Iowa Cowboy wins Saddle Bronc and 1.1 Million in Arlington
Gold buckles avoided Wade Sundell in past
He stayed aboard Maple Leaf at AT&T Stadium
Several competitors pocketed $100,000
BY BRETT HOFFMAN
Special to the Star-Telegram
Though he’s been an attention-grabbing bronc buster on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit in recent years, a gold buckle has eluded Wade Sundell.
Last year, he finished second in the saddle bronc riding world title race after competing in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas. In 2014, he came in third.
However, if Sundell, who lives in Boxholm, Iowa, never wins a gold buckle, the cowboy conceivably could finish his career in much better financial shape than some who have snared a PRCA world title.
THIS IS THE CRAZIEST DAY OF MY LIFE. FROM THE TIME I WAS A LITTLE KID, I DREAMED OF WINNING SOMETHING LIKE THIS.
The 31-year-old Sundell earned $1.1 million on Sunday afternoon at the RFD-TV The American after clinching the saddle bronc riding title with a lofty final-round score of 90.5.
He stayed aboard a former world champion bronc named Maple Leaf at AT&T Stadium.
“This is the craziest day of my life,” Sundell said. “From the time I was a little kid, I dreamed of winning something like this.”
He’s earned $1.3 million for three days of work at The American as the result of winning titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Having won the first two editions of The American, Sundell became eligible to win all or a share of a $1 million “side pot” that’s designated to competitors who earn a berth through the Fort Worth-based American Semifinals, or riders who win the American three consecutive times, which organizers call a “Triple Crown.”
Sundell’s earnings at The American over the past three years are $1.3 million. He pocketed $100,000 when he clinched the title at the inaugural American in 2014. He earned another $100,000 for clinching the title last year.
Sundell’s PRCA career earnings are $1,444,022 over nine years, according to prorodeo.com.
This year, for the first time, Sundell, barrel racer Lisa Lockhart and team roper Kaleb Driggers were eligible to win a Triple Crown.
In addition to winning the Triple Crown, Sundell collected the entire $1.1 million because he was the only competitor who met the criterion to collect money from the seven-figure side pot.
OTHER WINNERS WERE BULL RIDER JOAO RICARDO VIEIRA, BAREBACK RIDER TANNER AUS, STEER WRESTLER CASEY MARTIN, TEAM ROPERS DERRICK BEGAY AND CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER, AND BARREL RACER SARAH ROSE MCDONALD.
All other 2016 American single-event winners pocketed $100,000. Joao Ricardo Vieira, a Brazilian native who lives in Decatur when he competes in North America, clinched the bull riding title.
Other $100,000 champions were bareback rider Tanner Aus, steer wrestler Casey Martin, team ropers Derrick Begay and Clay O’Brien Cooper, and barrel racer Sarah Rose McDonald.
Trevor Brazile of Decatur, who competed in tie-down roping and team roping, won The American all-around title for the third consecutive year. He received a trophy saddle.
The American, which is the brainchild of RFD-TV Events CEO Randy Bernard, has paid competitors $2 million for the past three years, a record payoff for a single performance rodeo.
A competitor has earned $1.1 in two of the first three editions. Bareback rider Richmond Champion earned $1.1 million at The American in 2014.
At the 2016 edition, Sundell won both the first round and the final round. He won the first round with an 85.5 atop a bronc named Warrior, who is owned by the Calgary Stampede.
During the four-man final, he paced the field with the 90.5 atop the 2013 PRCA world champion bronc Maple Leaf, which is owned by Jerry Nelson’s Frontier Rodeo Co. Four-time NFR qualifier Jake right finished second with an 87.75.
When the title was a stake in the finals, Sundell rode aggressively.
“You just have to bear down and let it all hang out,” Sundell said.