By BRAD KEITH
(February 25, 2018) — If you’re tie-down roping professionally in the month of February, the last guy you want to see at your next stop is Stephenville cowboy Marty Yates.
Yates is dominating February, 2018 much the same as he did February, 2017. But nobody could have predicted the four-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier would throw down a time like he did Sunday at the finals of the RFD-TV The American.
Yates didn’t just win the nationally-televised event, and he didn’t just set a new arena record at AT&T Stadium. Yates roped and tied his calf in 6.38 seconds, flirting with the world record belonging to Rickey Canton.
Canton, of Navasota, used three swings, a wrap and a hooey to tie-down a calf in 6.3 seconds at the Strathmore (Alberta) Stampede on June 28, 2005, breaking the previous record of 6.5 set by Cody Ohl of Hico at the 2003 National Finals Rodeo and matched by Clint Robinson in 2004 in Amarillo.
How the 6.38 by Yates compares to the 6.3 by Canton is up for debate, but Yates certainly appears on his way to a career of success like the 14-time NFR qualifier. Yates is only in his sixth year on the PRCA tour, and the second of back-to-back championships at The American comes just days after he accomplished the same feat at the Cinch Shootout in San Angelo.
But even that isn’t all.
Yates also tied Ryle Smith in the finals of the high-paying tournament-style San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. Smith won the championship with the most money earned at the event, but Yates was right there, earning $5,499 in the preliminary rounds and semifinals before the 7.1 they ran in the finals meant $13,205 for each. Yates finished with $18,704, just $224 behind Smith.\
Just last month Yates, nicknamed Boy Wonder, wowed everyone in Denver when he set the record at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo with a 6.8 to win the first round.
If Yates, who finished a career-best third in the world standings last season, needs a reminder that he and ‘Buster’ have to keep up the fast times to continue winning, he doesn’t have to look any further than right below his own name at the No. 2 spot in the short go at The American. There’s Cory Solomon with a 6.45, just seven-hundredths of a second behind Boy Wonder.
What a show for rodeo fans on scene at the $1.2 Billion home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and for many more glued to RFD-TV back home.
And what a month February has again proven to be for Yates.
-Stephenville team roping tandem Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira won both the long go and short go at The American Finals. The championship time for the reigning world runners-up was 4.57, almost half a second faster than Lipan header Chad Masters and Morgan Mill heeled Travis Graves, who took second in 5.03.
-Richmond Champion made his name as the first million dollar cowboy at The American when at the first finals he was the only qualifier beat all of the world’s reigning top 10 and win the championship in any event. That was just the beginning for Champion, who has been to multiple NFRs and just last summer was champion at the famous Calgary Stampede. He returned to AT&T Stadium and was fifth Sunday, after reaching the finals in San Antonio, where he earned more than $11,000.
-Wesley Thorp, who had an outstanding rookie campaign that ended at the NFR in 2017, became the first team roper to reach the finals of The American as both a header and a heeler. He heeled for Speed Williams and they placed third in the short go in 9.74 seconds.
-Tie-down roper Sterling Smith of Stephenville has also started strong in 2018. He won the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo with 26.1 seconds on three head and pocketed almost $6,000. San Antonio went even better for Sterling, as he amassed almost $11,600 and was just behind Cory Solomon – who had a little over $12,100 – for the lead entering the finals.