Brothers Tuf and Clif Cooper took turns winning rounds during the first half of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The strength and conditioning of the Decatur cowboys seemed to put them a step ahead of the competition as they combined to win three of the first four rounds in tie-down roping during the 10-night event at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.After 22-year-old Tuf won the opening round last Thursday with a 7.4 second run, Clif, 24, responded Friday night with a first place finish while clocking a 7.3. Tuf tied for second that night with a 7.5 second run.
“I put a lot of work and effort coming into this year’s NFR and feel better than ever that I’m ready for this week,” Clif said.
Tuf took first place again during the fourth round on Sunday with a time of 7.8 seconds.
“I forgot how good (my horse) Roanie is,” Tuf said after winning the fourth round. “I left too early coming across the line, so I slowed down hard to readjust and let the calf get out. Most horses, when you pick up and idle like that, rear up. Roanie slows down and stays low to the ground, so she helps me out a lot.”
Tuf’s top times have gone a long way toward putting his goal of a second consecutive tie-down roping world championship in sight.
After entering the WNFR about $20,000 behind first place Justin Maass, Tuf has pulled into first, more than $5,000 ahead at the halfway point. The two have taken turns in first throughout the event.
Tuf is also first place in average, with Maass sitting at sixth.
Clif, who didn’t qualify for the WNFR until the final run in the final night of the regular season, has climbed from 15th place into the top 10 in the world rankings.