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Shiozawa, Cooper tie in Kennewick's 'mini NFR'


KENNEWICK, Wash. – Matt Shiozawa’s inaugural appearance in a Wrangler Champions Challenge event, presented by Justin Boots, was definitely memorable.

The Chubbuck, Idaho, cowboy tied two-time World Champion Tuf Cooper for the tie-down roping title Aug. 19 in the Horse Heaven Arena. They both had 7.8-second runs.

“The run felt really good,” said Shiozawa, who was second in the Aug. 25 Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings, $26,145 behind Cooper. “These Champions Challenges are not something you want to miss because of the money you can win. It sure feels good to win my first time in this. It was a really good atmosphere; it was similar to the NFR.”

Surprisingly, this also was the first Wrangler Champions Challenge win for Cooper, who won gold buckles in 2011 and 2012.

“This was great, man,” Cooper said. “These Champions Challenges are great. They are like mini NFRs. My horse was good, and I was able to stay aggressive. It feels good to win.”

Shiozawa, who is a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier (2005-07, 2009 and 2011-12), is trying to ride this momentum through the end of the regular season on Sept. 30. Shiozawa and Cooper each pocketed $4,800 for their performances.

But the Wrangler Champions Challenge was only the beginning for Shiozawa, as he continued to narrow the gap between himself and Cooper. Shiozawa won the rodeo in Kennewick five days later, pocketing another $6,155, and then won the Golden Spike Rodeo in Tremonton, Utah, for another $1,588. Shiozawa also finished fifth in Lethbridge (Alberta) for total earnings of $13,653 for the week.

“The way I view this is we are starting the fourth quarter,” Shiozawa said. “I hope I can keep things going throughout the fall and hopefully I will be able to compete in a couple more Champions Challenges. That would be really great.”

The other winners at the Horse Heaven Wrangler Champions Challenge, presented by Justin Boots, were bareback rider Winn Ratliff (87 points on Big Bend Rodeo Company’s Cajun Queen), steer wrestler Bray Armes (4.7 seconds), team ropers Dustin Bird and Paul Eaves (5.0 seconds), saddle bronc rider Cody Wright (82 points on Flying 5 Rodeo’s Rough Going), barrel racer Carlee Pierce (17.21 seconds) and bull rider Cody Teel (86.5 points on Corey & Lange Rodeo Company’s Crazy Bull).

Armes became the second cowboy to win three times in Wrangler Champions Challenge competition, which began in May 2013, joining fellow bulldogger Trevor Knowles.

 
 
 
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