The first-ever World Series of Team Roping Heartland Finale in Guthrie, Okla., was hot. With $890,000 in cash and $40,000 in prizes awarded, teams turned up the burners for their chance at the jackpot. Not to mention the cooling system at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., went on the fritz, making it hotter inside than out over Memorial Day Weekend.
"It’s still the best roping arena in the country," Denny Gentry, the creator and head honcho of the World Series said. Gentry may be a little partial, though. As creator of the USTRC, his first-ever roping was held at the Lazy E.
"Our return to the Lazy E, from our perspective, we were giddy about," he added. "Our first rattle out of the box for the USTRC was there, and returning for a mid-year World Series there had some sentimental value to me and (wife) Connie."
Gentry also confesses that there is significant strategic value to the venue.
"We’ve got two distinct roping populations in the country," he explained. "In the winter, the Phoenix area is the hotspot of the whole country. In the summertime, that I-35 corridor from Tulsa to Austin is the where the center of the team roping universe exists."
With the World Series Finales in Las Vegas firmly entrenched in December during the Wrangler NFR, Gentry aims to serve the nation’s midsection with the new summertime marquee roping.
The biggest beneficiaries of the new event came from outside that demographic—Las Cruces, N.M.—for their win.
Larry Cohorn and Oso Diaz won both the No. 13 Qualifier (31.58 seconds on four head) and the No. 13 Finale (31.99 on four) for a combined $27,820 per man.
"Even though I lived it, it’s hard to believe," Cohorn said.
Diaz was just as amazed if not more animated.
"It was a lucky day in the neighborhood right there," he said. "That’s quite a surprise. What are the odds of that happening? Between he and I this year, we’ll bring 112 years of experience."
Cohorn’s experience comes from roping calves. He qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 1976 and 1978 as a tie-down roper and neither time did he win as much in an entire year as he did in one day in Guthrie.
"It’s pretty amazing that they can come up with something—a one-day event—that you can win more money at than you could in an entire year," he said. "That was the most exciting day I’ve had in my roping career. The prizes they gave were very good, Gist buckles and Cactus Saddles. I don’t have anything to say except good things, and I’d say that whether I won or lost: It was a good production."
The finalists in the No. 11 Finale could have used some of that consistency. Roger Verquer and Tombo Kaufman came from the 10th high call position to win the roping. They stopped the clock in 42.35 seconds on four head to split $50,000.
"We come back in the 10th call back to win it, it fell apart quite a bit," Kaufman said. "Our plan was to just get him down and see what happens, that’s all we can do."
From there, penalties and misses took each team out of the roping until the high call team had 17 seconds to rope their steer to win it all. Unfortunately, the steer jumped out of the heel loop and the two Arizona retirees who picked up roping in their 30s took the title.
"I went to screaming and hollering," Verquer said. "I don’t know what happened after that. That’s the best one I’ve had in my lifetime. I’ve been roping for 32 years. I can remember going to jackpots and there was no number system and you went and knocked heads with the best. Even if you did win, you’d win $400.
That’s the thing, I can’t say enough about Denny Gentry. He took a dying sport and turned it into a deal where two 62-year-old men can win $25,000 apiece."
The No. 10 was almost as soft with only 10 of the 23 teams coming back to the short round catching. Rick George and Kevin Harris were the only wire-to-wire solid team, splitting $50,000 with a 36.02-second on four head time—including a short-go best 8.36-second run.
Harris almost didn’t enter—and in fact went to the post office in an attempt to recall his entry—but in the end, the gamble paid off.
Two Texas young guns won the No. 15 Finale—Jake Brown and Blaine Vick roped four steers in 33.23 seconds, winning $11,500 each of the $890,000 in prize money.
The nearly-$1 million roping got Verquer thinking.
"This has been a blessing for me," he said. "It’s going to allow me to keep doing what I love. Somebody asked me what I’d do if I won $1 million. I said I’d rope until it was gone, I guess."