Athens Review, Athens, Texas

May 24, 2013

BRETT HOFFMAN: Walker, Cooper thrive at inaugural Champions Challenge

Brett Hoffman
The Athens Review

REDDING, Calif. — Two defending pro rodeo champions thrived at the inaugural Wrangler Champions Challenge.  

Mary Walker of Ennis, the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association’s 2012 world barrel racing champion, earned $4,000 with a winning time of 17.10 seconds.

Tuf Cooper of Decatur, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s 2012 tie-down roping champion, finished second with an 8.4 and he earned $3,000.

The Redding-based Wrangler Champions Challenge performance was the PRCA/WPRA’s newest effort to raise the profile of the sport’s most accomplished competitors. The May 18 performance featured 10 credentialed riders in each event and it was held in conjunction with Redding Rodeo.

Three-time National Finals qualifier Shane Hanchey clinched the tie-down roping title with an 8.3. The other winners were bareback rider Will Lowe (86 points), steer wrestler Bray Armes (4.4 seconds), team ropers Spencer Mitchell and Dugan Kelly (4.9 seconds), saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss (87.5 points) and bull rider Cole Echols (90 points).

Three more Wrangler Champions Challenge competitions are scheduled this year: Sept. 18 in Amarillo; Oct. 5 in Kissimmee, Fla.; and Oct. 31 in Winnie.

Death of a legend

Four-time world champion steer roper Shoat Webster died May 20 in Bartlesville, Okla. He was 88.

According to the PRCA, Webster won back-to-back steer roping gold buckles twice, in 1949-50, and again in 1954-55. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 as part of the inaugural class, and is one of only 11 steer ropers to be enshrined.

In addition to his four world titles, Webster finished runner-up in the world standings three times. He also won the Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Pendleton Roundup four times each.

“Back in his day, Shoat Webster was huge,” said rodeo announcer Justin McKee, in a statement issued by the PRCA. “In the rodeo towns that had steer roping like Cheyenne and Pendleton, there wasn’t a bigger celebrity in those towns than Shoat. He was the king; he was Elvis.

“What made him one of the best of all time is that he worked harder than everybody else,” said McKee, who grew up watching Webster rope, and later married Webster’s niece, Jeannie. “If you talk to anybody who was ever around him, they would tell you he was physically the toughest man they’d ever been around, and that would include any bull rider, bronc rider or bulldogger.”

Webster started roping at a young age, and competed at his first rodeo at 15. Although he was mostly known for his steer roping talents, Webster also competed in tie-down roping and steer wrestling, which led to numerous all-around titles along the way.

Webster retired from rodeo in 1989 at the age of 64, after 49 years of active competition.

In the money

Stran Smith, the 2008 world tie-down roping champion from Childress, won the May 15-18 Santa Rosa Roundup Rodeo in Vernon after turning in time of 8.7 seconds. He earned $1,598.

In bareback riding, three-time world champion Will Lowe of Canyon finished third after turning in a score of 80. Bill Tutor of Huntsville won the bareback riding title with an 83 aboard a bronc named Rustler, owned by the Beutler & Son Rodeo Co.

In team roping, Luke Brown, a 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo heading average winner, and Kollin VonAhn, the 2009 heeling world champion, won the title after turning in a 6.4.

In steer wrestling, Trell Etbauer clinched the title after turning a blistering time of 3.1 seconds. Etbauer, whose father Robert is a two-time world champion saddle bronc rider,  also finished fourth in tie-down roping and clinched the all-around title.    

The other champions were bull rider Nathan Klassen (81 points); saddle bronc rider Ty Atchison (83 points); and barrel racer Andrea Cline (17.25 seconds).

The Vernon rodeo was approved by the PRCA and the WPRA. The 2013 edition offered competitors $41,493.

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has written a rodeo column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the past quarter century. Email him at