Claremore Daily Progress

Community News

April 2, 2013

Rodeo’s greats named to Claremore HOF

CLAREMORE — Members of the Will Rogers Roundup Club know an important piece of rodeos future is to embrace its past.  

That is the key reason behind the Rodeo Legends Banquet, which took place March 30, at the clubhouse. Six people were inducted into the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo Hall of Fame that evening, including an eight-time world champion, three other qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and local legends Henry and Phillipa Orr.  
It’s the perfect precursor to the annual rodeo, May 24-26.  
Don Gay owns the most bull riding world championships in the history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, including four straight from 1974-77. He added three more from 1979-81 and his final gold buckle in 1984. He headlines a list that includes steer wrestler Jim Smith, a four-time NFR qualifier; roughstock cowboy Sammie Groves, an NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding; and barrel racer Tana Poppino, a three-time NFR qualifier from nearby Big Cabin.  
“I’m in a number of halls of fame, but this is very nice,” Gay said. “To be recognized with an individual rodeo that has a longstanding history like Claremore does, you realize that your deeds have not gone unrewarded.”  
Gay competed primarily through the 1970s and 1980s. Today, he continues to be a major player in the game, the son of legendary stock contractor Neal Gay, general manager of Frontier Rodeo Co., and as a color analyst for the NFR telecasts.  
“I finally and officially retired for the fourth time in 1989,” said Gay, who won bull riding titles in 1974 and 1978.  
Groves won the saddle bronc riding title at the Will Rogers Stampede five straight times from 1972-76. In fact, he dominated the Oklahoma Circuit in 1974 by also winning in Tulsa, Woodward, Guthrie and Ponca City. He competed at the NFR six times, the first in 1970 as an alternate. His final trip to Oklahoma City for ProRodeo’s finale was in 1978.  

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