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ARLINGTON – When the chutes opened at the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Arlington, superstar Trevor Brazile was in a press box instead of a roping box.
That’s because the sport’s all-time winningest cowboy is offering commentary for the Cowboy Channel, which is televising the Wrangler NFR. Brazile has been semiretired and hasn’t avidly pursued a trip to the National Finals the past two years.
The 62nd National Finals Rodeo began Thursday, Dec. 3, and runs through Saturday, Dec. 12, at Globe Life Field.
Brazile, 44, from Decatur, has earned a record 26 world titles on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit, from the all-around title in 2002 to the 2020 steer roping title at last month’s National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kansas.
The 2020 steer roping world championship may be his last gold buckle and his last appearance at a National Finals event. Brazile said he’s all but retiring in 2021. So with pro rodeo’s top cowboy riding out of the picture, who’s going to replace him and who’s on the short list to become the sport’s next potential superstar?
A few competitors come to mind, including 2017 all-around champion Tuf Cooper and defending all-around champion Stetson Wright. Clay Smith, the defending team roping heading world champion who also is an all-around contender, also could be in the mix.
Cooper, 30, a Childress native who has homes in Weatherford and Decatur, entered the NFR ranked No. 1 in the 2020 all-around race (with 111,450 points). He has qualified for the National Finals in tie-down roping. He also competed in last month’s National Finals Steer Roping where he took the lead in the all-around standings.
Brazile was ranked No. 2 in the all-around race (with 94,803 points). He skyrocketed in the all-around standings as the result of a stellar performance at the National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane. But he’s out of the running for the 2020 all-around title because he’s not competing in the NFR in Arlington. In his heyday, he qualified for NFRs in Las Vegas in tie-down roping.
Wright, 21, came into the 2020 NFR in third (86,504), but has an advantage because he’s qualified in two events, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
Smith, 29, an Oklahoma cowboy, came into the 2020 NFR sitting in fourth place (80,737), but is qualified only in team roping heading.
“The talent is great that’s vying for all-around,” Brazile said. “Two (Cooper and Wright) of top four guys have already won a gold buckle in the all-around. That’s a healthy advantage. No. 1, they know what it takes to do it. Benefits come with that buckle. Once they’ve tasted that blood, it’s going to be hard to beat those two guys.