Clayton VanAken and Denton Dunning Pair Up for First-Ever WSTR American Rodeo Qualifier Win
Mountain States Circuit standout Clayton VanAken paired with youth-phenom Denton Dunning to rope four steers in 30.51 seconds to win The American Rodeo qualifier in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
ClaytonVanAken DentonDunning American Qualifier
Clayton VanAken and Denton Dunning winning the American Qualifier at the Ariat World Series of Team Roping in Cheyenne produced by JX2 Productions. | Andersen/CBarC Photography

Arizona youth standout Denton Dunning just happened to be in Wyoming for the National High School Finals Rodeo, and a slight detour south to Cheyenne got the 16-year-old 9.5 heeler a chance at a piece of The American Rodeo’s $2-million payout come March 2023.

Dunning paired up with Wyoming’s 8.5 switchender Clayton VanAken to rope four steers in 30.51 seconds at the first American Rodeo Qualifier of the year, the first of its kind held in partnership with the Ariat World Series of Team Roping. It paid $16,940 to the team, including $6,840 for the main average and a massive $9,650 for the American portion of the event.

Full Results from the Ariat World Series of Team Roping’s The American Rodeo Qualifier

“This was somewhere to rope for good money,” VanAken, 30, of Yoder, Wyoming, said. “They added a bunch of money, and the format is different so it’s not four versus five head, and everybody is on the same playing field.”

This was Dunning’s first-ever appearance at an American qualifier. And this was the first time he’d even met VanAken. VanAken just happened to have an open spot, and the pair met when they paid their fees the morning of the roping.

“Clayton pulled them in my loop,” Dunning said with a smile.

VanAken, who currently leads the Mountain States in the heading with $8,453.54, rode a 6-year-old mare for the win.

“It’s one we got when she was 3, and this was actually her first roping,” VanAken said. “She doesn’t finish very good, but this was pretty good for her first roping.”

Dunning, who is roping with Jace Thorstenson at the NHSFR, rode a 6-year-old horse he calls Bubba that his family has had since he was a weanling.

More Information About The American Rodeo

Also qualifying was Arizona’s Josh Siggins and Junior Zambrano, who roped four head in 30.72 seconds worth $5,130 for the WSTR Open and $5,790 for the American qualifier. Both Siggins and Zambrano and VanAken and Dunning will now advance to their Contender Regional Finals, at a date and time still to be released.

The WSTR will hold the next American Rodeo qualifier in Tunica, Mississippi August 12. For full schedule and information on The American Rodeo qualifiers, visit

The full stream of the event will be available to watch OnDemand at in the next week.

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