DODGE CITY – Clay O’Brien Cooper owns seven world championships and has competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 26 times in a career that began 35 years ago.
He also owns four ruby-filled buckles as champion of Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, his most recent coming a year ago. They fit quite nicely with Cooper’s ample trophy case, but he’s not yet done chasing his rodeo dreams and the titles that come with them. That’s why he’ll be one of nine of ProRodeo’s greatest stars defending their titles at this year’s event, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31-Sunday, Aug. 4, at Roundup Arena.
“It was a pretty significant win for us because it’s a very good paying rodeo,” said Cooper, a heeler from Stephenville, Texas, who roped last season with eventual world champion header Chad Masters of Clarksville, Tenn. “It provided us with enough money to clinch the finals for us. It was also a tour rodeo, which gave us points that we were able to capitalize on at the end of the year because of the tour bonus, which also counted toward the NFR and the world championship points.”
The money is a big reason cowboys make Dodge City a destination point each season, but there are many others. Roundup offers the largest purse of any rodeo in Kansas, and it’s one of four in the Sunflower State that week. There’s also great hospitality, which is a western Kansas staple.
“They make an effort to put on one of the best rodeos of the summer,” said Cooper, who finished No. 2 in the world standings last season, pocketing $6,770 in Dodge City. “It’s not only prize money-wise, but just the way they treat the cowboys. I’ve been going there for years and years. I enjoy that time of year, and Dodge City is one of the best rodeos in the country.
“That’s a big weekend, and Dodge City is the biggest one of the weekend. That’s the one where you want to do good.”
He and Masters shared the distinction of Roundup champions with all-around champion Cody DeMoss of Heflin, La.; bareback rider Steven Dent of Mullen, Neb.; steer wrestler Billy Bugenig of Ferndale, Calif.; saddle bronc rider Chuck Schmidt of Keldron, S.D.; tie-down roper Justin Maass of Giddings, Texas; barrel racer Kaley Bass of Kissimmee, Fla.; and bull rider Trey Benton II of Rock Island, Texas.
“It’s pretty cool if anybody can beat Trevor Brazile out of anything,” DeMoss said, referring to the 17-time world champion who owns 10 all-around gold buckles. “The all-around, I think is a prestigious deal anywhere you go, and I’m just happy to have one from Dodge City.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s an old historical rodeo and will probably be around forever. Whenever you can tell your kids and your grandkids that you won the all-around title at Dodge City, it’s pretty cool.”
DeMoss is best known for saddle bronc riding, for which he is a nine-time qualifier to the NFR, ProRodeo’s grand finale. But he won most of his money ($2,192) by placing second in the second round of team roping while partnering with header Kaleb Driggers of Albany, Ga. He earned the remainder of his $4,041 riding broncs, where he finished fourth overall.
“I like the fact that it’s got some history there,” DeMoss said. “It’s an old cowboy town.”
Like Cooper, this wasn’t his first Roundup buckle. In fact, DeMoss won the 2010 bronc riding crown when he scored a Roundup Arena-record 92-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Medicine Woman. Owning multiple Dodge City titles looks good on a resume and gives contestants an advantage as they close out each season the end of September.
“Dodge City is one of my favorite rodeos of the year,” said Maass, who rode into Las Vegas as the No. 1 tie-down roper in the world before finishing second at the NFR’s conclusion. “That’s the second time I’ve been fortunate to win it. Being a tour rodeo and with that much money, it’s pretty important to win for us.
“It’s one of the premier rodeo’s we’ve got and one with the best traditions. It’s a pretty special one to win.”
Now it’s time to add a third title to his resume.
“That rodeo’s been good to me over the years; I’ve won quite a bit at it,” Maass said. “I’m not sure if it’s that rodeo or that setup fits my style or what, but I like it. I think I’ve won the first round six or seven times; that’s a pretty good percentage.
“I’ll keep going back as long as I’m rodeoing.”
So will hundreds of others who are part of ProRodeo’s elite status.