Roping becoming young man’s sport

Clint Cooper went head-to-head with world champion Monty Lewis in roping contest Sunday at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

Plenty of the cowboys at Sunday’s calf-roping event at the Mounted Patrol Arena were less than a quarter-century old.
According to old hands and young ones alike, that’s the way the sport is going.

“Times are a lot faster, in all the timed events,” said John D. Holleyman, who said he won a Clovis calf-roping event that feature some of the top ropers in the world in 1953.

The 85-year-old Corona resident looked on from the grandstands Sunday at the inaugural Joe’s Boot Shop Roping competition, 50 years after his prime and 10 years after he’s even tried his hand at roping.

“You’ve got to like it and love it, and be dedicated to it completely to win,” he said as he watched the newest generation of calf ropers throw lariats in the arena. “It’s just a good life … if you can win.”

Last year’s calf-roping world champion, Monty Lewis, was on hand Sunday for the competition. At 24, the Hereford, Texas, resident already has a keen sense of the business aspects of the rodeo.

“You enjoy it as much as you’re winning,” Lewis said, nearly echoing Holleyman’s comments. “It’s got its ups and downs like anything.”

One thing that’s clear at a calf roping event: Tradition and heritage play big into the sport.

The event drew many of the top Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association ropers and featured a head-to-head “Young Guns” match between Lewis and Clint Cooper, who took 10th at nationals last year. Both come from strong calf-roping lines.

Lewis’ father, Wade Lewis, was a big rodeo name for years.
“He taught me how to rope,” said Monty Lewis, who was using one of his father’s saddles Sunday. “I’ve been roping since I was little.”

Cooper’s father, Roy Cooper, was inducted into the pro rodeo hall of fame for tie-down roping. In 1983 he was world all-around champion cowboy, world champion calf roper for the fifth time and world champion steer roper, according to westernhorseman.com.

“We’ve all rodeoed,” Cooper said. “I’m just trying to carry on the tradition.”

So far he has done well following in his father steps, earning more than $156,000 in his professional career, which started in 2002.

However, he hasn’t captured any world titles yet.
Holleyman said he would have had trouble competing with the new guys, even in his prime. Ironically, he said they might have had trouble competing with him, too.

“It’s different times, you can’t compare them,” he said. His heyday was from 1946 to 1955, he said.

Before Sunday’s 10-head match, Lewis and Cooper had their strategies lined out.

“I just try to hold back, catch them all, tie them down,” the 23-year-old Cooper said. “You’ve gotta be aggressive, but there’s times you don’t need to be and just hold back.”
Lewis compared calf roping matches to playing chess.
“It’s just you and the other man, and whoever’s roping better,” he said.