Ride 'em, cowboy!: Branquinho closes out Oakdale Rodeo in style

ragostini@modbee.comApril 20, 2013 

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    alternate textRon Agostini
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Sports
    Bio: Ron Agostini has served as a sports reporter and columnist for The Bee for more than 35 years. His stories and columns have won state-wide, regional and national awards and he's a board director and past president of the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association. He's a graduate of Fresno State.
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— When Luke Branquinho shakes his backside, he's messaging his fellow cowboys.

The message: Fight for second place, because first place is taken.

Branquinho, the two-time reigning world steer wrestling champion from Los Alamos, broke out his shimmy during Sunday's closing performance of the 62nd Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo.

Seconds after he turfed his steer in 4.5 seconds — giving him the 2-go-round aggregate bulldogging title — Branquinho moved his tailfeather for a crowd of about 5,000.

No, the 260-pound Branquinho won't be auditioning soon for "Dancing With The Stars." Yes, he's glad to keep dancing for his fans.

Because that means the four-time world champion remains on top.

"I've been doing (the shake) since 2004," Branquinho said. "It's been good for me, for sure."

He referred to the year of his first world title and, since, he's owned the event. In 2008, he put his name on the Bowman Trophy as the Oakdale Rodeo's all-around champion.

Oakdale always has taken a liking to Branquinho. He lived with the Bacigalupi or Cadwell families each spring for about three years as a young pro during California's spring run of rodeos. And Branquinho hasn't forgotten.

In fact, Branquinho recruited Trav Cadwell to haze for him — to guide the racing steer toward the rider — during his winning trip. Cadwell knew the drill. The former Oakdale all-around champion (1995) qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2000 in steer wrestling.

"I had to pull an old-timer out of retirement," Branquinho teased.

Rodeo's superstars were hard to miss in Oakdale. Six reigning world champions, including 10-time world all-around champion Trevor Brazile, competed.

And three of them — Branquinho, saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright and tie-down roper Tuf Cooper — earned first-place buckles.

The weekend was decorated by milestones: A record purse in Oakdale (nearly $117,000), the best attendance in years (an estimated 12,000 over two days) and the most cowboys in years (474).

Sunday's performance was spiced by bareback specialist Seth Hardwick from Laramie, Wyo. Hardwick, 24, schooled on Wet Feather's moves by friends, delivered and 84 for the win.

The all-around prize went to New Mexico cowboy Jim Ross Cooper, the only entry to cash in two events (tie-down and team roping). Cooper, 25, the son of ProRodeo Hall of Famer and 1981 world all-around champion Jimmie Cooper, earned his checks during the Friday and Saturday morning slack. He team-roped with twin brother Jake.

The family genes kicked in, without doubt, but so did some old-fashioned talent. Cooper, 25, already has reached three NFR's and finished 12th among heelers in 2012.

"My dad always told me how much he enjoyed Oakdale and the other spring rodeos in California," Cooper said. "I'm blessed to have my name among the great stars who've won in Oakdale. It's nice that your name will be remembered somewhere."

So will Branquinho in the town he still calls his "home away from home."

• NOTES — Modesto barrel racer Leandra Spence tied for 10th (18.03 seconds). ...Three World War II reconnaissance planes made a flyover before the grand entry.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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