Wade Sumpter’s goal, as it always is, was to qualify for the 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and battle for the steer wrestling world championship.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, the Fowler, Colo., cowboy finished in 17th place, just $2,700 out of his fifth qualification by finishing in the top 15 in the world standings at the conclusion of the regular season.
“It’s disappointing because it’s what we do for a living,” Sumpter said. “I’ve been pretty fortunate in past years to slip in there. I’m alright with it. I just didn’t bulldog well enough there at the end.”
Sumpter travels with Ethen Thouvenell, Billy Bugenig and Seth Brockman, all of whom had qualified for the Justin Boots Championships the final weekend of the season in Omaha, Neb. Sumpter didn’t make that field, but like and Brockman, he was on the bubble for the NFR.
The Omaha rodeo offered the biggest prize pool of any events that time of year, but there were plenty of other rodeos taking place that final weekend. Sumpter could’ve gone to any number of them but instead worked his schedule so he could be in Omaha with his traveling partners.
Let’s also throw out the fact that Sumpter and Bugenig are co-owners of Wick, the reigning two-time PRCA/AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year. When you have a great equine partner, other bulldoggers see that. But Sumpter also has a pretty fair backup horse that works great for some cowboys, like Brockman.
“I hauled my gray horse for Seth to ride, and Billy and Ethen rode Wick,” Sumpter said. “I had entered enough other rodeos so I could go to Omaha instead of going to California and all those rodeos out there that weekend.”
The result was Brockman moving into the top 15 and Sumpter moving out. That’s the nature of the bulldogging beast. Is Sumpter frustrated by that twist of fate, where basically he dived onto the grenade in order to allow Brockman into the field?
“It’s business,” he said. “I rodeo with those guys all year, and it’s nice to see those guys do well. It’s pretty exciting to see those guys get in their.
“It’ll be fun to see.”
But make no mistake, Sumpter is in the rodeo business, not the mounting business. Although he makes a percentage of what is made by Bugenig and Brockman in Las Vegas, Sumpter would rather be there for himself.
“We’ve got a four-man crew, and that’s who I go with,” he said. “I don’t hardly mount anybody out unless they’re in a bind. Not many other people ride Wick. Besides, it pays a lot better for me to win my own money than just a percentage.
“I’ve been real fortunate that our main income is rodeo. When you can do that, you live a pretty lucky life.”