Garrett Tonozzi and Joe Mattern are the first World Champions Rodeo Alliance Windy City Roundup Champions, besting Lane Ivy and Buddy Hawkins in the shoot-out round to win the title and $62,500 a man.
Ivy and Hawkins took a no-time at first out in the shoot-out round, so Tonozzi and Mattern just needed to stop the clock to win the rodeo. The WCRA's format allowed Ivy and Hawkins, who were 3.6 in Round 1, to choose their steer; while Tonozzi and Mattern, who were 3.7 on their first steer, chose their position (second out) in the shoot-out. After watching Ivy and Hawkins miss, Tonozzi and Mattern made a businessman's run in the middle of the pen.
"It was nerve wracking," Tonozzi said. "I figured I’d better still go ease out there and get a good start. We roped through them last night, and we picked the two best steers. Nobody had roped them in the first round. I actually wanted the steer we got. Lane’s horse is going with the gates and he's so good in those small set ups. So I think Lane might have thought our steer was slower. So we were happy with him."
Tonozzi—who won first and second at the George Strait Team Roping Classic in 2013 worth $183,485—was nervous about needing to go catch, but his partner, a rancher and roping producer, was excited.
"I kept it together pretty good and knew I’d have to catch regardless," Mattern said. "We’d much rather just have to go get a time than be 3.4. If they would have been 3.6 we’d have needed to be 3.5, so I was happy to just go catch."
Because Ivy and Hawkins took a no-time, the WCRA only awarded them half of the $25,000 a man they'd have received for second place if they'd have caught. The other half went to Tonozzi and Mattern—another $12,500 a man on top of their $50,000 first-place checks.
Tonozzi rode his 8-year-old roan mare Disco, an own-daughter of leading barrel racing sire A Streak of Fling.
"And she's out of a Disco Jerry mare—she's Thoroughbred on the bottom," Tonozzi said. "She's 8 now. To be honest, that horse is the fastest horse I’ve ever been on, and I hadn’t rode her lately. I gave her December off because I was out at the Finals with Brittany. I started riding her because I figured I better see what this mare would do, but from the very start I couldn’t believe she was as good as she was in there."
Mattern's horse, Scoot, a 9-year-old gelding, is also on the younger-end of the spectrum.
"He's an own son of Smart Little Scoot," Mattern said. "I’ve had him for two years. Last year was the first year I hauled him a lot. He's starting to make a horse."
While Tonozzi and Mattern came out on top when the dust settled, they weren't even sure they'd get to run a second steer when the first round ended and were un-booting their horses to leave the rodeo.
"Originally, Ivy was 3.6 and we were 3.7," Tonozzi explained. "That was it—they said no to a rerun to Clay Smith and Jake Long (after their steer stumbled). Clay and Jake talked to the judges more, and they got a rerun. We waited around, they roped, and the clock malfunctioned. Nobody saw what they were. They called out 3.49. But a lot of people thought they weren’t 3.4, and I guess the backup clocks said 3.89 through the headphones. So we were up top getting ready to head out. Bob Mote called us and said the official timers were 3.88 and 3.89, so they said we were in. We had to jump on our horses and run back down there. I'm glad we had a cowboy in Bob looking out for what’s going on."
The WCRA is in its first season, and events are available to watch on the PBR's RidePass app. Contestants were able to "nominate" rodeos and jackpots throughout the year through the WCRA's online app, paying an extra $50-$200 based on rodeo size and payout to the WCRA on top of their original entry fees, and qualifications were tracked based on a performance point system.
The WCRA plans to dish out $6 million a year in payouts, comprised of four large rodeos, each featuring a $1 million purse. The 2018-19 series also features four semi-final qualifier events, providing the additional $2 million in prize money. Qualifying will be based on points, rather than dollars won, through a new world ranking points system.
"It’s been an awesome opportunity," Mattern said. "Even for a guy who isn’t rodeoing full-time, to be able to go and not be rodeoing day in and day out."
"It’s a great opportunity for cowboys," Tonozzi, a former PRCA team roping event director, added. "You’re already going to these events and you can nominate anything from a backyard jackpot to the biggest rodeos in the world. It gives you the opportunity to go at this kind of money. We won $6,000 or $7,000 at Guthrie at the Semifinals before we event got here. They have things to work out, but they have the right people in charge to do it."
Tonozzi, of Colorado, and Mattern, of Texas, who rodeoed all last year, aren't roping together in 2019. But they qualified for the Chicago event based on their performance in Guthrie's Lazy E Semifinals in November 2018.
"I'm roping with Dustin Davis this year," Tonozzi said. "But you can bet Joe and I will be at the next one of these events in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on June 1." TRJ