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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Team ropers draw main spotlight at Wrangler Pro Rodeo Classic

Maybe they just want to come in out of the cold or maybe they’re trying to work out the kinks of new “marriages,” but whatever the reason, team ropers take center stage at the Wranger Pro Rodeo Classic at the Arena this weekend.

The three-day Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event is void of big-name cowboys, who are almost forced to miss the Spokane event under the new rules that limit the number of rodeos that can count in the race to get to the National Finals Rodeo. Most of them are at the lucrative National Western Rodeo in Denver, which kicks off the 2005 season, and most will head to the Southwest Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth, Texas, next week.

Many of the best Columbia River Circuit cowboys are missing the regional rodeo, maybe to see if they can kick-start their season with a big payday down south.

It doesn’t help that the Montana and California circuit finals rodeos are this weekend.

But when the rodeo kicks off tonight at 7:30 (it continues Saturday at 7:30 and ends Sunday with a 2:30 session), many of the best team ropers will participate.

Seven of the top 10 headers for the 2004 season and six of the top heelers have entered Spokane.

Though many of the top headers and heelers were paired together last season, it’s hard to guess how many teams have switched up since the Columbia River Circuit Finals in November.

The top headers, who finished second through fourth, are Mike Fuller of Clarkston; Jake Stanley of Hermiston, Ore.; and Josh Bruce of Jordan Valley, Ore. The heelers include No. 2 Brady Minor of Ellensburg; No. 4 Patrick Woodcock of St. Anthony, Idaho; and No. 5 Dave Inman of Colfax.

All six events – there is no barrel racing in the Arena – feature many of the top circuit cowboys from last year, but there are no champions or any of the cowboys who were in contention for a trip to Las Vegas and the NFR last December.

Spokane is still a good rodeo for young cowboys with big dreams. Jerome Robinson’s Western Trails Rodeo Co., out of Colorado, is again the main contractor for the event and locally owned Flying 5 and Big Bend rodeo companies are the subcontractors.

Flying 5 and Big Bend, owned by Don Hutsell of Ritzville and Sonny Riley of Pomeroy, boast the 2004 PRCA Bull of the Year in Dippin’ Tahonta. It is the second straight honor for Tahonta and the third straight and sixth time in eight years one of their bulls was voted No. 1 by the top 30 bull riders.

In 2002 Smokeless Unforgiven was the top bull, following Border Patrol in 2000, Yellowjacket in 1999 and Rapid Fire in 1997.

Another Hutsell-Riley bull, Keller Special, was voted the No. 2 bull at the NFR in December. Smokeless Spring Fling was the No. 3 bareback horse of the NFR. In 2002, Spring Fling was picked the No. 1 saddle bronc at the Finals.

Big Bend-Flying 5 also swept the Columbia River Circuit year-end honors.

For the season, Sping Fling was the top bareback and Miss Smokeless tied for second. The top three saddle broncs were all Big Bend – Kool Toddy, Smokeless No Dice and Classic Toddy Dip. Tahonta was the top bull and Spotted Jacket was third.

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