These “underdogs” not only bested a field of more than 500 to earn a half-million dollars this weekend, but they also won the right to battle the 70 best rodeo athletes in the world at AT&T Stadium on Feb. 28 during RFD-TV’s The American, presented by Polaris Ranger. There in Arlington, Texas, they’ll not only compete for a $1 million purse, but also a $1 million bonus reserved only for any non-invited contestant who can beat the best in the world.
On Sunday, Steven Dent of Mullen, Nebraska, qualified for The American in both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding. That means for the first time, the “king of the cowboys” Trevor Brazile, a 23-time world champion, will have a two-event challenger in the all-around contest at The American.
Also, on Sunday, for the first time at a professional rodeo, two of the top 10 finishers in the traditionally female event of barrel racing are male. Also, the barrel racing field includes a grandmother (she is eight-time world champion roper Rich Skelton’s mother-in-law) and a 13-year-old girl, all eligible to win $1 million.
The semifinals itself is one of the top-10 richest rodeos in America. In team roping, Clay Smith of Broken Bow, Nebraska and Paul Eaves of Lonedell, Missouri, stopped the clock in 4.81 seconds to leave Fort Worth with $27,268.
“We were just blessed to make it back today,” said Smith. “Yesterday we practiced, and today I got a better start. Paul just cleaned it up. That’s why he’s a 10 heeler.”
In tie-down roping, veteran Justin Maass came out on top to earn $19,226 after early domination in Fort Worth by the favorite – six-time world champ Cody Ohl – who missed in the finals.
“This is the biggest payday I’ve had in a long while,” said Maass. “For an 18-year semi-retired veteran to have this chance along with 13-year-old kids, this is the best thing in the world.”
Nebraska native and steer wrestler Todd Suhn of Hermosa, S.D., won the steer wrestling and $23,064, while barrel racers Ivy Conrado of Hudson, Colorado, and Dustin Angell of St. Gabriel, Louisiana, tied for the win and each took home $39,724.
Following are final results from The Semifinals of RFD-TV’s The American on Feb. 21:
Aggregate Champions/American Qualifiers: 1. Jake Vold, 163 points on two, $2,200; 2. Tyler Nelson, 159, $1,650; 3. Steven Dent, 158.75; $1,100; 4. Ty Breuer, 156.25, $550; 5. RC Landingham, 155.75.
ShootOut Round Champions/American Qualifiers: 1. Todd Suhn, 4.27, $20,646; 2. Jacob Burks, 4.48, $13,392; 3. Bray Armes, 4.75, $6,138; 4. Justin Shaffer, 4.76, $3,906; 5. Olin Hannum, 5.03, $3,348; 6. Cody Cassidy, 5.08, $2,790.
ShootOut Round Champions/American Qualifiers): 1. Clay Smith/Paul Eaves, 4.81, $21,994; 2. Andrew Ward/Jace Harris, 4.91, $15,396; 3. Blaine Vick/Dakota Kirchenschlager; 5.02, $10,264; 4. Manny Egusquiza/Daniel Braman, 5.47, $7,331; 5. David Key/Dugan Kelly, 9.36, $5,865.
ShootOut Round Champions/American Qualifiers: 1. Justin Maass, 7.99, $18,398; 2. Taylor Santos, 8.21, $11,934; 3. Cooper Matthews, 8.60, $5,470; 4. Cory Solomon, 8.67, $3,481; 5. Randall Carlisle, 9.00, $2,983; 6. Braxton Laughlin, 18.45, $2,486.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Aggregate Champions/American Qualifiers: 1/2 (tie), Steven Dent and Clay Elliott, 152.5 points each, $2,188 each; 3. Wyatt Casper, 152, $1,250; 4. Jeremy Meeks 149.75, $625, 5. Joey Sonnier, 148.
ShootOut Round Champions/American Qualifiers; 1/2. Ivy Conrado and Dustin Angelle, 13.829 each, $36,041 each; 3. Jessica Dunbar, 13.878, $17,402; 4. McKenzie Morgan, 13.927, $10,245; 5. Kelli Barichello, 13.939, $5,692; 6. Rylee Jo Dick, 3.951, $1,000; 7. Ashley Schafer, 13.956, $1,000; 8. Derek Diedrich, 13.975, $1,000; 9. Mary Smothers, 13.976, $1,000; 10. Sabrina Ketcham, 14.007, $1,000.
Aggregate/American Qualifiers: 1. Mason Lowe, 170.25 points on two bulls, $1,600; 2. Guilherme Marchi, 161.75, $1,200; 3. Wallace de Oliveira, 86.75 on one bull, $800; 4. Pistol Robinson, 85.25, $4400; 5. Robson Palermo, 84.5.
Here is a look at the top 10 barrel racers from The American semifinals:
About RFD-TV’s The American Presented by Polaris RANGER: Taking place at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Feb. 28, 2016, RFD-TV’s The American is the richest single-day event in the history of rodeo. With $2.5 million on the line, the best athletes in the world will gather in Dallas to battle for the biggest single paycheck of their lives. The American invites the top 10 athletes from the 2015 PRCA, WPRA and PBR world standings and pits them against underdogs who advance from the American Semifinals, held Feb. 17-21 in Fort Worth. If a nationally ranked athlete wins, the prize is $100,000, but if a qualifier from the Semifinals – or an athlete who earned an exemption – wins The American, that contestant shares in a $1 million bonus pool. Information provided courtesy of RFD-TV’s The American, for more information, please visit: www.americanrodeo.com and www.RFDTV.com. Follow them on Twitter @RFDTVAMERICAN and find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RFDTVTheAMERICAN.