Million-dollar ride |

Million-dollar ride

Derrick Begay and Clay O'Brien Cooper celebrate a fast run during the RFDTV American. Photo by Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
Andy Watson |

Arlington, Texas; Feb. 28, 2016 – Wade Sundell, 31 of Boxholm, Iowa, earned $1.1 million after an eight-second rodeo ride on Feb. 28 at AT&T Stadium during RFD-TV’s The American, presented by Polaris Ranger.

The nationally televised rodeo annually invites the 10 best professional athletes in the world to compete for a $1 million purse, but the format also allows a handful of athletes to pay a fee to attempt to qualify throughout the season. A million-dollar bonus was reserved for any qualifier who could beat the best in the world on Feb. 28.

But Sundell, the 2015 reserve world champion saddle bronc rider, was also eligible for the bonus this year – if he could win his event for a remarkable third straight year as the “Triple Crown” champion. None of the qualifiers could unseat the elite athletes, and Sundell took home the entire bonus after an epic ride of 90.75 points on a Frontier Rodeo bronc named Maple Leaf.

“I think I was born for this place,” said Sundell, who also won $100,000 at RFD-TV’s The American in AT&T Stadium in 2014 and again in 2015. “There’s no backing up here; you have to let it all hang out.”

“I think I was born for this place. There’s no backing up here; you have to let it all hang out.” Wade Sundell, saddle bronc rider

Sundell had to sweat the run of fellow Triple Crown contender Lisa Lockhart of South Dakota, who also won the preliminary round of her event and looked likely to split Sundell’s million-dollar windfall. But by less than two-tenths of a second, Lockhart was edged to second in barrel racing, making Sundell the lone bonus winner.

His paycheck of $1.1 million on Sunday comes close to the $1.4 million it has taken him nine years of professional bronc riding to earn in his career. Sundell recently won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days rodeo on Maple Leaf.

“I’m always wound up, but I was really wound up when I found out I had that horse,” said Sundell, who was a high-school standout wrestler. He became the first saddle bronc rider to qualify for the NFR from Iowa in 2009, and has made repeat trips to Las Vegas every year since.

Roping Hall-of-Famer Clay O’Brien Cooper, 55, was Derrick Begay’s idol 30 years ago. On Sunday, the pair turned in the fastest time in team roping to earn $100,000 apiece. Begay, 32, from the Navajo Nation in Arizona, had never set foot in AT&T Stadium before Feb. 28, and he seldom shows much emotion. But he offered fans one of the biggest smiles to ever crack his face – twice – on Sunday.

“When you’re back home practicing, you imagine that last steer is for $20 or $100,000, and it’s nice that it worked out today,” he said. “But the best thing about this is the partner I’m roping with – that makes it a lot more special.”

Cooper of Gardnerville, Nev., was characteristically humble, saying, “I was just glad to see that steer jump in my loop.” He referred to RFD-TV’s The American as the greatest one-day rodeo in the world.

Minnesota bareback rider Tanner Aus of Granite Falls defeated the great world champion Kaycee Feild by just a quarter-point to earn $100,000 on the same bronc that Taylor Price rode to win the event last year – Frontier’s Showstomper. Incidentally, Feild had just laid his father, Lewis, to rest a week earlier. He brought his father’s saddle to center stage in the stadium and dozens of cowboys adorned it with roses while a special music video recorded by Jewel for the occasion played on the jumbo screen.

In steer wrestling, Montana’s Ty Erickson took the six-figure prize home, while Sarah McDonald of Georgia dominated the barrel racing on her roan mare. The tie-down roping offered plenty of drama, as well.

Hunter Herrin, on a borrowed horse, not only won the first round with a 6-second run, but then came back and bumped the man who looked to have a lock on the $100,000 check. Tyson Durfey, who won the American in 2014, had been first to go and clocked in at 6.8 seconds. But Herrin, last out, turned in a heart-thumping 6.7.

In bull riding, Brazilian Joao Ricardo Vieira of Brazil was the lone man to ride his final bull, earning $100,000 for an 81.75-point effort. By virtue of staying on his bull for the longest duration of those who bucked off, North Dakotas Stetson Lawrence placed second.

Every event champion also took home nearly $50,000 in prizes that included new Polaris RANGERs. In addition, The American paid out more than a half-million dollars through its Semi-Finals and its Contestant Patch Auction in Fort Worth, Feb. 17-21.

Following are official results from RFD-TV’s The American, presented by Polaris RANGER, on Feb. 28, 2016:

Bareback Riding

Preliminary Round: 1. Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, Iowa, 86.25 points on Calgary Stampede’s Trail Dust; 2. RC Landingham, Hat Creek, Calif., 85.25; 3. Tanner Aus, Granite Falls, Minn., 83.75; 4. Kaycee Feild, Spanish Fork, Utah, 83.5; 5. Austin Foss, Terrebonne, Ore., 82.25; 6. Winn Ratliff, Leesville, La., 82.25; 7. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 81.75; 8. Jake Vold, Ponoka, Alberta, 81.25; 9. Tyler Nelson, Victor, Idaho, 81.25; 10. Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 80; 11. Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D., 76; 12. Evan Jayne, Marseille, France, 56. Shootout Round: 1. Tanner Aus, Granite Falls, Minn., 88.50 points on Frontier’s Showstomper, $100,000; 2. Kaycee Field, Spanish Fork, Utah, 88.25, $25,000.

Team Roping

Preliminary Round: 1. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., 3.85 seconds; 2. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Lipan, Texas, 4.01; 3. David Key, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 4.09; 4. Blaine Vick, Dublin, Texas/Dakota Kirchenschlager, Stephenville, Texas, 4.2; 5. Nick Sartain, Yukon, Okla./Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz., 4.33; 6. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 4.42; 7. Coleman Proctor, Pryor, Okla./Kory Koontz, Stephenville, Texas, 4.64; 8. Jake Barnes, Scottsdale, Ariz./Rich Skelton, Llano, Texas, 5.32; 9. Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/Kollin VonAhn, Blanchard, Okla., 13.74. Shootout Round: 1. Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Clay O’Brien Cooper, Gardnerville, Nev., 4.56 seconds, $100,000; 2. David Key, Stephenville, Texas/Dugan Kelly, Paso Robles, Calif., 4.94, $25,000.

Steer Wrestling

Preliminary Round: 1. Cody Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, 4.10 seconds; 2. Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., 4.12; 3. Dakota Eldridge, Elko, Nev., 4.35; 4. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 4.39; 5. Clayton Hass, Terrell, Texas. 4.41; 6. K.C. Jones, Decatur, Texas, 4.50; 7. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, SD., 4.83; 8. Bray Armes, Pilot Point, Texas, 5.8; 9. Justin Shaffer, Hallsville, Texas, 6.08; 10. Lee Graves, Calgary, Alberta, 6.43; 11. Olin Hannum, Malad, Idaho, 8.19; 12. Baylor Roche, Trementon, Utah, 9.12; 13. Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., 14.91; 14. Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., 15.2; Shootout Round: 1. Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., 4.80 seconds, $100,000; 2. Cody Cassidy, Donalda, Alberta, 7.75, $25,000.

Saddle Bronc Riding

Preliminary Round: 1. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 85.5 points on Calgary Stampede’s Stampede Warrior; 2. Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, 85.5; 3. Cort Scheer, Elsmere, Neb., 85.25; 4. Jacobs Crawley, Boerne, Texas, 83.25; 5. Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La., 80; 6. CoBurn Bradshaw, Beaver, Utah, 80.25; 7. Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., 80; 8. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 79.25; 9. Rusty Wright, Milford, Utah, 79; 10. Wyatt Casper, Balko, Okla., 78.75; 11. Clay Elliott, Nanton, Alberta, 78.25; 12. Joey Sonnier, New Liberia, La., 72. Shootout Round: 1. Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 90.75 points, Frontier’s Maple Leaf, $100,000 plus $1,000,000 bonus; 2. Jake Wright, Milford, Utah, 87.75, $25,000.

Tie Down Roping

Preliminary Round: 1. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 6.8 seconds; 2. Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 7.14; 3. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, 7.42; 4. Tyson Durfey, Savannah, Mo., 7.48; 5. Cooper Matthews, Cleburne, Texas, 7.53; 6. Fred Whitfield, Hockley, Texas, 7.76; 7. Marty Yates, Stephenville, Texas, 7.88; 8. Braxton Laughlin, Westlake, La., 8.02; 9. 10. Monty Lewis, Hereford, Texas, 8.83; 10. Taylor Santos, Creston, Calif., 9.07; 11. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbock, Idaho, 9.85; 12. Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas, 11.11; 13. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 11.51; 14. Randall Carlisle, Athens, La., 12.49; 15. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 17.09; 16. Sterling Smith, Stephenville, Texas, 17.70. Shootout Round: 1. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 6.77 seconds, $100,000; 2. Tyson Durfey, Savannah, Mo., 6.86 seconds, $25,000.

Barrel Racing

Preliminary Round: 1. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.552 seconds; 2. Jackie Ganter, Abilene, Texas, 14.571; 3. Sarah Rose McDonald, Brunswick, Ga., 14.594; 4. Callie DuPerier, Boerne, Texas, 14.664; 5. Dustin Angelle, St. Gabriel, La., 14.768; 6. Taylor Jacob, Carmine, Texas, 14.791; 7. Fallon Taylor, Whitesboro, Texas, 14.799; 8. Mary Smothers, Sinton, Texas, 14.846; 9. Cassidy Kruse, Gillette, Wyo., 14.868; 10. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 14.876; 11. Ashley Schafer, Yoder, Wyo., 14.892; 12. Kelli Barichello, Kennewick, Wash., 14.897; 13. Michele McLeod, Whitesboro, Texas, 14.910; 14. Jessica Dunbar, Del Rio, Texas, 14.919; 15. Rylee Jo Dick, Oakley, Utah, 14.919; 16. McKenzie Morgan, Maryville, Tenn., 15.259; 17. Derek Diedrich, Goose Lake, Iowa, 15.768; 18. Nancy Hunter, Neola, Utah, 19.60; 19. Sabrina Ketcham, Yeso, N.M., 20.22; 20. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 20.172. Shootout Round: 1. Sarah Rose McDonald, Brunswick, Ga., 14.470 seconds, $100,000; 2. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 14.648, $25,000.

Bull Riding

Preliminary Round: 1. Stetson Lawrence, Williston, N.D., 85 points; 2. Fabiano Vieira, Perola, Brazil, 83.75; 3. Joao Ricardo Vieira, Soa Paulo, Brazil, 81.25. Shootout Round: 1.Bull Riding: 1. Joao Ricardo Vieira, Soa Paulo, Brazil, 81.75 points, $100,000; 2. Stetson Lawrence, Williston, N.D., no score, $25,000.

About RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN Presented by Polaris RANGER: Taking place at Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Feb. 28, 2016, RFD-TV’s The American is the richest single-day event in the history of rodeo. With $2.5 million on the line, the best athletes in the world will gather in Dallas to battle for the biggest single paycheck of their lives. The American invites the top 10 athletes from the 2015 PRCA, WPRA and PBR world standings and pits them against underdogs who advance from the American Semi-Finals, held Feb. 17-21 in Fort Worth. If a nationally ranked athlete wins, the prize is $100,000, but if a qualifier from the Semi-Finals – or an athlete who earned an exemption – wins THE AMERICAN, that contestant shares in a $1 million bonus pool. For more information, please visit: and Follow us on Twitter @RFDTVAMERICAN and find us on Facebook: