Comfort Zone: Rogers and Petska Win RodeoHouston
Despite a torn ACL, Erich Rogers roped sharp in Houston for Cory Petska.

Erich Rogers and Cory Petska won their second major winter rodeo with a $57,250 a man RodeoHouston payday this March. They roped six steers to get to that giant payout (which does not count towards the PRCA World Standings), just like they did for their San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo win weeks earlier. The last-man-standing-style format seems to fit the Arizona duo who’ve been one of the most consistent teams of the last two years, all in spite of Roger’s soon-to-be-repaired torn ACL.

Credit: Courtesy Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

The format at RodeoHouston begins with 40 teams divided into five series. In each series, the teams run three steers. To advance, teams must finish in the top four in the average in their series. The top four in each series then advance to one of two semifinals with 10 contestants per semifinal, with the top four in each semifinal advancing to the finals. The six teams in each semifinal who don’t advance to the finals go to the wildcard round, with the top two from that round advancing to the finals for a total of 10 teams in the finals. Then, the top four in the finals advance to the shootout to determine the $50,000 RodeoHouston Champions.

“It seems like with the brackets and Super Series we just go and catch and don’t worry about being fast,” Erich Rogers said of the format he and Cory Petska have excelled in this year. “The brackets at Houston and San Antonio let us rope the way we want and let our times do the talking.”

It wasn’t just the setup that favored the Arizona partners. Both finally have their number-one mounts sound, making their jobs that much easier.

“I was riding Rob, my sorrel,” Rogers said of his 14-year-old signature horse. “He’s so easy to reach on and score on, and he lets me rope and handle cattle that much better. He makes life a lot easier on me. We know how we’re going to work.”

Petska, too, was aboard an old faithful. He rode his 10-year-old mare, Pickle, who shattered a bone in her back leg in 2009 and just came back late last year.

“I am not the kind of guy who sells my horses,” Petska said. “I liked roping on her, and I roped good on her. I don’t really sell horses, so if she never came back (from the injury), she’d still be standing in my pasture.”

Rogers, of Round Rock, Ariz., and Petska, of Marana, Ariz., were 5.2 to win the first round of their series, 6.1 to place third on their second steer, and 5.6 to be second on their third steer. They finished their series 16.9 seconds on three head, which would win the average and net them a cool $14,000 for the series.

“Those first three steers, we made good runs not really going out of our comfort zone,” Petska said. “We had that first good one down, and on the second steer Erich was just a little late, and he really reached at him. On our third steer, the worst we could do was second in the average, so we went out there and made a good run at him.”

Then, before the first semifinals, Rogers was unloading a horse from his trailer when it kicked him in the knee, tearing his right ACL.

“The doctors taped it up, and I was going to be fine to rope on it,” Rogers said. “It hurt if I took a wrong step, but I really just have to squeeze with my legs on Rob, so I wasn’t too worried.”
Rogers thought himself bulletproof, and his partner didn’t question him.

“Erich is tough, so heck no, I wasn’t worried about him one bit,” Petska said. “They taped him up and he got on his horse. And he sat there for a minute real quiet, but then he started messing around and laughing, and I knew we’d be fine.”

They’d tie for fourth in the second semifinals, in a round that Petska said fell apart. They drew a low-headed steer and got him down in 5.9 seconds to sneak into the finals. They’d earn another $500 a man for that run.

“Our finals steer was supposed to stay straight,” Rogers explained. “We chased him down there a ways, and just as I was getting ready to throw he stepped to the left, but we still got him down. That was our only steer that was iffy, though.”

They would rope that steer in 5.3 seconds, letting them rope their sixth steer next-to-last in the championship round of four.

Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton had been 5.2, then Arky Rogers and Travis Woodard added to the pressure with a 4.7-second run–faster than Rogers and Petska had needed to rope on any of their five previous runs.

“That last steer was stronger than normal, and he went right,” Rogers said. “We knew we had to be less than 4.7.”

“We came back with that stronger steer, but he kept his head up, and that let Erich reach at him,” Petska continued. “He came out of the hole stronger and sharper, and that let me heel him quick, too. He was a great steer for what we needed to be.”

The flag dropped in 4.2 seconds, and Riley and Brady Minor would get their steer down in 5.2 seconds to finish the short round.

“Everything came together for us to be that fast,” Rogers said. “It was just the kind of run a guy could ask for in that situation.”

This is the second RodeoHouston win for Petska, who won it with Turtle Powell in 2010. He’d also finished second there with Matt Sherwood in 2012.

And for Rogers, that Houston cash will come in handy as he misses the California rodeo run, and the great jackpot payouts that come with it, as he recovers from knee surgery. (At press time, Rogers’ surgery was scheduled for early April.) He plans to be back for the Reno Rodeo and the Bob Feist Invitational in late June, though the doctors say he could need six months to recover. In the meantime, Rogers will get to spend some rare downtime with his 3-year-old daughter, Tayla, who is thrilled to see her dad for this long of a stretch. Petska will go onto California with fellow Arizonan, Logan Olson, after roping at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo with Jake Barnes. Barnes and Petska won the Turquoise Circuit last year.

Just three days removed from his big win, Rogers is already making a bold investment with all that money. He called a real estate agent on Tuesday to start looking for a place of his own. With a $25,000 win at the American, a $21,129 win at San Antonio, and now $57,250 boost from RodeoHouston, 27-year-old Rogers is putting together quite the down payment.

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