Alma teen is ready to defend title

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Cooper Martin has a special place in his heart for the American Royal Invitational Youth Rodeo.

“Defending my American Royal title is like defending my national title,” said Nelson of Alma, Kan.

The last 12 months have been pretty special for the high school senior, who added two major titles to his already growing resume. Last September, the 17-year-old cowboy earned the American Royal title, one he will try to defend this week during the youth rodeo, set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and noon Wednesday-Friday at Hale Arena.

AmericanRoyalThis past July at the National High School Finals Rodeo, Martin won the tie-down roping title, beating a field that consisted of the very best cowboys from across the country. When he competes during his age division Wednesday afternoon, he will have that experience with him.

“It’s a great rodeo, for the kids that watch it, especially,” Martin said, referring to the students who enjoy the rodeo each day while part of field trips to tour the American Royal complex. “It’s just as good for the contestants, too.”

That’s just one of the reasons young rodeo athletes make their way to Kansas City every fall. The others are a chance to win one of the most prestigious events in which they can compete, to ride in the same arena as ProRodeo’s top stars and to play a game they love.

“The guys that work the hardest – those pros that are making a living at it and making the (National Finals Rodeo) – they’re doing what they love,” Martin said. “That’s why I work so hard. I put in all of my time into rodeo to where hopefully someday I can make it my job.”

How much time? He takes his high school courses online to leave him time to chase his dreams.

“It’s my life; it’s all I do,” said Martin, who will compete in the youth rodeo for the sixth straight year. “That’s why I take online classes so I can practice every day and go to more rodeos.”

It seems to be working, but so are the lessons that come with competing at a high level, whether through experiences or by enlisting assistance from quality trainers.

“I’ve had a lot of help from Roy Durfey, Junior Lewis and Monty Dyer; I would not be at the level I am without any of them,” he said. “I’ve also had a lot of help from my family. My mom and dad do everything they can to help me so that I have cattle in my practice pen and fuel in my tank.”

That’s a valuable tool for any competitor, but it’s especially nice for Martin. Neither of his parents – mom Candi and dad Chris – competed in rodeo, but they’ve been supportive for Cooper and his younger sister, Caxton, 13, who will compete in barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying during Thursday’s performance.

“My parents both grew up on ranches, and that’s what we do here,” he said. “When I started kindergarten, they told me I needed to choose a sport. I always rode horses and did stuff on horses, and that’s how I got started in rodeo. They took me to my first rodeo when I was in kindergarten, and I’ve been going ever since.”

Of course, adding another American Royal title would be a nice feather to add to his cowboy hat

“That’s a big win, and you want to be able to prove yourself that it was not an accident when you won the first time,” Martin said. “I want to prove myself over and over again.”

It looks like he won’t slow down any time soon.


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