Paul David Tierney and Tanner Braden made fast work of the one-head East Regional Finals last Friday in Lexington, Kentucky. It took the Oklahoma cowboys just one snappy 4.43-second run to top the 12-team field, pocket $10,000 a man and punch their tickets to Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, which is this year’s home to the March 8–11 The American Western Weekend.
This is Tierney and Braden’s fourth year as teammates, and they’re pretty pumped about advancing to an arena on the Texas Rangers’ home turf. There, they’ll face off March 9 against the top teams from the Central Regional Finals in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the West Regional Finals in Heber City, Utah for a shot at roping in Sunday’s March 11 American.
“It’s nice to get to rope one steer for $10,000,” said South Dakota native Tierney, 33, who now lives in Oklahoma City now, so drove about 11 hours to Lexington. “Our winter’s been a little slow, but we’ve only been to two rodeos (Denver and Fort Worth). There’s never a bad time to win $10,000, but this sure comes at a good time.”
The top five in the 2022 world standings got a bye to The American in 2023, and the sixth- through 20th-place world standings finishers got to compete at one of the three regional finals. Tierney and Braden finished 20th and 19th in the world in 2022 on the heading and heeling side, respectively.
The bright side to a near miss at making the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is that they’re eligible for the $1 million bonus available to challengers who rise up and win The American.
“Our team’s best asset is being aggressive,” said Braden, who’s also 33 and lives in Dewey, Oklahoma. “And that’s kind of what it takes to get through the steps of The American the way it is now. We’re also good friends. We live close together, and that works in our favor as a team, too.”
The 2023 Cinch Timed Event Championship is right around the corner, and will run March 2-4 at the Lazy E in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Tierney’s a two-time past champ, having won the Rodeo Ironman in 2014 and ’16. He doesn’t have all of his 2023 Timed Event horses lined out just yet, but it’ll be handy having Braden on the back side in the heading. And 2022 BFI heading champ Jake Cooper Clay will head for him in the heeling, while Kody Woodward handles the hazing chores in the steer wrestling.
“I’m excited the Timed Event’s coming up,” Tierney said. “It’s time to start working on all the events, and try not to get too sore while doing it.”
Tierney also enters the tie-down roping at the rodeos every chance he gets in the spring, summer and fall.
“The team roping takes the priority, but I try to work on them evenly,” he said. “Besides having a partner who counts on you to consider, the team roping jackpots pay better than the others.”
The 2023 BFI will have the Western world back at the Lazy E the week of The Feist on April 1, and to Paul David’s point, Jake Clay and Billie Jack Saebens each earned $75,000 apiece there last year.
From Dewey, it took Braden 10 hours to get to Lexington, where there was only one play—wide open.
“We were third out, and when we rode in to rope, a leg was winning it,” he said. “That meant there were nine teams behind us that can be fast. We just tried not to back off, and to go make our run and hope it was good enough to get us to the next step.”
Tierney is riding into new territory. Braden’s been oh so close before, and can hardly wait to take another shot at The American.
“Bubba Buckaloo and I won the semifinals in Fort Worth a couple years ago, and were one out of making the final day at The American,” Tanner said. “That year, they took 10 teams from the previous year’s world standings and six from the semis to day one. Eight of those 16 teams advanced to the final days, and we were ninth.
“I’m happy to get to go back with my rodeo partner. We’re very blessed to get to the next step, and we’re looking forward to it. We’ll go to Globe Life with the same mindset we had in Lexington—be aggressive, make our run, and hopefully it’s good enough again.”