By Frank J. Buchman
“I intend to make the National Finals Rodeo.”
Cooper Martin of Alma, Kansas, was just 15-years-old when he made that quoted statement in a dateline, March 23, 2013, bylined story.
On October 2, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) 2017 yearend standings had the 20-year-old cowboy doing just that.
Cooper Martin, ranked 14th in tie-down calf roping, has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo (NFR), in Las Vegas, December 7-16.
That’s for collecting $85,438.03 (unaudited) in prize money roping calves across the United States during the past year.
Not taking away from such prestige, Martin’s biggest fan, little sister Caxton Martin, 16, made a notable qualification, too. She’ll be at the United Rodeo Association Finals, Topeka, November 3-5, in breakaway roping.
Caxton credits her brother for teaching her how to rope and anticipates cheering him on in Las Vegas.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to be competing much this summer, because I didn’t have a horse,” Cooper admitted last month.
Outlook changed when two-time NFR qualifier Reese Reimer offered to let Martin ride his horse.
“That turned into a win,” Cooper evaluated. “Reese couldn’t sell me that horse. But, he did sell me his practice horse, Payday; he’s a perfect fit. The 17-year-old gelding is the best horse I’ve ever ridden. I knew it from the start.”
Of course, much more is required than horsepower. Martin’s dedicated to his sport. “Champion roper” is all he’s ever wanted to be.
“His dad Chris and I had no idea what to expect when our then three-year-old son Cooper swung a rope nonstop,” Mom Candi Martin reflected.
“Then, when he was eight-years-old, Cooper tied his first calf down. Cooper immediately declared that he wanted to be a roper when he grew up,” Mom continued. “We sure didn’t have the money, knowledge, skills, or a clue about how to help our son become a calf roper.”
Cooper confirmed, “Neither of my parents competed in rodeos. They’re Flint Hills ranchers, and Mom teaches school, too.
“But, they’ve always been very encouraging, even though they didn’t realize it was going this far, or be this hard.
“I was fortunate to pick up the sport and learn from some great mentors,” the NFR qualifier credited.
From junior high wins to a National High School Rodeo tie-down roping championship, to setting a record as the youngest to win the United Rodeo Association (URA) tie-down in 2012, Cooper has been dedicated. He spent his teenage years practicing rodeo skills.
Most obvious, Cooper said, “I like to rope all day. Sometimes I’ll rope and tie 100 calves a day. Other times, I may rope five or 10, and go to rodeos and roping jackpots every weekend.”
Practice time is more limited nowadays, with a full lineup of rodeos thousands of miles across the country.
“Jake Pratt has been helping me all summer. He encouraged me to get a horse and travel with him,” Cooper acknowledged.
Claiming the Salinas, California, rodeo his favorite competition, Cooper won it as a rookie and was second this year. However, Reno, Nevada, gets credit as “the rodeo that really got me going this season.”
His biggest check, $9,046, did come at Salinas, while second in the Reno average was worth $7,520.
“There are several more reasons I’ve done better,” Martin insisted. “I’ve entered more and am a lot more confident.
“It’s not necessarily that I’m roping a lot better,” he evaluated. “It’s just that I knew what I needed to do after last summer. I got to go home and practice.
“It all just clicked a lot better,” Cooper continued. “I also feel like I drew better calves this summer and was able to use them.”
Cooper ended the regular season by winning Kansas City’s American Royal Rodeo in front of family and friends cheering him on. Just three years ago, he competed in the youth invitational rodeo there.
“We’d hoped Cooper might be able to come home now for a little time off,” Mom Candi said. “But, the 2018 season has already started, and Cooper’s going to the rodeos to qualify next year.”
Additionally, Mom emphatically credited those who’ve assisted the family through the years.
“Monty Dyer, Junior Lewis and Roy Durfey really helped Cooper get started on this journey,” she acknowledged. “There are so many I can’t list them all, but we are grateful.
“Especially, thank you Cooper Martin for taking us on this wild ride while reminding us that roping wasn’t all about winning,” Mom attributed. “Thank you for staying true to your faith and your character when the road got hard. Thank you for never giving up on your God-given passion.”
Actually, success is quite simple, according to Cooper Martin. “I just have to keep trying to tie them down. If I do, I’ll get paid. If not, it’s my fault.”