Casey Tibbs 20th annual Match of Champions
Following some chilly, windy, rainy nights and days the South Dakota sun broke through the overcast like a benediction over the crowds of cowboys, cowgirls and bronc riding fans streaming into the Stanley County Fairgrounds the late afternoon of June 1. Live cowboy music filled the air and the delightful fragrance of grilling South Dakota beefsteak whetted taste buds as the crowd lined up to fill their plates.
They were in Fort Pierre for the 20th Annual Casey Tibbs Match of Champions, a tradition dear to their hearts. Touted this year as “20 & 20 on our 20th” the event for the first time offered both a cowboy purse and a stock contractor futurity payoff of a record $20,000. Match Director Tom Bown said, “We are confident that these increases will further improve the quality of stock and cowboys that you will see performing tonight.”
While moving from long picnic tables to pack the grandstands, fans commented on the attractive new Priefert animal handling system and bucking chutes, designed to enhance the safety of livestock, workers, and contestants; plus speeding up the action. Attracting even more attention were the two Jumbotron Big Screens fans knew would greatly enhance visibility of all arena happenings, at the chutes and beyond.
Camera crews moving among the gathering crowd were with Dooms Productions of Marshfield, MO, there to film the match for broadcasting on the HRTV, Dish Network Channel 104 weekly show “Riding to Win.”
Legendary rodeo announcer Hadley Barrett was in town from Kersey, CO, to cover the action from the Johnnie Smith Memorial crow’s nest. Kacey Hockett of Eagle Butte, SD, (who’s following the footsteps of her World Champion Trick Riding aunt Sydney Gray) was ready to entertain with thrilling, high-speed horseback feats. Kacey’s been performing for audiences across the Midwest the past five years.
Opening ceremonies showcased the family of rodeo legend Bart Clennon, to whose memory the event was dedicated; along with Honorary Secretary/Timer Maxine Pederson, Honorary Arena Director John Knippling and Honorary Chute Boss Willie Cowan. The group entered the arena in style – a wagon drawn by a racey, good-looking team of Percheron/Quarter Horses with their owner Willie Cowan handling the lines.
South Dakota’s own Bart Clennon, ever recognized as “A Cowboy’s Cowboy,” grew up working for ranchers and breaking horses, and rode his first competition bronc in 1928. From then to 1936 he worked Wild West shows riding 30 or 40 broncs a week. After 1936 he made a living in rodeo competition for more than two decades. When he died last winter, just hours short of his 102 birthday, Clennon was the last living member of the original signers of the famed Boston Garden cowboy’s petition which led to the organization of rodeo and the Cowboy’s Turtle Association. Bart carried Turtle membership card #418.
A large contingency of Clennon descendants from as far as Texas and Washington state converged on Fort Pierre to enjoy the festivities and thank the community for dedicating the Bronc Match in his honor.
Thirty top bronc riders entered the Match of Champions, drawing from a pen of futurity broncs provided by the Bar C5 outfit from Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada; Korkow Rodeos of Pierre, SD; Russ Kling Rodeos at Dunn Center, ND; Sutton Rodeo of Onida, SD; and Three Hills Rodeo, Inc. from Bernard, IA.
Will Smith traveled a long way from Marshall, MI to win the opening round with an 80-point ride on Sutton’s Hitch Hiker. That gave him first choice of a bronc from the Finals pen. Will picked Sutton’s champion Chuckulator, spurred out 90 big points, and won the match for a $5,500 total payoff.
In other opening round results, Sterling Crawley of Stephenville, TX, marked 78.5 on the Three Hills bronc Snatchy for second and a $2,000 check. Picking up third and $1,500 was Kadoka, SD cowboy Jamie Willert who rode Korkow Rodeo’s Stormin’ Normin’ to mark 77. J.J. Elshere from Hereford, SD, pocketed $1,200 for his fourth placing score of 76.5 on V11 from the Bar C5 string. Newell, South Dakota’s Lane Sterling managed 74.5 points on the North Dakota bronc numbered 83 in Russ Kling’s cavvy to enhance his bank account by $1,000 for fifth.
In the Finals, just like Will Smith who hung onto first in both rounds, Sterling Crawley spurred out 85.5 points on ‘Fraid Not from the Korkow Rodeo pen to repeat his secnd place finish and add another $2,500 to his earnings for the evening. Coming in third was Ty Manke from Box Elder, SD, riding Sutton’s South Point for 82.5 and a $2,000 check. J.J. Elshere marked 81 points on Korkow’s Paint Chip to place fourth and earn $1,500. And riding at fifth, in spite of having to take a re-ride, was Trell Etbauer from Goodwell, OK, on Sutton’s Campfire. Trell took home $1,000 for the effort.