Predicting the outcome of any event at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) can be an impossible task. Consider that there are ten go rounds of competition and each one is packed with the luck of the draw, the horse a cowboy is riding and his own mental preparation and it's easy to see why predictions can be shown wrong within a few go rounds.
That being said, experts and fans alike seem to have one common though when it comes to the tie down roping at the 2013 WNFR which begins today, December 5.
That thought? Tuf Cooper.
The two-time reigning World Champion holds the largest lead of any event coming into the Finals at just over $37,000 and he has been incredibly efficient inside the Thomas & Mack in his previous five trips here including winning the average back in 2009.
One cowboy who is agreeing with the rest of the world is Jerome Schneeberger. The Oklahoma talent has been to Vegas 11 times in his career and won better than $1.5 million. Though he doesn't travel near as much these days, Schneeberger still finished inside the top 40 this season.
"Staying busy, roping very little . . . just working," he says of life after a full-time rodeo career. "I've been there, done that and I've enjoyed it, the time that I was out there but I'm just going to stay closer to home, rodeo a little bit."
As for this year's race, he thinks Cooper will be tough to get by.
"Tuf's been really tough out there the last couple of years. Last year, he looked like he was in a league of his own," he says. Cooper won over $108,000 at the 2012 WNFR. "I don't see any different this year. There is a lot of tough guys out there but he ropes really well."
"Anything can happen and it's anybody's game . . . I guess whoever gets hot," he laughs. He notes that you need a good horse to have a chance as well. "You hope your horse will keep running because it's such a short pen. The crowd's right on top of you and you darn sure need a good horse."
"Things need to go your way for ten days."
"The rounds are always tough. You think, shoot just go tie ten of them down but it's easier said than done," he says of shooting for an average win.Schneeberger claimed the average win in 2001.
When the discussion comes down to the four WNFR rookies, Schneeberger talks about the 2013 Rookie of the Year, Caleb Smidt who has qualified to the Finals in his first year as a card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
"He is tough. Last year he won a bunch on his permit, set all kinds of records," Schneeberger says. "It was almost a shoe-in that he would be there at the Finals. He does rope good."
Just being in Vegas can depend almost as much on luck as skill says Schneeberger.
"There are some guys that aren't there that are roping suckers, things just didn't go their way this year," he notes of the fact only six 2012 WNFR cowboys have qualified again in 2013. Amongst the returning cowboys are five time World Champ Cody Ohl and perennial qualifiers Justin Maass and Shane Hanchey as well as Cooper's brother Clif.
The 2013 WNFR runs Dec. 5-14. Great American Country carries the live television coverage while Pro Rodeo Live (available on-line or on SiriusXM's Rural Radio Channel 80) provides play-by-play radio coverage.
PRCA Tie Down Roping
2013 Standings Leader: Tuf Cooper, $135,164
WNFR Rookies (4): Sterling Smith, Caleb Schmidt*, Stetson Vest and Randall Carlisle
*Schmidt is the 2013 Tie Down Roping Rookie of the Year
PRCA World Championships in tie down roping (10): Cody Ohl (5), Trevor Brazile (3) and Cooper (2)
PRCA All Around Champions competing in 2013 tie down roping (11): Brazile (10, 2002-2004 and 2006-2012), Ohl (2001) and Ryan Jarrett (2005)
WNFR average winners amongst 2013 field (6): Ohl (3, 1998, 2006-07), Cooper (2009), Brazile (2010) and Jarrett (2005)
WNFR qualifications (85): Ohl (19), Brazile (14), Scott Kormos, Justin Maass and Jarrett (8 each), Cooper and Tyson Durfey (6 each), Clif Cooper and Shane Hanchey (4 each), Timber Moore and and Shane Slack (2 each)
Career Earnings (Tie Down Roping Millionaires through 12/31/12):
1. Trevor Brazile $4.599 million (tie down roping, steer roping and team roping)
3. Cody Ohl, $3.111 million
57. Ryan Jarrett, $1.301 million (tie down roping and steer wrestling)
64. Justin Maas, $1.221 million
AQHA/PRCA Tie Down Roping Horses of the Year
1. Big Smokin Wonder (Pearl), owner Sid Miller, ridden by Cody Ohl
2. Okies Interception (Muenster), owner Mark Thiel
3. Big Smokin Otoe (Topaz), owner Circle Star Land & Cattle
WNFR Tie Down Roping Records
Most Money Won at WNFR: Cody Ohl, 2006, $132,652
Fast Time: Cody Ohl, 6.5 seconds, 2003
Average Fast Time: Fred Whitfield, 84.0 seconds on 10 head, 1997
Most Averages Won: Joe Beaver, Olin Young, Roy Cooper and Fred Whitfield (4 each)
Go Round Wins: Cody Ohl, 44 (Ohl has 47 total round wins including steer roping)
Most Round Wins in a Single Year (5): Dave Brock (1978) and Cody Ohl (2001)