Joe Mattern is one of the WCRA’s winningest cowboys but just days prior to the start of the WCRA Cowtown Christmas Championship Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, he wasn’t sure who would be backing into the box across from him.
Serendipity landed him Coy Brittain for a partner and together the team advanced to the Showdown Rodeo in Cowtown after winning the second performance with a time of 6.04 seconds on December 16, 2021, a win worth $1,600 apiece.
“I nominated Salt Lake City [the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games] with the guy I was roping with at the time and we placed in a round,” Mattern noted. “But I’ve been heeling again and just didn’t have a regular partner.”
“Coy was actually the third one they paired me with. They had me with one guy and he didn’t enter,” he said. “Then I was roping with Daniel Braman and he fell out.”
Brittain was on the alternate list, coincidentally after also earning points at Salt Lake City, and got the call to replace Braman just days prior to their scheduled competition.
“I actually use to head for him at some jackpots but we’d never roped together with me heeling,” Brittain, 26, said.
Mattern and Brittain were the second team to rope on Thursday night and had a plan to try to put together a good start and a mistake free run.
That’s not exactly what happened.
“Joe did a great job, he got him headed fast and I just tried to get inside of him,” Brittain said, referencing the small arena and how fast the left wall comes into play for teams. “I roped him up on one hip, panty hosed him, and it pulled some rope from me so we had trouble getting faced and tight.”
“We were second out with all these good guys behind us,” Mattern said. “I’d watched our steer at the Finals [the NFR held last week in Las Vegas] and he actually went a little straighter out there. He stepped into me. When Coy roped him, he couldn’t get him pinched off and it got a little hectic there.”
Neither roper thought a six second run would withstand the remaining field which included several Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifiers as well as eight-time PRCA World Champion Rich Skelton.
“I didn’t think we’d be close with a six flat,” Brittain admitted with a laugh. “I thought you’d have to be four something with the guys up tonight.”
But a strong pen of steers played havoc for the ropers in the tiny arena. PRCA Prairie Circuit Champions Miles Baker and Zack Woods took second with a time of 7.16 seconds to also advance.
Brittain called upon his seven year old horse Tito while Mattern was aboard a thirteen year old bay horse he bought originally for heeling.
“Chace and Tyson Thompson raised him. I ended up with him as a heeling prospect about a year and a half ago,” Mattern said. “He didn’t work very well as a heel horse but he was always good to head on.”
Mattern won over $100,000 in 2019 at WCRA events as a heeler but switched over to the other end because he was finding it easier to find good heelers in his area. His horsepower was also leading him to heading but in recent months, he’s been back on the back end.
“I’m ready to go back to heeling, it’s easier,” he joked. “I’ve mainly been heeling but the last week I’ve practiced [heading]. I moved my boxes up [to mimic the small confines inside Cowtown Coliseum] and got my horse back up and made a few runs on him.”
Brittain’s Tito came from Bobby Lewis and was making only about his fifth or so rodeo run on Thursday night.
“He’s new to the crowd and lights but I couldn’t have asked him to work better,” he said of the seven year old son of Dual Spark.
WCRA’s format works well for both cowboys, who aren’t in a spot to rodeo full time given work responsibilities. Brittain stays busy training horses while Mattern preconditions cattle with his father as well as producing jackpot ropings and training horses.
“I have to be around the house but any time they have one, I try make sure I have my name down,” Mattern said.
The new team is now two steers from a possible WCRA Major title and $12,500 payday to be divvied out on Saturday night.
“We just need to do the same thing but get tight faster,” Brittain said. “The same run without the bobbles.”
“It depends on where we come in,” Mattern said. “We’ll have the same game-plan, go as fast as we can and hopefully it all comes together. I need to take a more aggressive start, I was probably four to six inches off but that’s the only thing.”