In recent years, Tuf Cooper has become famous for turning in blistering times in tie-down roping on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
The Weatherford cowboy has three gold buckles in the popular event. But this year, Cooper qualified for the National Finals in both steer roping and tie-down roping events for the first time.
Though he fell short in his attempts to win a world title in each of the two roping events, Cooper’s versatility helped him snare pro rodeo’s coveted world all-around title as the 59th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo concluded its 10-day run Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
After the dust settled, Cooper edged superstar cowboy Trevor Brazile of Decatur in the 2017 world all-around title race, $341,560 to $319,337.
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Other 2017 world champions were Marcos Costa of Childress, tie-down roping; Scott Snedecor of Fredericksburg, steer roping; Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, bareback riding; Tyler Pearson of Louisville, Miss., steer wrestling; Erich Rogers of Round Rock, Ariz., and Cory Petska of Marana, Ariz., team roping; Ryder Wright of Milford, Utah, saddle bronc riding; Nellie Miller of Cottonwood, Calif., barrel racing; and Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., bull riding.
For Cooper and Brazile, rodeo is a family affair. Brazile, who has a record 23 PRCA world titles, is Cooper’s brother-in-law. The two men have a friendly rivalry and often practice together.
After clinching the world all-around title, Cooper credited Brazile for helping him become a world all-around contender.
“I always wanted to be just a calf roper, but he pushed me to do more events,” Cooper said as he pointed out that Brazile helped him become a world class steer roper in addition to tie-down roping.
In order to win the all-around title, a competitor must win substantial prize money in two or more events. Some of the sport’s biggest stars such as Jim Shoulders (1950s), Larry Mahan (1960s and 1970s) and Ty Murray (1990s) became legendary mainly as the result of a record number of world all-around titles in their era.
Brazile has won a record 13 world all-around titles and it appeared he was on track to win another one this year. Brazile entered the National Finals ranked No. 1 in the world all-around race and Cooper was ranked No. 2. But in the latter part of the Dec. 7-16 NFR, Cooper rallied and moved to the No. 1 ranking.
Cooper also is walking in the boot steps of his legendary father, eight-time world champion Roy Cooper of Decatur. In 1983, the elder Cooper won the world all-around title and also lassoed world championships in tie-down roping and steer roping events.
This year, the younger Cooper finished second in the tie-down roping world title race and came in 12th in steer roping en route to winning his first world all-around title.
In the 2017 tie-down roping world race, Cooper was ranked No. 1 going into Saturday night’s 10th round. But Costa clinched the title after turning in a speedy time of 7.8. Cooper posted a so-so time of 11.0 after facing a calf that strained and was difficult to tie.
After all-that, Costa, a Brazilian native, clinched the world tie-down roping with $317,421 and Cooper finished runner-up with $301,983. Costa earned $195,519 throughout the NFR and received the coveted Wrangler Top Gun Award as the result of winning the most money throughout the Las Vegas championships in a single event.