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O’Connell wins Amarillo Wrangler Champions Challenge

AMARILLO, Texas – A rejuvenated Tim O’Connell continued his dream season by winning the Amarillo (Texas) Wrangler Champions Challenge, presented by Justin Boots, on Sept. 17.

It was O’Connell’s second big win in four days, as he also shared the win at the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up with Caleb Bennett.

O’Connell rode for 88 points on Andrews Rodeo’s Roly Poly and earned $5,440 for the win.

He remained fifth in the Sept. 22 Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings with $96,090.

“It’s a total blessing,” said the humble 22-year-old from Zwingle, Iowa. “It’s beyond belief to have a year like this. It’s a dream come true.”

O’Connell was the 2012 PRCA Bareback Riding Permit Holder of the Year, and the 2013 PRCA Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year. He accomplished those feats while in college, first at Iowa Central Community College (Fort Dodge) and now at Missouri Valley College (Marshall).

O’Connell said he’ll graduate from Missouri Valley College in May 2015 with a degree in public relations.

“I understand you can’t rodeo forever,” he said. “But I’m going to go as long as I can.”

It seems he has a bright future. He won $47,843 last year and finished 21st in the world.

“I missed about six months with a bad shoulder, and that probably cost me qualifying for the (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo),” O’Connell said.

He’s a lock to make the Finals this December in Las Vegas, and has high hopes.

“Ever since I saw my first NFR on TV, it’s been a dream to compete there,” he said. “And to not go there in the bottom half, but probably in the top five and be in the hunt for a gold buckle, is just awesome. Anything can happen in Vegas.”

O’Connell also drew Roly Poly at the Austin (Texas) Rodeo earlier this year.

“She had a great trip,” he said of Roly Poly. “I knew she’d be good, but not that good, for 88 points. She fired the entire time. She’s a smaller horse, so she can move your feet faster; she sends your feet about a million miles an hour.”

Four-time World Champion Bareback Rider Bobby Mote was second with 87.5 points, and Will Lowe was third with 85.

“It’s an honor, and a dream come true, to rodeo with those guys,” O’Connell said. “Those guys have been my idols.”

O’Connell said he feels good again after taking some time off recently.

“I was sore and kind of run down after going so hard this summer,” he said. “I slowed down for a couple of weeks, and feel a lot better.”

He was thrilled to share the average win at the Pendleton Round-Up with Bennett, where both cowboys had 166 points on two head.

“That was the first time I’d been to Pendleton, and to get the win, that was so awesome to do that at such a prestigious rodeo with so much history,” O’Connell said.

Then, he returned to life as a college student.

“I went back to school for one day and did some homework to catch up, then came to Amarillo,” he said. “It feels great to win here.”

Other winners at the $124,000 rodeo were steer wrestler Olin Hannum (3.5 seconds), team ropers Riley Minor and Brady Minor (5.0 seconds), saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley (87.5 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Pony Man), tie-down roper Ryan Jarrett (7.8 seconds), barrel racer Christy Loflin (16.79 seconds), and bull riders Josh Koschel (Andrews Rodeo's Mellow Yellow) and Tyler Smith (Smith, Harper & Morgan's Iron Man) with 88 points each. 

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