LAS VEGAS – The increased money at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo came in handy for a couple of New Mexico cowboys competing in ProRodeo’s grand championship.
Saddle bronc rider Taos Muncy of Corona and team roping header Jake Cooper of Monument reeled in solid money during the 10-day championship that concluded in mid-December. The record $8.8 million purse made a significant difference in the dollar amounts paid out in Sin City, especially for Muncy and Cooper, two major pieces of the Tate Branch Auto Group “Riding for the Brand” team.
Muncy, a two-time world champion, placed in three go-rounds and finished seventh in the average race, which pays out an end-of-NFR bonus to the top cumulative times and scores over the course of the 10-day finale. In all, he earned $48,654 in competition and won the ninth go-round, which paid him more than $26,200 for that feat.
Each of the contestants also earned a $10,000 bonus for their NFR qualifications, so the Corona cowboy pocketed nearly $60,000 in Las Vegas. It all counted toward the final world standings, so Muncy finished the 2015 ProRodeo campaign with $157,307; that was good enough for seventh in the world standings.
Cooper, now a two-time NFR qualifier, picked up a big paycheck on the final night of the season when he and partner Russell Cardoza stopped the clock in 4.1 seconds to place second in the 10th round. That earned each cowboy an additional $20,731 – a year ago, go-round winners earned about $19,000, so the 2015 NFR payout was significantly greater.
It was a needed wrap-up to the Cooper-Cardoza NFR. The tandem hadn’t competed together any during the season, earning their qualifications with different partners. Cooper, who finished the year with $122,672, roped most of the season with Tyler McKnight, who finished 17th in the world standings and missed the NFR by two spots.
Cooper and Cardoza placed in two go-rounds – in addition to their 10th-round heroics, they also placed fourth in Round 6.
The better news is that the 2016 season is already under way, and next year’s NFR will be just as lucrative. That’s why the greatest in the world, especially those that are part of the “Riding for the Brand” team, will battle to be part of the championship next December.