February 17, 2016

A pair of teenagers bested some of the world’s best ropers Thursday night at RFD-TV’s The American Semi-Finals presented by Polaris RANGER at Cowtown Coliseum.

As the final team to rope, Brenton Hall, 17, of Jay, Oklahoma, and Paden Bray, 18, of Granbury just wanted to rope their steer fast enough to wind up among the top 10 and qualify for Friday night’s Shootout round. The five best from Friday night punch their ticket to compete at The American, the world’s richest one-day rodeo, Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium with a chance to win a $1 million bonus.

As Hall and Bray backed their horses into the roping boxes, a time of 4.22 seconds by National Finals Rodeo veteran Charly Crawford of Stephenville and Oklahoman Joe Harrison held the lead. The young ropers brought the crowd to their feet with a lightning-quick run of 4.0.

Despite their ages, these two cowboys have a lot of experience. Bray says he first picked up a rope when he was two or three years old. Hall, son of a veteran team roper, started a bit later.

“When I was little, I wanted to be a bull rider,” Hall said. He tried riding sheep and graduated to calves, but “I really didn’t like it when I started getting on live animals,” he said. “I quit at about age 7 and started roping.”

Although they live nearly 400 miles apart, this pair has been roping together for a couple of years. They have both won big paychecks at major roping events and Hall competed at the International Finals Rodeo in January. Just one steer stands between them and the spotlight at the home of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Youth was the theme of the night with 12-year-old Nevada cowgirl Wylee Mitchell winning the affection of the crowd in barrel racing. Mitchell had the third fastest time of the night, 14.012, and is currently sixth. With more than 1000 competitors in qualifying events across the country, the barrel racing brings the top 30 times to the semi-finals with 10 running each night. Mitchell will have to wait until Friday’s set of racers finish to see if she will be competing at The American.

The fastest time of the night was turned in by cowboy Brandon Cullins of Clements, Maryland. His time of 13.833 is the second fastest, so he has a great chance to be one of a handful of men and the first person from Maryland to barrel race at AT&T Stadium.

Derek Kolbaba of Walla Walla, Washington, who is currently ranked 8th in the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) standings, ended the night on a high note with a score of 90 points on a bull named Utter Lover. That was only the second time the bull, owned by D & H Cattle Company, had ever been ridden. Ten cowboys rode their bulls during the first two performances and will return for Friday’s shootout round where the top five move on to face the PBR’s top 10 2016 finishers and three-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) champion Sage Kimzey on Sunday.

Timber Moore of Aubrey has dominated the tie-down roping. He qualified for the semi-finals with two slots. Wednesday night he roped and tied his calf in 6.81 seconds to take the lead. Thursday, he moved into second place with a time of 6.96. Moore has won nearly $6,000 in two nights and will have two chances Friday to be among the top six that get to rope again Sunday.

Former world champion Will Lowe of Canyon scored 85 points on Four Star Rodeo’s horse Lolita to lead the bareback riding. He needs another solid ride Friday night to return to The American. Lowe has been an invited contestant as one of the top 10 for the past three years, but if he makes it back this year, he’ll have a shot at the $1 million bonus for the first time.

Cody Harmon of Dublin turned in the fastest time of the semi-finals when he wrestled his steer to the ground in 4.08 seconds. Thursday night’s steer wrestling was especially tough. The five fastest times of the rodeo all happened during this performance.

National Finals Rodeo veteran Cody DeMoss is another cowboy who has previously competed at The American. His score of 80.75 on Four Star’s Boogie was the best of the night. If he stays consistent, he’ll be back at AT&T Stadium with his first chance at the bonus.

The unique format of The American gives any contestant an opportunity to qualify for the semi-finals and earn a share of nearly $1 million at Cowtown Coliseum. Those who finish among the best in each event move on and could win a portion of an additional $1 million in prize money and a $1 million bonus.

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THE AMERICAN will air on RFD-TV, Country Club, RURAL RADIO channel 147 on SiriusXM and FamilyNet on Sunday (Feb. 19) at 2:00 ET.