crowned champion in the most unique event in rodeo. He follows in the footsteps of his father, four-time winner Paul Tierney, a ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee and two-time PRCA world champion.

“This is special to me because I’ve been here since I was born,” said the younger Tierney, 26. “I grew up watching it and cheering my dad on.”

This year’s field will feature the top two cowboys in the 2015 PRCA all-around standings: Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, and LeMond. Brazile earned his record 13th all-around gold buckle and sixth steer roping championship en route to his record 23rd world title; he qualified for the National Finals last season in steer roping, heading and tie-down roping.

“He is a top 15 contender in every event he chooses to be in,” LeMond said of Brazile, who owns a record seven TEC buckles.

Trevor Brazile

Trevor Brazile

LeMond earned his second straight trip to the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping, then competed at the NFR when seven-time world champion Jake Barnes suffered a serious accident while practicing just days before the finale began. LeMond was in contention for the heading world championship until the final go-round played. He won more than $117,000 in Las Vegas.

Still the West Texas cowboy credits the TEC with his two straight qualifications to the steer roping finals. “I don’t know that I would’ve ever tried any other events,” said LeMond, a four-time NFR qualifier in heading. “It was sure the guidance for a reserve world championship in the all-around. With Trevor going like he’s going, second is almost like winning first compared to that guy.”

Brazile is the reigning TEC champion, the first to earn more than $100,000 over the three days of the prestigious event; in 2015, the Lazy E doubled the winner’s earnings after years at $50,000. Brazile has earned more than $750,000 in career Timed Event earnings.

Besides Paul David Tierney, Brazile joins four other previous winners in this year’s field: K.C. Jones, a five-time winner from Burlington, Wyo.; Daniel Green (3) of Oakdale, Calif.; Kyle Lockett (2) of Visalia, Calif.; and Josh Peek (1) of Pueblo, Calif.

“The field is tough, maybe tougher than it’s ever been,” Tierney said. “They’ve got some new guys who are pretty versatile themselves.”

Like every cowboy who competes in the unique championship, there is a learning curve. Not only do they compete in all five disciplines, but they must handle all the various challenges that come their way throughout the five rounds of competition spread out over just three days in early March.

“Get a time every time you go, and don’t get in a hurry,” Tierney said. “There’s 25 head, so even if you have a problem, anything can happen as long as you keep your head.

“The name of the game is consistency and getting a time.”

He should know. Sometimes outlasting the competition in the CINCH TEC is making fewer mistakes than anyone else. It’s a much different mindset than usually occurs in rodeos all across this land, where the cowboys with the fastest times are the only ones to get paid. The key factor for those who cash in is being solid time after time and preparing for every situation that occurs.

“I think the grueling part of it physically is getting ready for it,” LeMond said. “After you’ve been there a few years and your body’s worn down, you’re kind of trained as to how to handle it.”

When it all comes together, there’s a reason the CINCH Timed Event Championship is called the “Ironman of ProRodeo.” It’s a true test of true cowboys, just the way it was meant to be when it was developed more than three decades ago.

Families will enjoy all of the activities planned for the performances. Back again in 2016, the Lazy E will host the Third Annual CINCH TEC Chuckwagon Cook-Off Competition starting Friday with final conclusion and meals open to the public for purchase Saturday afternoon.

Ticket prices are $45 for VIP, box seats $35, reserved bleachers $30 and general admission $25. Children 12 and under are free in general admission and VIP. Group and multiple performance discounts are also available. Reserved tables are NOW available in the Roper’s Cantina Suite. Contact us today. Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, www.lazye.com, calling Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000 or by calling the Lazy E Arena directly at (800) 595-RIDE.

The 2016 CINCH Timed Event Championship is sponsored by CINCH, Priefert Ranch & Rodeo Equipment, Montana Silversmiths, ABI Equine, Cavender’s, American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance, Nutrena, Bloomer Trailers, MacroAir, National Saddlery, Cross Bar Gallery, Ram Trucks, John Vance Motors, Western Horseman Magazine, Spin to Win Magazine, Guthrie CVB, Made In Oklahoma Coalition, Pendleton Whisky, Smarty Roping Dummies, CSI Saddlepads, Sherwin-Williams, the Best Western Edmond and the Fairfield Inn & Suites – Edmond.

The 2016 CINCH Timed Event Championship is a Lazy E Production. For more information on the CINCH Timed Event Championship or other Lazy E events, contact the Lazy E Arena, 9600 Lazy E Drive, Guthrie, OK  73044, (405) 282-RIDE, (800) 595-RIDE or visit www.lazye.com.

2016 Contestants
Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas
K.C. Jones, Burlington, Wyo.
Daniel Green, Oakdale, Calif.
Kyle Lockett, Visalia, Calif.
Paul David Tierney, Oral, S.D.
Josh Peek, Pueblo, Colo.
Russell Cardoza, Terrebonne, Ore.
Jess Tierney, Hermosa, S.D.
Clay Smith, Broken Bow, Okla.
JoJo LeMond, Andrews, Texas
Cade Swor, Chico, Texas
Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz.
Landon McClaugherty, Tilden, Texas
Clayton Hass, Terrell, Texas
Trell Etbauer, Goodwell, Okla.
Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, Mont.
Ryan Watkins, Bluff Dale, Texas
Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah
Dakota Kirchenschlager, Stephenville, Texas
Brodie Poppino, Big Cabin, Okla.