OKLAHOMA CITY – The nostalgia of rodeo in this city was a major motivator for the reigning world champion tie-down roper.
You see, Tuf Cooper wasn’t even born yet when his father, legendary roper Roy Cooper, won the first of eight ProRodeo world championships inside Jim Norick Arena during the 1976 National Finals Rodeo. Now this fabulous arena is home to another great championship, the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, and Tuf Cooper is glad to be part of it.
“Tonight was a special night for me because it was the first time that I’ve ever roped a calf in this arena, this historic arena,” said Cooper, 22, of Decatur, Texas, a four-time NFR qualifier himself. “This is the arena my dad won all his championship buckles in. This is the arena where he made a name for himself.”
Tuf Cooper is making his own name, from winning the coveted Montana Silversmiths gold buckle this past December, to tying down his calf in 9.0 seconds during the second performance of ProRodeo’s National Championship on Friday night. It was the fastest run of the night, but it is second best in the opening round – New Mexico roper Seth Hall was one-tenth of a second faster during Thursday’s opening performance and earned the lion’s share of the money, $4,515, while Cooper pocketed $3,428.
“It was special for me to come out here tonight and win the performance,” he said.
Roy Cooper was on hand to watch his youngest son compete Friday night, just 35 years after he sent notice to the rodeo world inside the State Fair Arena.
“He goes to a lot of the big ones, like this is one of them that is really hard to qualify for,” said Tuf Cooper, noting that this is just the second year the championship has taken place in the Sooner State after a 24-year reign in Pocatello, Idaho. “Once it moved to Oklahoma City, he really motivated me.
“We’re off to a good start, so we’ll pull our hats down and keep after it.”
Contestants qualify for this event by how well they did during the 2011 season in their respective regions. The year-end and circuit finals average winners in each event from the 12 ProRodeo regions qualify for the RNCFR. In order to make the logistics work, 12 competitors (or teams in team roping) compete in each of the four preliminary performances.
Each will compete in two go-rounds – the opening go-round was split between Thursday and Friday’s performances. The second round will be in the two shows, set for 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The top eight in the two-run aggregate qualify for the semifinals, which will kick-start the 1 p.m. Sunday performance.
“My friend, Shane Hanchey, and I were talking that this event is harder to qualify for than the NFR,” he said. “In calf roping, some say it’s tougher to win the Texas Circuit than it is to win the world championship. I won the world championship before I won the Texas Circuit.”