Pro football has its coveted Lombardi Trophy. Pro hockey’s top team claims the Stanley Cup.
Pro rodeo? The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s all-around title traditionally has been billed as the sport’s top award. The association’s all-around champion receives a trophy gold-and silver belt buckle and a trophy saddle after securing the versatility award at the December Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
In order to claim the PRCA’s all-around title, a cowboy must finish the year with the highest earnings in multiple events. Over the years, the sport coveted all-around buckle has been taken by legendary cowboys such as Jim Shoulders (who competed in bareback riding and bull riding in the 1950s), Larry Mahan (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding in the 1960s and 1970s), Ty Murray (bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding in the 1990s) and Trevor Brazile (tie-down roping, team roping and steer roping in the 2000s and 2010s).
The Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo is one of the world’s largest, higher paying pro rodeos and it historically has attracted the PRCA’s top all-around contenders. For example, Junior Nogueira, the defending PRCA all-around champion who lives in Burleson, competed in team roping at the Fort Worth Stock Show on Friday. During the matinee performance, he and his partner, Kaleb Driggers, turned in a time of 4.7 seconds, which was the fastest time during the afternoon show at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Nogueira (pronounced No-Gada) mostly competes in team roping heeling, meaning that he ropes the steer’s two hind heels after his partner makes a head catch. Nogueira also occasionally competes in the tie-down roping event. But his forte is team roping.
The PRCA’s all-around champion has had a Fort Worth area address 21 of the past 29 years. Competitors cite multiple reasons such as the area’s abundance of rodeos, lots of great practice facilities in the region, the area’s central location in North America and the abundance of flights from the DFW and Love Field airports.
The notable list of Fort Worth area all-around champions in more recent decades begins with Dave Appleton clinching the PRCA’s coveted versatility title in 1988. Appleton, who lived in Arlington at the time, thrived in saddle bronc riding and bareback riding.
Stephenville was Ty Murray’s hometown when he clinched world all-around titles in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1998. (Murray lived in Odessa in 1989 when he won his first of seven all-around titles.)
Cody Ohl, another Stephenville resident, won the all-around title in 2001. He competed in tie-down roping and steer roping.
Decatur was Brazile’s hometown when he won the all-around titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. (Brazile lived in the West Texas town of Anson when he snared his first of 13 world all-around buckles in 2002.)
Last year, Brazile could not compete on the PRCA circuit because he was a stockholder in a new pro rodeo organization called Elite Rodeo Athletes. With Brazile being absent last year (his 13 world all-around titles in a PRCA world record), it became much easier for several cowboys to enter the Dec. 1-10 National Finals Rodeo as serious all-around title contenders.
When the dust settled after 10 nightly performances at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center, Burleson’s Nogueira clinched the 2016 PRCA all-around title. He edged runner-up Clayton Hass of Weatherford, $231,728.33 to $228,107.76 (in earnings from the regular season and the National Finals.)
Nogueira, 26, is a native of Brazil. In fact, he became the first Brazilian to win a PRCA championship when he lassoed the association’s 2016 all-around title. But when he competes in North America throughout the PRCA season (which pretty much runs year round), he lives in Burleson.
Nogueira resides on a Burleson property that’s owned by Frederico “Fred” Werneck. Werneck is from Brazil and is a friend of Nogeira’s late father. Werneck is a prize winning PRCA roper who runs a saddle making business.
Another reason Nogueira lives in North Texas is the area has become a stronghold for team roping activity in recent years. Noguera’s team roping heading partner, Kaleb Driggers, claims Albany, Ga., in the PRCA world standings, but he actually lives in the Stephenville area along with a big herd of other highly competitive team ropers.
“All of the team ropers, almost everybody, live in Stephenville where they have a lot of jackpots and practice together,” Nogueira said. “It’s a team roping hot spot.”
When Nogueira qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo in 2014, he lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., because he was being mentored by seven-time world champion Jake Barnes who is from Scottsdale.
But by the time he competed at the 2015 National Finals in Las Vegas where he roped with veteran roper JoJo LeMond (who is from Andrews in West Texas), Nogueira had moved to Burleson.
“I like Texas,” he said. “There’s a lot more rodeos and jackpots. All of the best guys live right here.”