Ropers Sports News | January 2019

24060 N. Ray Rd., Lodi, CA 95242 • 209-333-2924 • • OPERS PORTS EWS JANUARY 2019 V OL . 51, N O . 2 $2.50 “The Original Team Roping Publication” O FFICIAL P UBLICATION O F : • California ACTRA • California $hoot-Outs • NCJRA Postage Pre-Paid Clay Smith and Paul Eaves capped a stellar regular season with a standout Wrangler National Finals Rodeo en route to a record year. – PRCA ProRodeo Photo by James Phifer Clay Smith and Paul Eaves. – PRCA ProRodeo Photo by Phil Doyle 2018 Team Roping World Championships Leave No Doubt By Lane Karney Special To Ropers Sports News The biggest surprise of the team roping at the 2018 Wran- gler National Finals Rodeo may have been the lack of sur- prises. The two most dominant teams of the regular season— Clay Smith and Paul Eaves, and Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira—also left Las Vegas as the two most dominant teams at the NFR. With the $10 million NFR playing such a vital role in crowning the world champions due to the large lump sum of money available at Rodeo’s Super Bowl relative to that in the regular season, virtually any team in the field has a shot at winning the world based on a stellar NFR performance. But this year’s race was as full of integrity as any I’ve ever per- sonally seen. I can’t recall a better, more exciting and an- ticipated race between arguably the two best teams in the world today. It was a knock-down, drag-out knife fight that went the full 10 rounds. When the dust settled, Clay Smith and Paul Eaves claimed their first world champion- ships. They did so by a margin of less than what it pays to win second in a round at the NFR, with Smith edging Driggers by $17,457, and Eaves narrowing Nogueira’s year-end earnings by just $16,473. Smith and Eaves racked up $174,577 a man at the NFR (which is just shy of Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler’s NFR earnings record of $186,000 a man in 2016, when the Canadians came from be- hind to win the world), on their way to setting a new single- season team roping earnings record in 2018 of $289,921 apiece on the year (that previ- ous record was set by Erich Rogers and Cory Petska with their $265,417 per man 2017 world title campaign). “It’s been an unbelievable year—the big wins, the new baby (Jade O’Brien Smith— whose namesakes are Jade Corkill and Clay O’Brien Coo- per—was born April 23, 2018). It’s been awesome. I know it can always get better, but I’m really not sure how it gets any better than this. We’ve been blessed so much,” said Smith, who with his wife, Taylor, and baby Jade calls Broken Bow, Oklahoma, home. While the money is great, the gratification of a lifelong dream and the fruition of all the hard work means even more to Smith. “I would trade all that money for this gold buckle,” Smith said. “The money is just a side bonus. Being a world champion is #1. I’m really happy to have that. Winning one (world cham- pionship) is not my goal, but you have to win one before you See TEAM ROPING WORLD CHAMPS On Page 4

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