CHEYENNE – Behind the bucking chutes and down a small tunnel inside Frontier Park Arena, a fenced-in area serves as a locker room of sorts for roughstock cowboys.

A number of benches are stationed throughout, giving each cowboy ample space to strap on their chaps, tape their arms and gear up for their ride. There’s more to those benches than meets the eye. Past Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo roughstock champions have their names, along with a plaque, engraved on those benches.

Tilden Hooper sat on a bench with Lewis Feild’s name on it earlier this week.

“He’s a hero of mine,” Hooper said.

On Saturday, Hooper geared up while sitting on Tate Hoppings’ bench – another idol of Hooper’s growing up.

Hooper’s dream is to have his name on one of those prestigious benches, and the Carthage, Texas, cowboy is one ride away from achieving it. In what turned out to be the most competitive bareback bronc riding sections of the week, Hooper rode his bucking horse, Shoot the Moon, to a 90-point score during the eighth performance of the 123rd “Daddy of ’em All” Saturday afternoon to win the day money and advance to today’s finals.

“I knew if I did my job, I’d have a chance at winning first,” Hooper said. “But on a horse like that, when they change every jump like that, you’re just swinging, trying to get your feet out there in front of ’em. It is a literal fistfight for eight seconds. Eight seconds in a row, and it’s just like every jump you could come off or not come off.

“Sometimes you get on horses where you know the second jump you’ve got ’em, and that’s fun, too, because then you can show off. But I prefer the ones like (Saturday). Whenever you get off, you’ve kinda got your lips curled up because you know you just won a good fight.”

Turns out it was a fight worth 90 points for Hooper, who carries the same mentality before every ride.

“Funny thing about me is I imagine a 90-point ride every morning when I wake up,” he said with a smile.

Hooper earned some extra money, too. Fellow bareback bronc rider Kaycee Feild bet Hooper $20 that he would beat him. Feild recorded an 85.5-point ride.

“I really turned it up after (we made the bet),” Hooper said.

Tie-down roping

Austin Hurlburt didn’t get the calf he wanted, and he knew he’d have to be quick to catch up with it.

The calf might have been faster than Hurlburt thought.

Hurlburt roped the calf in 24.2 seconds, but the calf kicked out of the rope, and Hurlburt was given a no-time for his run, thus creating drama for his chances to advance to today’s finals.

“Man, when I nodded, he was out of there, and he was running fast,” Hurlburt said. “The horse I’m riding, he’s pretty young, but he’s pretty quick. That calf made me feel like I was being really slow. We got down there to the camera pit, and I was (thinking) it’s getting faster. Finally, I just threw my rope, (and) I ended up snagging him.”

But the former Laramie County Community College rodeo standout and future University of Wyoming roper qualified for today’s final go-round after earning $1,953.88 on Friday to catapult him into the top four for the short round.

“It’s huge. My first year of pro rodeo, I actually claimed Cheyenne as my hometown,” the Norfolk, Nebraska, native said. “It’d be pretty cool to win the ‘Daddy of ’em All.’ Ever since I was 2-foot tall, it’s been a dream of mine to compete here. I’ve watched video after video after video of guys running them here, and I was just hoping that could be me one day taking a buckle home.”

He will get his shot today.

Bull riding

Stetson Wright is one the youngest cowboys competing at the “Daddy of ’em All.” Yet the 19-year-old baby-faced competitor is on the verge of history after another impressive day Saturday.

Wright, who is the youngest of the famed rodeo family from Utah, posted a 79.5-point ride to advance to today’s finals and jump into second place in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings. Wright sits around $16,000 behind five-time world champion Sage Kimzey, who will not compete in today’s short go-round.

“The bull I got, he was just a nice good one to have to advance,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for any better day.”

Wright also posted an 86-point ride in saddle bronc riding Saturday afternoon. Thus, he is a favorite to win the all-round CFD title.

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of this since I was a little kid, and to be able to be here and doing it, is pretty special to me.

“I’m not going to be able to sleep (Saturday night). Not because I don’t think I can do it, but just because I’m so excited and want the time to come fast. Hopefully we can get it done, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at tposlosky@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.

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