It’s difficult to name a hotter team lately than Erich Rogers and Paden Bray. Fresh off their prestigious average title at December’s PRCA Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and their $100,000-a-man victory at RFD-TV’s The American in March, Rogers and Bray are also accustomed to dominating WCRA rodeos.
Last weekend marked the point cut-off for eligibility to enter the WCRA’s first event of the season, the $545,000 Rodeo Corpus Christi. Rogers and Bray nailed the No. 1 seed that gives them a bye directly into the nine-team finals (where there are no entry fees and they’re guaranteed a $1,000 appearance fee).
“This is the third time we’ve been seeded into a Major,” said Bray. “We’re pretty familiar with the Saturday-night system and we sure enjoy it.”
Last year they were also No. 1 in the standings for a bye into Kansas City’s major, where they won $50,000 a man in February before the whole world shut down. Rogers and Bray got the No. 1 bye again at the Stampede at the E in Guthrie, Oklahoma, last August, where they placed second for $6,250 each.
“We usually nominate rodeos,” Bray said. “But this past year with rodeos slowed down because of Covid, we nominated more jackpots. Plus, the American gave us a bunch of points.”
Any team roper over 13 years old had from July 2020 until April 11 to nominate jackpots and rodeos for points toward Rodeo Corpus Christi. For years a lucrative PRCA spring rodeo, now Corpus Christi is a tournament-style WCRA rodeo held in conjunction with a kick-off PBR and culminating with the first Major of the new season.
Any team in the top 64 of the WCRA point leaderboard and top 12 of the Youth leaderboard can enter the qualifying rounds May 3-6 in Robstown, Texas. Teams will rope in two full rounds in that big, covered arena for a purse of just over $50,000. The fastest 24 teams on two from there (plus three more teams with byes off the leaderboard), advance to the $43,200 performances in Corpus Christi on May 6-8.
Then, each perf’s fastest two teams, plus Rogers and Bray, plus the top two teams in the three-head average that didn’t advance, make up the nine teams to get into the major on May 9. The fastest three from there advance into the Triple Crown Round, where first pays $12,500 a man, second $6,750 and third $2,750. The other six teams split $2,000 apiece.
“At Kansas City, that short round was probably the best team roping I’ve seen in my whole life,” said Bray. “Cody Snow and Paul Eaves were first out with a great run of 4.4, then Chad Masters and Wesley Thorp went 3.67, and Erich and I went last with a 3.65, for the $50,000. That was crazy. And I needed it badly; it kicked off my whole summer.”
Then, Bray compared that major with the one at Guthrie: the first team out saw Junior Nogueira flagged out for a crossfire, after which Bray ticked the tailbone of his steer with his rope and regrouped just to slip a leg for an 11.20. Then finally, Paul Eaves missed his dallies for Colby Lovell but got his rope pinched off just in time for an 11.04 – for the win!
“Just having three teams in the Triple Crown round changes everything,” said Bray. “And it seems like Erich and I always are first out. But we like it; we just go ahead and make our run and hope they try to beat us.”
What’s more, Bray says those WCRA nomination fees all year don’t hurt much because the organization tends to pay it all back.
“You just have to stick your neck out there; go ahead and trust that you’re going to do well that day and nominate,” he said. “They have nominating incentives like a weekly bonus where you get that fee back. They give a lot of money back.”
He added that he and Rogers were blessed to get that bye. But they still plan to compete in qualifying rounds at Corpus because the money’s so good.
“We’d like to make some good runs, get a little extra money and dang sure Saturday night in Corpus be happy enough to be there,” Bray said.
Since launching in mid-2018, the WCRA has paid out more than $8.5 million to contestants.
Unique to WCRA Majors:
· A $7,000 youth incentive within the qualifying rounds paid in the average on two
· Crossfire carries a ten-second penalty
· Ground money means the purse is split among teams with qualified times
· Contestants have 30 seconds inside the arena to call instant replay on a judge’s decision