For Chad Masters and Jade Corkill, winning the RodeoHouston team roping title was the plan all along.
When Masters, the reigning world champion header, first injured his knee while practicing steer wrestling in preparation for the Wrangler Timed-Event Championships, then tore his ACL, strained his MCL and cracked his kneecap at the Fort Worth rodeo, the duo had some tough decisions to make.
First, Masters decided that he would have the knee repaired just so he could do more than just team rope-including tie-down roping and bull dogging-down the road. So, would the team stay together? Easy answer: Yes. So that meant they needed to get busy winning since Masters would be out for at least two months.
The knee didn't bother him too badly while roping, so the plan was to schedule the operation for two days after the Houston short round and plan a comeback for the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo in June.
"It seems like we kept not doing good in the winter and we kept saying, 'We need to win Houston,'" Masters said. "We were both wanting to do good and have something won before Reno. It was ironic that we counted on it, maybe it was meant to be."
Corkill, on the other hand, was allowing himself a little more wiggle room in his plans.
"Whether we won Houston or not, we would have had about $7,000 won," he said. "Chad was not concerned. He was ready to come back at Reno and make the Finals. Last year at Reno he only had $15,000 won and he won the world. So I figured even with half that won we could still make the Finals."
So, RodeoHouston and its elimination, bracket-style tournament format with $27,500 championship payout was the last shot for the duo to build a foundation prior to the summer rodeo run.
"We did good on the first three and won the average," Corkill said. "We had two weeks in between until we came back to the first semifinals. We were 6.2 in the semifinals and won second. Came back on Saturday [for the Championship round of 10] and had another pretty good steer, were 5.2 and won that."
That set them up as the high call-and final team to compete-in the Shoot-Out round of four contestants. The other teams that made the cut were Travis Tryan and Michael Jones, Kevin Stewart and J.D. Yates and Matt Tyler and Mike Beers.
"When it came down to that last one, we had to rope against Travis Tryan and Michael Jones, the hottest team going," Masters said. "I know how good they are and what they're capable of. Jade said he'd like to be fourth back where we could rope and put the pressure on them, but I tell you what, I believe those guys could have got you. There were four tough teams in the short round. When you watch Travis and Michael rope a steer in 5.2 you know they did it pretty much right so it's not easy just to go beat them."
But that's exactly what they did-turning in an arena-record time of 4.3.
"In the final four, Chad had it on him so fast I was still gassing it, trying to get up there and that steer checked off and my horse Ice Cube got right back to him and I got just as good a shot as I always get on him."