GUYMON, Okla. – Ty Atchison is a rising star in rodeo, one of the top saddle bronc riders in the game.
He’s also the reigning title-holder of the Classic Events Championship, which had its inaugural run last spring. Atchison will try to defend his title starting at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena when he faces 20 other athletes in riding broncs and roping steers in the unique competition that tests the mettle of outstanding all-around cowboys.
“This is a great deal, and I’m excited to win it,” Atchison said last year.
The format is the brain child of Rick Furnish, the Hitch Ranch manager and owner of Bob’s Cowboy Bar & Rodeo Room.
“Steer roping and bronc riding are the two oldest events in rodeo, but there are timed-event guys and riding-event guys,” Furnish said. “You’ve never had a crossover where you had to rope so many and you had to ride so many in order to be the champion.”
The Classic Events Championship is part of Pioneer Days, the annual Guymon celebration. The competition will serve as a kickoff for the Pioneer Days Rodeo, which has four performances that take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 6; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 7; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3. In fact, most of the Classic Events competitors will stick around and be part of the rodeo.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the Classic Events Championship in the last year, and we’re glad that it’s part of the great rodeo competition in Guymon,” said Jim Quimby, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “We know this is the kind of event our fans will love to watch. It’s about being a great cowboy, and we have a lot of those around here.”
The concept is simple. Each contestant will rope and tie down two steers, a timed event where the fastest run wins. They will also ride two broncs, one a young colt and the other a seasoned bucking horse. There will be round winners and an aggregate in both events, and the overall winner will be based on how well they do both.
The field will feature numerous saddle bronc riding qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, like world champion Taos Muncy. But it will also feature outstanding all-round cowboys like Cody Taton, who won the NFR average in 2008, and Trell Etbauer, who has won each of the last three Linderman Awards, given to the contestant who best excels in both timed events and roughstock events.
“In my opinion, we don’t have a true all-around champion,” Furnish said. “I’ve known Trevor Brazile his whole life, and he’s the best roper I’ve ever seen. But he’s not the all-around champion cowboy, not until he can ride a bucking horse or bull.
“You can be the best roper in the world and the best rider, but you can’t be the all-around champion until you can do things at both ends of the arena.”
Brazile owns the record for most all-around world championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association with eight. But he’s strictly a timed-event cowboy, which opens the door to the top bronc riders in the game.
“I think it’ll be fun,” Etbauer said. “I’ll be here at the house anyway. Back in the day, everybody worked both ends of the arena, and now there aren’t very many people who do it.”
They will also compete in two go-rounds in each event – and they must make four attempts at competing in order to be eligible for the financial gains.
“If a guy wins the steer roping and doesn’t ride both broncs, then he doesn’t win anything,” Furnish said.
The field is chalk full of contestants who were part of the rodeo program at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, which is well known for its bronc riding legacy. Of the 21 contestants, 12 went to the Goodwell, Okla., college.
While Atchison won the event last spring, there was plenty of firepower in the average winners: six-time world champion Dan Mortensen and Cort Scheer. Mortensen came out of retirement to take part in the inaugural competition, and Scheer earned his first trip to the NFR last December. Just a month ago, he won $88,000 at RodeoHouston.
“It dang sure is a good time,” Scheer said. “I’ll keep going as long as they keep having it.”
2011 Classic Events Championship Contestants
Jesse James Kirby