CHEYENNE, Wyo. — July 29, 2018 — It’s been 86 years since a saddle bronc rider won back-to-back championships at Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD), but local favorite Brody Cress was not intimidated by history.
The 22-year-old from nearby Hillsdale won his hometown rodeo in 2017, an accomplishment that fueled the rest of his season and helped him win his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo championship last December. Cress is sponsored by CFD and proudly wears the legendary rodeo’s iconic arrowhead logo on his chaps and his shirts. “There’s no other rodeo I’d want to represent,” he said.
Last year he came into Championship Sunday in second place and had to ride two broncs after being awarded a re-ride. He won the title by half a point. This year he came in with the overall lead and had to wait on Texan Wyatt Casper’s re-ride to see if his lead would hold for his second, record-setting CFD Championship. The crowd of 12,401 erupted with cheers and were on their feet when Cress took his victory lap around the arena.
The biggest money winner at the 122nd “Daddy of ‘em All” was steer wrestler Levi Rudd. The Chelsea, Oklahoma, cowboy earned $21,396. When the day began he had already collected more than $11,000 in the first and second rounds. He added nearly $900 for fourth place in the final round and about $9,500 for winning the overall championship by 1.1 second.
Rudd had competed at CFD twice in the past but had never done well. “I was happy after I won the first round since I’d never done any good here,” he said. Rudd started the week ranked 50th in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) steer wrestling standings. He more than doubled his season earnings after his win here and jumped about 20 spots in the standings.
Three-time world champion bareback rider Will Lowe started the day in sixth place, but an 88-point ride on Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Black Tie earned the Canyon, Texas, cowboy his third CFD championship and nearly $16,000. He previously won here in 2009 and 2012. Lowe, who has qualified for 14 National Finals Rodeos (NFR) is grateful to still be riding at the highest level 10 years after winning his first title in Frontier Park.
“It’s so awesome to be able to still be here, riding with these guys and still be competitive,“ he said. The win here should help his quest for a 15th NFR berth.
Lowe joins three legendary cowboys – Jim Shoulders, Joe Alexander and Clint Corey – as the only ones to win three bareback riding championships here.
Idaho bull rider Ruger Piva has accomplished something in the past year that many bull riders never will in their entire careers. Last September Piva, now 23, won the Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon. This week he competed for the first time at CFD, rode all three of his bulls and left with more than $10,000 in prize money and a Cheyenne Frontier Days title. The 23-year-old former high school and college wrestler can now claim wins at two of the most historic and prestigious rodeos in North America.
“If you had told me two years ago that I would win Pendleton and Cheyenne within a year, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Piva said. “Cheyenne felt a lot bigger than I expected. I hid in the ready room and watched the action on the tv screen.
He received congratulations from four-time world champion J.W. Harris, who finished second. As Harris walked away, Piva asked Harris for an autograph. “He’s one of my heroes,” Piva explained.
For the second year, weather affected the Championship Sunday competition. Last year it rained, but this year a tornado warning issued during the rodeo resulted in a weather delay of about 20 minutes. When competition resumed, rain and hail came down, particularly during the barrel racing.
World champion Nellie Miller and her horse Rafter W Minnie Reba, that she calls “Sister,” were on the course during some of the worst of the weather, but the California duo made a solid run. Although they did not win money in the final round, their total time of 53.21 seconds earned Miller the championship. She won $19,530 and helped boost her lead in the 2018 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) standings. Miller and her father, Sam Williams, raised and trained Sister, who got her name because she is a half-sister to the horse Miller rode to her first NFR in 2010.
Second-generation rodeo athlete Brodie Poppino of Big Cabin, Oklahoma, came into Championship Sunday ranked fifth in steer roping. It was the first time he qualified for Championship Sunday in seven years of trying.
Poppino won the final round by nearly six seconds, riding his 22-year-old horse named Shaggy, a full brother to the horse his mother, Tana Poppino, rode to qualify for the NFR in barrel racing. “He stays in the pasture most of the year and about a month before we start legging him up for Cheyenne,” Poppino said.
“This is one of the most prestigious, one of the oldest rodeos in the world. It’s called “The Daddy” for a reason,“ he said. “Everybody wants to win this one. It’s a dream come true.”
Tie-down roper Shane Hanchey credits his horse Si, the 2017 horse of the year, for helping him come from seventh place to win his first CFD title. The former world champion and eight-time NFR qualifier had the second-fastest time on Sunday. Although he did not place in the first two rounds, he earned more than $13,000.
“I never really dreamed of winning this rodeo,” he said. “I weigh 140 pounds. All I’ve ever heard since I was about four years old is how big the calves were and how little people didn’t fare very well (at Cheyenne). I don’t show emotions very much, but this win’s got me shook up.”
Coming from the middle of the field to take the title was a trend in the roping events. Tennessee’s Chad Masters and Oklahoma’s Joseph Harrison were sixth in team roping when the day began, but out-paced the rest to win the final round. Their total time of 26.4 earned Masters his second CFD title (his first was in 2009) and Harrison his first.
Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, won his eighth CFD championship when he took home the all-around title for the fourth time. He has also won a team roping and three steer roping championships at CFD.