ProFile: Luke Branquinho
Written by: Kendra Santos< Back to Articles
Five-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho won’t be shaking his booty under the bright lights of Las Vegas this December. He’s spent way too much time on the injured reserve list lately for that. But after a couple of comebacks in consecutive years, the living legend is looking forward to the $500,000 WCRA Semi-Finals, which will light up the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, during its November 15-18 run.
Branquinho will be there via the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA) Virtual Rodeo Qualifier (VRQ) system, thanks to a series of recent rodeo nominations. Since his first event back after the latest injury—his hometown Santa Barbara Old Spanish Days rodeo in August, where he finished fifth—Branquinho has been busy nominating circuit rodeos in his quest to qualify for the WCRA Semi-Finals.
As of press time the middle of September, Branquinho had placed at four of those rodeos, and was sitting fifth in the VRQ steer wrestling standings. The cutoff date for cowboys to nominate events for the Semi-Finals—for which the top 150 qualify—is October 29 (nominate now at app.wcrarodeo.com). He was vying to hold onto his spot in the VRQ standings, as the top-eight point-earners bypass the preliminary and progressive rounds, and advance directly into the top-eight finals at the Semi-Finals.
Branquinho has largely planned his nominations strategy around cowboy-friendly conditions.
“I’m nominating rodeos where the cattle are most likely to be even—not where there are three good ones, and eight you can’t win on,” said the Los Alamos, California, cowboy, who won the world in 2004, ’08, ’11-12, and ’14. “If it’s a rodeo where you’re likely to draw a steer that stops with the neck rope or runs so hard you couldn’t catch him with a rope, I’m less likely to nominate a rodeo like that, because too much is out of the cowboy’s control. The older I get, the less likely I am to enter rodeos that are notorious drawing contests.”
The WCRA is going to great lengths to keep competitive conditions fair for all contestants.
“I like a lot of things about the WCRA,” Branquinho said. “As professional cowboys, there just aren’t that many big-money opportunities. With the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier System, everybody has a chance to qualify to get there, and it’ll be a cowboy contest when we get there. I’ve heard people question the VRQ system, but to earn another chance at making good money from a rodeo I’m already going to is a no brainer. You already made the decision to enter that rodeo, why not pay a little extra to have a shot at a lot more money?”
Branquinho turned 38 in September. So what’s left on his bulldogging bucket list?
“I want to win as much money as I can before I retire, and the WCRA will help give a guy that opportunity,” he said. “Obviously, winning another gold buckle to get to six (and tie Hall of Famer Homer Pettigrew’s record) would be a big deal. My older boys (Cade and Jameson) got to see me win one. I’d like (Luke and wife Lindsay’s baby) Bear to get to watch me win one, as well.”
In addition to the Days of ’47 in Salt Lake City, the WCRA will host three “majors” in 2019, for a total of four events featuring a $1 million guaranteed payoff in the coming calendar year.
“I’m excited about all of this,” said Branquinho, whose trademark booty shake after a winning run is always a crowd favorite. “A shot at short-term financial gain is great, but in the bigger picture, we’re talking about the chance at money that helps set a cowboy up for the rest of his life. I want to be a part of it. With the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) as a partner, the WCRA will bring a lot more mainstream exposure to our sport, and that has all kinds of additional benefits and potential for cowboys.
“More money and less travel is something we’ve all wanted for a long time. I look forward to the day when professional rodeo cowboys don’t have to travel like carnies to try and earn a living. Someday, cowboys won’t have to miss their families all the time to make ends meet, and I hope that day comes sooner than later. The WCRA is providing cowboys with some real-deal opportunities. Everybody has a chance to qualify to get there, and the cream will rise to the top. I just hope that in this day and age, I’m not low-fat milk.”