Richmond Champion received lots of notoriety when he earned $1.1 million after winning the bareback riding title at the RFD-TVs The American on March 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Champion, who is from The Woodlands, said he was on a mission to earn his first berth in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“I’d hate to be the guy who won The American and didn’t make the NFR,” Champion said.
In other words, Champion wants to be remembered as a cowboy who can win consistently on a world class level. The American was a spectacular, lucrative single-performance rodeo, but not a PRCA event. To qualify for the National Finals, a cowboy might have to travel to 75 regular season PRCA-sanctioned rodeos.
To advance to the NFR, a rider must finish in the top 15 in a single event when the regular season ends Sept 30. Last year, Caleb Bennett qualified in the 15th slot in bareback riding after earning $67,497 in the regular season.
After winning the bareback title at the PRCA’s Dodge City Roundup Rodeo in Kansas last weekend and $5,191 in prize money, Champion is ranked No. 4 in the PRCA’s world bareback riding title race with $72,017, which should be more than enough to earn an NFR back number this season.
Champion, 21, said he isn’t slowing down.
“I don’t want to feel comfortable,” Champion said. “Half of my goal is making the National Finals, and the other half of my goal is winning the world championship this year. It’s a bit of relief to know that my first goal has been checked off. But I still have a lot that I want to accomplish in the next two months.
“And once I get to Vegas, I don’t want to speak of it as that I have it made. I have a lot I want to get done.”
When Champion won The American, he was a Tarleton junior agriculture major. He finished the spring semester and helped Tarleton’s finish second in the men’s team title race on June 21 at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo.
Champion said he does not plan to compete on the college circuit in the near future.
“I think I will take the year off from school and get other priorities in line,” he said.
Dodge City champions
Champion clinched the bareback riding title in Dodge City on Sunday, a week after winning the renowned Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming.
When the title was at stake in the final round in Dodge City, Champion turned in a score of 82. He clinched the title with a two-ride aggregate of 166, a point ahead of three-time NFR qualifier Tilden Hooper.
In steer wrestling, three cowboys tied for first, including two from North Texas. Bray Armes of Ponder and K.C. Jones of Decatur and Timmy Sparing shared the title after finishing with a three-ride aggregate time of 13.5 seconds.
Two-time world champion Patrick Smith of Lipan and his partner, Kaleb Driggers clinched the team roping title. Six-time world champion Cody Ohl of Hico won tie-down roping.
Other winners at the $308,467 rodeo were all-around cowboy Landon McClaugherty ($1,050 in team roping and steer roping), steer roper Tyrel Taton, barrel racer Christine Laughlin and bull rider J.W. Harris.
Hall of Famers
Byron Walker of Ennis, who won the PRCA’s steer wrestling title in 1981, will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday. Other former world champions who will enter the hall are Pete Grubb, Wayne Herman, Glen O’Neill.
Former world champion bronc Spring Fling and former world bullfighting champion Miles Hare also will be part of this year’s class.
The organizing committees from the Clovis (Calif.) Rodeo, Greeley (Colo.) Stampede, Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, Calif., and the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho, also will be inducted.