Cooper captures first all-around title; Former Decatur resident jumps Brazile for crown

By Brett Hoffman | Published Wednesday, December 20, 2017

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Tuf Cooper has become famous for turning in blistering times in tie-down roping on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit in recent years.

The former Decatur resident who lives in Weatherford has earned three gold buckles in the popular event. Cooper qualified for the National Finals in both steer roping and tie-down roping events for the first time this year.

Cooper fell short in his attempt to win world titles in the two events, but his versatility helped him snare pro rodeo’s coveted world all-around title at the 59th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Cooper edged out superstar cowboy Trevor Brazile of Decatur $341,560 to $319,337.

Marcos Costa of Childress clinched the tie-down roping title.

Other world champions were Scott Snedecor of Fredericksburg, steer roping; Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, bareback riding; Tyler Pearson of Louisville, Miss., steer wrestling; Erich Rogers of Round Rock, Ariz., and Cory Petska of Marana, Ariz., team roping; Ryder Wright of Milford, Utah, saddle bronc riding; Nellie Miller of Cottonwood, Calif., barrel racing; and Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., bull riding.

For Cooper and Brazile, rodeo is a family affair.

Brazile, who has a record 23 PRCA world titles, is Cooper’s brother-in-law. Brazile’s wife, Shada, a former NFR barrel racing qualifier, is Cooper’s sister. The two men have a friendly rivalry and often practice together.

After clinching the all-around title, Cooper credited Brazile for helping him become a contender for the crown.

“I always wanted to be just a calf roper, but he pushed me to do more events,” Cooper said.

Brazile responded: “I think our sport has a great all-around world champion. I want somebody wearing that buckle that I want my kids to look up to, and that’s definitely the case right now.”

To win the all-around title, a competitor must earn substantial prize money in two or more events. Some of the sport’s biggest stars such as Jim Shoulders (1950s), Larry Mahan (1960s and 1970s) and Ty Murray (1990s) became legendary as the result of winning a record number of world all-around titles.

Brazile has won a record 13 world all-around titles. It appeared he was on track to win another one this year. Brazile entered the National Finals ranked No. 1, and Cooper was second. But in the latter part of the 10-day NFR, Cooper rallied and moved to the top.

Cooper follows in the footsteps of his father, Roy, an eight-time world champion. In 1983, the elder Cooper won the world all-around title and also lassoed championships in tie-down and steer roping.

This year, the younger Cooper finished second in tie-down roping and 12th in steer roping en route to winning his first all-around title.

“This is the best title and the best buckle you can win in rodeo,” Cooper said. “Trevor really created this award by winning it all those times. I just grew up as a kid who wanted to rope calves like my dad and brother-in-law. They both have won the all-around, and now I have one, too. This one feels different than the three tie-down roping gold buckles I have because this one says, ‘Cowboy,’ on it.”

Cooper is a grandson of Clifton Smith of Childress, who qualified for the National Finals in tie-down roping in 1960 and 1962.

In the 2017 tie-down roping race, Cooper led going into Saturday night’s final round. But Costa clinched the title after turning in a speedy time of 7.8. Cooper posted a time of 11.0 after facing a calf that strained and was difficult to tie.

Costa clinched the tie-down roping with $317,421. Cooper finished runner-up with $301,983.

Costa earned $195,519 throughout the NFR and received the coveted Wrangler Top Gun Award for winning the most money throughout the Las Vegas championships in a single event.

Costa, a native of Brazil, has lived in Childress while competing on the PRCA circuit. Costa has been mentored by 2008 tie-down roping world champion Stran Smith, who he met at a roping school in Brazil. Smith helped the Brazilian move to the United States and showed him how to effectively compete on the PRCA circuit.

Costa learned well. He has qualified for the NFR the past three years.

“This is a blessing to be a world champion,” Costa said. “Thank you God. I give all the credit to Him. He surrounded me with a lot of great people since I was a little kid. I didn’t have much growing up, and Stran went down to Brazil, found me and brought me here. Stran taught me almost everything about roping here [in the PRCA]. I’m happy to be here. God is great to me.”

Smith said Costa came to the NFR with a great hunger to win.

“He came out here this year with a very defined goal,” Smith said of Costa. “He wanted to rope 10 calves and never back off from the first go-round to the 10th go-round.”

In bareback riding, O’Connell clinched both the aggregate/average title and the world title. O’Connell earned $169,499 at the NFR and $371,415 for the year.

O’Connell won the Fort Worth Stock Show bareback riding title in February.

Richmond Champion, a former Tarleton student from The Woodlands, finished second in the bareback with $268,511 after earning $167,314 throughout the NFR. Champion finished second in the average.

The steer wrestling title race was close. Tyler Pearson clinched it after pocketing $155,538 at the NFR and finishing the year with $265,457. Ty Erickson of Helena, Mont., finished second with $263,267, earning $100,115 at the NFR.

The saddle bronc race also had a close finish. Wright, a 19-year-old cowboy, earned $185,576 at the NFR and clinched the title after earning $284,938 in 2017. Brody Cress of Hillsdale, Wyo., finished second with $282,286. Cress, who won the NFR average title, was the only saddle bronc rider who made a qualified ride on all 10 broncs at the NFR.

Cress is also a collegiate rodeo star at Tarleton, where he is working on an agriculture degree. Cress currently is ranked No. 1 in saddle bronc riding in the 2017-2018 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Southwest Region.

In team roping, Rogers and Petska clinched the world title after each earned $131,705 at the NFR. Kaleb Driggers of Hoboken, Ga., and Junior Nogueira, a Brazilian who lives in Burleson, finished second.

In barrel racing, Miller won the average, which was a $67,269 paycheck, on her way to winning the world title in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. Miller clinched the world title after earning $177,961 at the NFR and $308,498 throughout 2017.

Hailey Kensil of Cotulla finished runner-up with $288,091 after earning $189,384 at the NFR.

Tiany Schuster of Krum, who entered the NFR ranked No. 1 in the world standings, finished third. Schuster earned $34,961 at the NFR and finished the year with $285,339.

In bull riding, Kimzey clinched his fourth consecutive PRCA title. Kimzey pocketed $192,124 at the NFR, the second highest of all competitors. After faring well at the NFR, Kimzey finished the year with $436,479.

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has reported on rodeos for more than three decades for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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