Sons of former world champions headlined the list of 2008 PRCA Rookies of the Year, presented by American Cowboy Coffee and Montana Silversmiths.
Like his father Roy had done a generation earlier, Tuf Cooper made a dazzling debut in professional rodeo in 2008, not only becoming the first tie-down roping rookie since 1996 to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but earning $90,604 to win the Overall Rookie of the Year Award-most money won by a rookie.
“This is awesome,” Cooper said. “Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to rope, make the Finals and win a rookie award. It was pretty hard to do. Adam Gray had a pretty big lead to overcome. It was tough.”
At the start of June, Cooper was in 30th place in the Crusher Rental PRCA World Standings, about $20,000 back of Gray. But he strung together big wins at the Farm City Pro Rodeo in Hermiston, the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano and the River City Roundup in Omaha, Neb.-the third round of the Ariat Playoffs-to launch himself into the top level of the sport.
Roy Cooper is an eight-time world champion and member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. He was the rookie of the year in 1976 and went on to win his first world title that year.
Joining Cooper, who was also the tie-down roping rookie of the year, were Trell Etbauer, Goodwell, Okla., (all-around); Jared Smith, Ranger, Texas (bareback riding); Zack Cobb, Pampa, Texas (steer wrestling); Joel Bach, Millsap, Texas (team roping-heading); Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah, (team roping-heeling); Kaleb Asay, Powell, Wyo., (saddle bronc riding); Douglas Duncan, Huntsville, Texas (bull riding); and Tim Abbott, Midland, Texas, (steer roping).
Trell Etbauer is the son of Robert and Sue Etbauer. Robert was the world champion saddle bronc rider in 1990 and 1991, and Trell’s uncle is five-time world champion saddle bronc rider Billy Etbauer. Trell’s uncle Dan was a pick up man at the Wrangler NFR this year and Robert, Billy and Dan all qualified for the Wrangler NFR in the saddle bronc riding from 1994 to 1997. Trell finished the year with earnings of $42,965 competing in the steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding and tie-down roping. He also won the 2008 Linderman Award, along with rookie all-around honors.
Team Roping Header Rookie of the Year Joel Bach is the son of Allen and Peggy Bach. Allen Bach is a four-time World Champion Heeler and just competed at his 27th Wrangler NFR. Joel Bach, who led the rookie standings most of the year, began the season roping with Wrangler NFR veteran Cody Cowden and later roped with fellow rookie Paul Eaves. He finished the season with $38,816.
Richard claimed Team Roping Heeler Rookie of the Year honors by winning $41,160. Among his partners, he roped with two 2006 Wrangler NFR qualifiers, Nick Sartain and Jay Adams. Sartain and Richard won the average at the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo in June with a time of 17.6 seconds on three head and collected $10,909 apiece.
Richard was a National High School Finals Rodeo all-around and tie-down roping champion in 2007.
Bareback riding rookie star Smith finished the year with $27,081. Smith won the second round at the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo, scoring 89 points aboard Big Bend Rodeo’s Shady Lady.
Cobb locked up the steer wrestling rookie title with a strong performance at the inaugural Heartland ProRodeo Series Championships, held Oct. 3-11 in Waco, Texas. Cobb won the challenge round and tied for first place in the final round of four. He finished the season with $34,533.
The Saddle Bronc Riding Rookie of the Year, Kaleb Asay, is the younger brother of Kanin Asay, the winner of the 2007 Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour, presented by B&W Trailer Hitches, and a two-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. Kaleb ($21,069) edged Etbauer ($19,013) for rookie honors.
Duncan ($77,520) was able to edge another rising talent, Stormy Wing ($69,122), for the Bull Riding Rookie of the Year title.
Steer roping rising star Abbott burst on the scene with a win at the “Daddy of ‘Em All” Cheyenne Frontier Days and finished the season with $25,546-ahead of the rookie field by $15,749. He broke his leg at the 2008 Heartland ProRodeo Championships in Amarillo, Texas, in October and missed the National Finals Steer Roping Nov. 14-15 in Hobbs, N.M. He was 11th in the Crusher Rentals PRCA World Standings at the time of the injury and finished 16th.