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Cowboys to return to Lea County

Twisted Rodeo - Sat, 08/01/2015 - 10:27am

LOVINGTON, N.M. – There’s nothing in the world better than coming home.

That’s especially true for the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team of cowboys that make their living on the ProRodeo trail. For those that call southeastern New Mexico home, next week’s stop at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo is vital.

Jake Cooper

Jake Cooper

“For us, it’s seeing family and a bunch of friends and having a couple days off,” said Jake Cooper, the sixth-ranked header in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings from Monument. “More importantly, it’s getting some good home cooking. It’s been a long four weeks out here rodeoing.”

He is one of seven top cowboys who are part of the “Riding for the Brand” team, joining his twin brother, heeler Jim Ross Cooper; tie-down ropers Clint Cooper, Clif Cooper and their father, legend Roy Cooper; steer roper Marty Jones; and two-time saddle bronc riding world champion Taos Muncy. All are scheduled to be part of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.

For Jim, Jake, Clint and Jones, the rodeo in Lovington is about coming home. Clint Cooper grew up in Lovington and still loves the opportunity to return to his stomping grounds. The other three still claim their Lea County residences.

Marty Jones

Marty Jones

“For me, it’s just getting to go home every night after the rodeo,” said Jones, a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping qualifier from Hobbs. “That’s enjoyable. I love the Jake McClure Arena and always have.

“I’ve roped a lot of them in there. Maybe it’ll be good for me.”

It’s definitely been good for Clint Cooper, a five-time NFR qualifier. He’s won the tie-down roping twice and seen great success in Lovington, but that’s not the most important part of the week for him.

“It’s home, and that rodeo means going home and seeing all my family and friends and my grandma,” he said. “There’s so much family there that it’s important for me.”

He also knows the importance of tending to business. He sits 35th in the world standings, 20 spots away from that magical top 15 he needs in order to return to Las Vegas in December.

Clint Cooper

Clint Cooper

“It’s probably been one of the slowest years of my career so far,” Clint Cooper said. “I’ve got 40 rodeos left, so I’m going to still go to every one of them and see what happens.”

Though not so far down the list, Jim Cooper sits 22nd in the heeling standings and needs to have a solid final two months of the season if he is going to return to ProRodeo’s grand championship for the sixth time.

“My year started off slow, but things can snowball on you good and bad,” he said. “Right there in June, it got pretty good and snowballed the right way. You just do what you can do and see what happens.”

He’d like for the snowball to continue in Lea County.

“All these rodeos are important, but a guy has to look at the standpoint of one at a time,” Jim Cooper said. “But if anyone tells you that your hometown rodeo – that’s as good as Lovington – isn’t further up there on the list, then they’re crazy.

Jim Ross Cooper

Jim Ross Cooper

“When you’re that close to home and have that many people there that support you, you like to do well.”

Many of those supporters are involved with the Tate Branch Auto Group, which also is the presenting sponsor of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.

“Tate’s just a great guy,” Jim Cooper said. “He’s done wonderful at business, and he’s passed a few of those blessings to a few of us rodeo cowboys. Anytime you can have a person in your corner that can help you out in as many different ways as Mr. Tate – and just being a friend is important – you know you have something pretty special.

“We’re looking forward to an ongoing relationship with Tate and really appreciate all parts of it.”

That’s a sentiment shared by all the other “Riding for the Brand” cowboys.

“I appreciate Tate so much,” Jones said. “To have the opportunity to drive a pickup like that and him take care of us like that, it’s a very special deal.”

“Tate and I met in 2010,” Clint Cooper said. “He not only has been a great family friend, but how he’s helped me get up and down the road transportation-wise is amazing. Just what he’s done for our sport of rodeo is amazing. I’ve noticed a bunch of other junior rodeos and high school rodeos and others that he’s associated with, so it shows he supports rodeo.”

That support is paying off for the cowboys.

“It’s been a good season so far,” Jake Cooper said. “Part of us doing well is knowing your rig is reliable. We’ve gotten to all the rodeos safely and been able to compete. Financially, it’s a load off your mind, but so is having a reliable vehicle.”

Reliability is important in all aspects of life. For rodeo cowboys, having a reliable horse and relying on one’s own abilities helps pay the way and guide them to championships. It’s all part of the package for the Tate Branch Auto Group team.


The “Riding for the Brand” cowboys will be at the second annual Tate Branch Auto Group All RAM No Bull sale throughout the week in Lovington at the old Gibson building on the Hobbs Highway. They will be available for pictures and autographs, and will be interviewed on the 94.9 Country Giant morning radio show. The Country Giant will be doing its morning show Tuesday through Friday on site and the cowboys will be there for the show throughout the week to meet and greet their fans. 

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Categories: Twisted Rodeo

Skelton recovering with fast times

Twisted Rodeo - Fri, 07/31/2015 - 11:26pm

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton had a solid winter and were enjoying a nice spring.

As of the second week of May, they were both fifth in their respective team roping world standings, having earned $26,000. Things changed in a hurry.

Rich Skelton

Rich Skelton

Skelton, an eight-time world champion, suffered serious injuries May 15 when he was on the wrong end of a chain-reaction wreck near his Llano, Texas, home. A pickup pulling a livestock trailer slammed into a passenger vehicle, which crashed into the eight-time world champion’s tractor. Skelton and the driver of the passenger vehicle were airlifted to an Austin, Texas, hospital.

He returned to rodeo action in late June. On Friday night, he and Sartain stopped the clock in 5.3 seconds during the third performance of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. Combined with their 5.5-second first-round run, they lead the two-run aggregate heading into the final two days of Kansas’ richest rodeo.

“When I got hurt, I’d only been to 12 rodeos,” said Skelton, who, with Sartain, has pocketed more than $16,000 in a few weeks to move back up into the top 20 in the world standings. “We get to go to 75, so we’re playing catch-up.”

Nick Sartain

Nick Sartain

They’re doing it quite well in western Kansas. They are placing in both go-rounds with one day remaining in the preliminary rounds and will return for Sunday’s championship round. Skelton has claimed the coveted Roundup buckle two other times with world champion ropers Tee Woolman and Speed Williams; he’d like to add a third with Sartain.

“It’s been a good partnership,” Skelton said of heeling behind Sartain, the 2009 heading world champ. “We’ve struggled the past couple of weeks.

“Everything’s good, but we’re hoping this will get us kick-started and get us rolling.”

Just two months remain in ProRodeo’s regular season. Only the top 15 contestants in each event qualify for the year-end championship, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which takes place each December in Las Vegas. Doing well in Dodge City will be a great momentum boost. He’d love to return to the Nevada desert for the 22nd time in his storied career.

“I’m pretty fortunate to rope with Nick,” said Skelton, who won all of his gold buckles roping with Williams from 1997-2004. “When I was roping with Speedy, Nick used to come down and practice with us. He knows how I like steers handled, and he’s worked at handling steers like Speed.

“That’s one of the reasons we wanted to rope together.”

It’s working in Dodge City.

Dodge City Roundup Rodeo
Dodge City, Kan.
July 29-Aug. 2
Bareback riding leaders:
1. Matt Bright, 83 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Showdown; 2. Kash Wilson, 80; 3. (tie) Tanner Aus and Seth Hardwick, 78; 5. (tie) Colt Kitaif and Frank Morton, 76; 7. Clint Cannon, 75; 8. Kyle Charley, 74; 9. (tie) Clayton Jon Biglow, Trenton Montero and Will Lowe, 71 each; 12. Casey Breuer, 66.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Ryan Swayze, 3.8; 2. (tie) Rowdy Parrott and Ricky Riley, 3.9 seconds; 4. Kyle Irwin, 4.1; 5. (tie) Logan Rudd and Ryan Bothum, 4.3; 7. (tie) Orrin Fontenot, Jule Hazen, Stockton Graves, Cody Pratt and Stewart Gullager, 4.4. Second round leaders: 1. Kyle Whitaker, 3.3 seconds; 2. Jason Lahr, 3.5; 3. (tie) Levi Rudd, Tyler Waguespack and Wade Suptmer, 3.6; 6. (tie) Matt Reeves and Josh Clark, 3.8; 8. (tie) Matt Uttermark and J.D. Struxness, 4.0. Average leaders: 1. Tyler Waguespack, 8.2 seconds on two runs; 2. Rowdy Parrott, 8.3; 3. Kyle Irwin, 8.4; 4. Stockton Graves, 8.7; 5. Ryan Swayze, 8.8; 6. J.D. Struxness, 9.0; 7. Orrin Fontenot, 9.2; 8. Seth Brockman, 9.3; 9. Bray Armes, 9.5; 10. Ryan Bothum, 9.8; 11. Clay Mindemann, 9.9; Wade Sumpter, 10.1.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Chad Masters/Travis Graves, 4.4 seconds; 2. Colt Fisher/Corey Hendrick, 4.7; 3. Derrick Begay/Clay O’Brien Cooper, 4.9; 4. Travis Tryan/Jett Hillman, 5.2; 5. Monty Wood/Boogie Ray, 5.3; 6. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 5.5; 7. David Key/Martin Lucero, 5.6; 8. Dylan Gordon/Gage Williams, 5.9. Second round leaders: 1. Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, 4.7 seconds; 2. Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, 5.1; 3. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 5.3; 4. Doyle Hoskins/Wyatt Cox, 5.4; 5. Colby Lovell/Kory Koontz, 5.8; 6. David Key/Martin Lucero, 6.0; 7. (tie) J.D. Yates/Trey Yates and Nick Becker/Toby Mentzer, 6.3. Average leaders: 1. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 10.8 seconds on two runs; 2. Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, 11.5; 3. David Key/Martin Lucero, 11.6; 4. Doyle Hoskins/Wyatt Cox, 11.7; 5. (tie) Derrick Begay/Clay O’Brien Cooper and Chad Masters/Travis Graves, 11.8; 7. J.D. Yates/Trey Yates, 12.6; 8. Troy Boone/Dawson McMaster, 12.9; 8. Nick Becker/Toby Mentzer, 13.9; 10. Jered Hunter/Trew Cates, 15.1; 11. Colt Fisher/Corey Hendrick, 15.5; 12. Colby Lovell/Kory Koontz, 15.5.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Rusty Wright, 81 points on Harry Vold Rodeo’s Jerry’s Delight; 2. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Cody Wright and Chad Ferley, 80; 5. Will Smith, 79; 6. Tyrel Larsen, 78; 7. Taos Muncy, 77; 8. (tie) Spencer Wright and Dalton Davis, 76; 10. (tie) Doug Aldridge, Taygen Schuelke and Dawson Jandreau, 75.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Stran Smith, 8.2 seconds; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.8; 3. (tie) Blair Burk and Landyn Duncan, 8.9; 5. (tie) Justin Maass and Monty Lewis, 9.0; 7. Tanner Stec and Rhett Ridling, 9.3. Second round leaders: 1. Cody Ohl, 7.7 seconds; 2. Tyson Durfey, 8.0; 3. 3. Cole Bailey, 8.1; 4. Tyler Milligan, 8.5 seconds; 5. (tie) Trent Creager, Dennis Luetge and Stran Smith, 8.6; 8. Caleb Smidt, 9.0. Average leaders: 1. Stran Smith, 16.8 seconds on two runs; 2. Caleb Smidt, 17.8; 3. Blair Burk, 18.6; 4. Justin Maass, 18.7; 5. Timber Moore, 18.8; 6. GlennJackson Glasper, 19.6; 7. Landyn Duncan, 19.9; 8. Trent Creager, 20.3; 9. Tanner Stec, 20.7; 10. Quay Howard, 21.3; 11. Jesse Clark, 21.5; 12. Dennis Luetge, 24.1.

Barrel racing: First round leaders: 1. Kelley Schnaufer, 17.09 seconds; 2. Jackie Ganter, 17.10; 3. Abby Searcy, 17.20; 4. Sarah Rose McDonald, 17.23; 5. Tillar Murray, 17.26; 6. (tie) Laura Lambert, Mary Burger and Meghan Johnson, 17.28, 17.28; 9. Christine Laughlin, 17.34; 10. Catherine Asmussen, 17.35. Second round leaders: 1. Tillar Murray, 17.02 seconds; 2. Sarah Rose McDonald, 17.06; 3. Carley Richardson, 17.06; 4. Laura Kennedy, 17.07; 5. Kelley Schnaufer, 17.11; 6. Bailee Snow, 17.15; 7. Stevi Hillman, 17.16; 8. Calyssa Thomas, 17.17; 9. Christy Loflin, 17.18; 10. Abby Searcy, 17.22. Average leaders: 1. Kelley Schnaufer, 34.20 seconds on two runs; 2. Tillar Murray, 34.28; 3. Sarah Rose McDonald, 34.29; 4. Abby Searcy, 34.42; 5. Jackie Ganter, 34.51; 6. Meghan Johnson, 34.52; 7. Carley Richaardson, 34.53; 8. Mary Burger, 34.57; 9. Stevi Hillman, 34.61; 10. Kim Couch, 34.62; 11. Victoria Williams, 34.67; 12. Ivy Hurtst, 34.73.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Scottie Knapp, 89 points on 4L and Diamond S Rodeo’s Spanish Moss; 2. Aaron Pass, 88; 3. Rocky McDonald, 86; 4. Trevor Kastner, 85; 5. Tanner Bothwell, 84; 6. Hondo Flores, 83; 8. Zeb Lanham, 82; 8. (tie) Trenton Montero and Caleb Sanderson, 81; 10. Cole Echols, 80; 11. Sage Kimzey, 77; 12. Joe Frost, 76.

Categories: Twisted Rodeo


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