Battling the pros

Round Rock's Rogers ropes for chance to go to Vegas

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 9, 2011

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Erich Rogers, right, from Round Rock, Ariz. leads the steer for heeler Kory Koontz June 3 at Dean C. Jackson Memorial Arena in Window Rock.

Apparently life on the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association circuit is broken down into four seasons - five if you can make the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

That is the way team roper Erich Rogers sees it.

"Other than this weekend my year has been pretty solid," Rogers said in an interview following the 2nd Annual Treaty Day & PRCA Rodeo on Friday night.

"Most of the rodeos that I entered were good. We just about placed in most of them," he said.

Clearly, Rogers was speaking about the winter and spring portion of the long rodeo season as he and roping partner Kory Koontz of Sudan, Texas, are making a push towards qualifying for the WNFR.

Currently they are ranked 12th in the year-end standings and, as always, the top 15 earn the trip to Las Vegas come December.

"That's a big goal of mine," Rogers said. "I want to be competing against the top ropers at the end of the year."

Rogers believes Koontz is the guy that will help him get there as he switched partners during the offseason.

"I roped with Monty Petska last year and this year we went our separate ways," Rogers said. "I was really fortunate and very lucky to have Kory call me because he's been there and done that at the Wrangler finals.

"It's a very lucky deal for me to rope with him," he said. "Hopefully this year we'll have a good summer where we'll feel comfortable about where we're at heading into the fall season."

That part of the season will officially begin in two weeks as the two ropers are entered in the highly touted Reno Rodeo, which is considered by many as the "Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West."

After that the pair will make stops in Santa Fe, N.M., and Pecos, Texas, before they hit the big 4th of July weekend where they'll hit seven rodeos in a six-day span.

"The 4th of July run is where every cowboy tries to get to as many rodeos as they can," Rogers said. "It's the biggest week out of the whole year and that is where most cowboys will have a chance to make the Wrangler finals.

"If you do good you can make so much money, but at the same time it can cost you a whole lot," he said.

In other words, it's a make-or-break deal.

"It can help you get to the top of the standings, but that's the time when some ropers will switch partners if they don't have the chemistry to win," Rogers said. "Out there everybody ropes good and it all depends on the chemistry."

So far the chemistry between Rogers and Koontz has been nothing but perfect. In fact, the pair struck gold during the month of February as they won the La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson and placed second in the San Angelo Rodeo in west central Texas.

"That was the best stretch we had," Rogers said. "At Tucson I remember it was cold and windy, but we drew a good steer in the short round and we were a 6.4 on him."

At San Angelo, "We tried to win it, but after roping four rounds we came close," he said.

That February week netted the pair over $12,000.

But over the June 2-5 weekend they hit a rare dry spell.

"We went to three rodeos and we didn't do nothing," Rogers said.

Admittedly, the Round Rock, Ariz., cowboy said it put a hole in his pocket and he went on to explain the difference between a pro rodeo and an Indian rodeo.

"When I competed in the local rodeos a (dry spell) like that didn't hurt that much," he said. "The fees aren't that high and you didn't have to travel that far.

"It's a lot more tougher in the pro rodeos. I mean you got the top 15 ropers in the in the world at these rodeos that practice day in and day out, who make a living doing this. They have more horses and more money to deal with than some people trying to make it."

So in earnest, his dream of making the WNFR depends on what he's producing inside the arena.

"I only have a few sponsors," he said, "so I need to keep winning to keep myself going."

Yet Rogers says he looks towards Seba Dalkai, Ariz., cowboy Derek Begay for inspiration. Begay ropes with Tucson native Cesar de la Cruz and is a three-time WNFR qualifier.

"I think he's a trailblazer for us Navajos," Rogers said. "He came off the reservation and made it to the finals."

"Erich Rogers is a good buddy of mine," Begay said. "We come from the same background, the same lifestyle and he knows that I did struggle at first. But if I can do it, he can do it and I'm pretty sure he and I won't be the only ones that make the (Wrangler) finals because there's a lot of talent on the reservation."

To make it as a professional Begay said there are a few elements a cowboy needs. Obviously, the talent and ability helps but that doesn't guarantee him success.

"This is a really expensive sport to be doing," Begay said. "If you think about it, it's tough because you have to drive a long ways and there is a lot of expense that goes into it so it can put a guy in a hole.

"But me and Erich grew up with no money, so money is not a problem for us," he joked. "I don't know why he's talking about that."

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