LAS VEGAS – Between them, Clint Cooper, Jim Ross Cooper and Taos Muncy make up 17 qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and two world championships.
They also serve as a great reminder of the outstanding talent that was raised on rodeo in New Mexico. Not only are they some of the best homegrown cowboys New Mexico has to offer, they’re three of the greatest cowboys in the game and all are “Riding for the Brand” for the Tate Branch Auto Group.
“Tate Branch has been huge for me in my rodeo career,” said Clint Cooper, a tie-down roper raised in Lovington. “This is how I make a living, and he supports me so much. Our relationship is great. What he gives back, not only to the community there in Lea County, but to the sport of rodeo and to the high school kids is just incredible.
“I’m just amazed at how much Tate Branch does for the community and for rodeo.”
The Tate Branch Auto Group has dealerships in the southeastern New Mexico communities of Artesia, Carlsbad and Hobbs, the latter of which is in Lea County, the home turf for both Coopers. While Clint grew up in Lovington, Jim Ross was born and raised near Monument.
Both come from a storied rodeo family: Clint is the son of Roy Cooper, an eight time world champion and ProRodeo Hall of Famer; Jim Ross is the son of Jimmie Cooper, a three-time titlist and hall-of-fame inductee. The Cooper clan has exceptional New Mexico rodeo roots.
“New Mexico is where I grew up,” said Clint Cooper, a five-time NFR qualifier now living in Decatur, Texas. “That’s where I learned to rope with my dad and my grandpa, Tuffy. Being part of New Mexico with Tate Branch means everything to me. Lea County is my roots.”
Those are the roots for Jim Ross Cooper, a five-time NFR qualifier as a header. He earned his first trip to the NFR in 2007 with his twin brother, Jake. He has since returned with heelers Brandon Beers (2011, 2013 and 2014) and Charly Crawford (2012).
Jim Ross Cooper and Beers go to Las Vegas ranked seventh in the world standings; it’s the highest ranking prior to the NFR in their history together.
Clint Cooper finished the regular season 10th in the world standings, while Muncy, a two-time world champion from Corona, N.M., is the No. 1 saddle bronc rider in the game. He owns gold buckles he earned in 2007 and 2011.
“It’s hard to believe this is my seventh time,” said Muncy, who, in the first year he won the world title, became just the third cowboy in the history of the game to have won the college title and the gold buckle in the same event the same calendar year; Muncy, as a sophomore at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, won the bronc riding title at the College National Finals Rodeo that June.
“It seems like I was just going to the first one the other day. I love what I get to do. It doesn’t matter how many times you get to go, it’s always special going to the NFR.”
It also is special that Muncy carries the New Mexico flag into the Thomas & Mack Center during the grand opening.
“It’s a real big deal that I get to represent New Mexico,” he said. “I get to see all parts of the world getting to rodeo, but I’m always thankful to come back here to home.”
That home includes a touch of Tate Branch Auto Group.
“I was real fortunate to meet Tate and his wife,” Muncy said. “They show their support year round. We really haven’t had that in New Mexico in the last few years. I’m glad they’re recognizing the sport of rodeo.”