Tooele High School bull rider Cooper James of Erda was the only competitor to stay atop his bulls a full 8 seconds during all three rides at last week’s Utah State Rodeo Finals in Heber City.
His state finals prowess propelled him to the top of the leaderboard and a state championship in the event. He now heads to Gillette, Wyoming July 17-23 to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo.
After competing in high school rodeos during the year, James entered the state finals tied for fourth place with 63 points. At Heber City, he finished second in the first go, second in the second go, and first in the final ride to compile 141 points overall.
Trace Redd of Spikers Rodeo Club (Syracuse) finished second with 128 points, Kade Madsen of Spikers third with 118 and Landon Houghton of Dixie fourth with 108 points. The top four bull riders from Utah qualified for the Nationals.
Another Tooele High School cowboy, sophomore Gage Rydalch, fared well at the state finals with a third-place finish in saddle bronc riding and will also make the trek to the Nationals. James finished eighth in the saddle bronc competition.
James, 16, just finished his junior year at Tooele High School and has been riding wild animals since he was 3 years old.
He said he was mutton busting at 3, riding calves at 5, steers at 7, and mini bulls at 8. He even pocketed some cash in his early rodeo days. Back in the seventh grade he competed in the National Junior High School Finals.
James also rides saddle bronc, but bull riding is his favorite.
He’s had plenty of bumps and bruises and broken bones along the way.
“When I was 8 I broke my jaw, and I’ve broken my leg before. I broke a couple of other bones. I broke my scapula earlier this year,” James said.
The young bull rider will hit the amateur and pro circuit this summer. He plans to compete in two rodeos each weekend and up to eight rodeos during the Fourth of July.
“My goal for this year is to have a 75% riding percentage during the amateur/pro season this summer. Eventually, I’d like to get my pro rodeo card and make it to the National Finals by the time I’m 19,” he said.
The Erda cowboy has talked with some of the top Cowboys in the country in his quest to eventually climb the ranks in pro rodeo.
He likes the riding styles of Stetson Wright of Milford, who is currently No. 1 this year in the All-Around with $217,340 in winnings so far. James is also a fan of Sage Kimzey from Saldo, Texas. Wright is currently first nationally in bull riding and Kimzey third. He also likes Clayton Sellers from Fruitland Park, Florida, a three-time National Finals qualifier.
Other cowboys competing in the state finals from the West Desert Club included Carson Hale and McCoy Castagno in boys cutting and Lainee Stewart in girls cutting.
Brooklyn Thomas and Hailee Martin competed in breakaway roping; Kyndi Williams in pole bending; Cooper Sagers, saddle bronc.
Team ropers included Bubba Johnson, Heath Hammerstrom, Cooper Sagers, Karson Taylor, Trevor Johnson and McCoy Castagno.
Tiedown ropers were Bubby Johnson and Trevor Johnson.