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Three Cornhusker cowboys will make the trek to see the big lights of Las Vegas for the 60th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) Dec. 6-15.
Saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer, Elsmere, and bareback riders Steven Dent, Mullen, and Orin Larsen, Gering, have all qualified for pro rodeo’s world championship.
Of the three, Dent is the veteran of the bunch.
For the 32 year-old cowboy taking his ninth trip to the WNFR, the rodeo year was a good one. He spent much of the year in the top five and top ten. “You always want to be in the top five, but as long as you’re in the top ten, as good as the Finals (pay), you have a good chance” at a world championship, he said.
Not only did Dent compete in the bareback riding but he did some saddle bronc riding, too. The all-around buckle beckons. “I’ve always had the goal of making the Finals in two events and win the all-around,” he said. He was the all-around champ at ten rodeos this year.
Dent, a versatile athlete who participated in high school football, wrestling, track, and rodeo, and helped Mullen High School win a state championship his junior year and was a state wrestling champion his senior year, has a workout routine. “I’ve tweaked it, the last few years, and it’s helped me because I didn’t even get sore at the Finals last year.” Competing every day for ten days in a row can be tough. Last year, Dent won second place in the ninth round and first in the tenth round, “so I’m pretty well sticking with that routine. A lot of guys are ready to pack it up by the fifth or sixth round.”
The Dents have workout equipment in their basement, which his wife Kay uses to prepare for running half-marathons, and Steven uses as well. “I try to work all the muscles that get sore when you ride bucking horses, and I do a lot of stretching, trying to get those muscles so when you put a horse on the end of them, they don’t tear. They’re in shape and ready for it.”
Kay likes to work out, but Steven, not so much. “I don’t love to work out but I know it’s a necessity. I’m not a workout fiend but I don’t like to lose, either.”
Dent traveled with bareback rider J.R. Vezain through part of the rodeo season, before Vezain broke his back in September. He is in rehab to regain the ability to walk again. “He’s amazing,” Dent said of his friend. “I wouldn’t handle his situation nearly as well.” Vezain told to him that he’s realized there’s one thing in life he can control: his attitude. Dent and the other bareback riders will pay tribute to their friend at the WNFR.
Dent realizes he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. “I love riding bucking horses, and I love the camaraderie between the contestants. Rodeo’s been good to me.” He and Kay run a cattle operation in the Sandhills, near Mullen. “I’ve got things going on at home because of rodeo that I can make a living at without leaving.”
He and Kay have three children: a son who is five years old, and two daughters, ages three and one. Dent’s dad, Steve, was a saddle bronc rider in the Nebraska State Rodeo Association but quit competing when his son was three. “My dad quit rodeoing to be around for me and raise me on the ranch, and so I could start going to junior rodeos. It’s time I do the same thing for my kids.”
Dent enters the WNFR in eighth place with $109,419.90 won.
When fans at the WNFR look up Orin Larsen’s name on the day sheet, it won’t have Gering listed as his hometown.
That’s because the 27-year-old bareback rider grew up in Inglis, Manitoba, moving to Gering three years ago with his then fiancée (now wife) Alexa.
For Larsen, it’s his fourth time to qualify for the WNFR, and rodeo got hot for him from August through the end of September. It was due to two people: his wife Alexa and now-retired bareback rider Cody DeMers.
Alexa helps him with his focus. “She knows me better than I know myself,” he said. “My wife has helped me tremendously with my mental game.” She’s never critical or judgmental but will gently point out to him when things aren’t going well. “She’ll say something like, ‘what was your mindset like when you were really doing well?” which helps Larsen bring things back into focus.
DeMers, who Larsen met during his college days at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, advises him with his fundamentals. “He helps me get back to the basics of bareback riding,” Larsen said. Last summer, during his slump, “I was trying to reinvent the mouse trap and the mouse trap was already perfectly fine.”
Larsen is battling an injury from the Canadian Finals Rodeo in early November. During the last round of the Canadian Finals, he tore his meniscus. He had surgery, and the surgeon doubted he would ride in Vegas.
But he is determined to do all he can to compete. “I pretty well changed my whole diet, my whole outlook on things, did a lot of praying, and it’s healing faster than I thought it would.”
Larsen’s older brother Tyrel is a saddle bronc rider living in Oklahoma; his younger brother Kane is a bull rider living in Manitoba. All three brothers competed at the Canadian Finals this year.
After high school, Larsen got a rodeo scholarship to the College of Southern Idaho, where he competed collegiately and got a degree in welding. From there, he spent a year rodeoing for Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla., where he met his wife. Alexa is a registered nurse, and when it came time to find a home, they chose Gering, where Alexa has a job and family on her dad’s side.
Larsen comes into the WNFR in fourth place with $130,655.10 in regular season earnings.
Saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer is the pride of Elsmere, Neb., population 112.
The 32-year-old cowboy will compete at his sixth WNFR, after finishing in the “crying hole” – sixteenth place-after the 2017 rodeo season, $3,000 out of qualifying.
He’s delighted to be heading back to Vegas, but he realizes there’s a bigger plan. “It feels good to be excited about it again. I love rodeoing but it doesn’t control my life. The way I feel about it, the Lord has a plan for everything and He didn’t want me to go” to the WNFR last year.
Scheer had a good spring and summer, but after the Calgary Stampede in July, his bronc saddle broke. He went through a time trying to ride a different one borrowed from fellow bronc rider Isaac Diaz, but it was too small and didn’t work well.
Scheer sent his off to former saddle bronc rider Kerry Veitch, in Iowa, to be fixed. “He’s a mastermind with bronc saddles,” Scheer said. “He knows where the riggings need to go, where the swells need to fit. I think he’s the best out there.” His saddle was fixed by the end of September. Scheer won the Mitchell, S.D. rodeo in it, and “got a piece of Stephenville (Texas rodeo) in it,” he said. “It was feeling good.”
The Nebraska man owns property in Stephenville, Texas, where he bought land, and with rodeo earnings, put up a house, a barn, and is now working on an arena. He calls his Texas home his “winter birdhouse.” He spends the winter there, rodeoing out of that as home base, then is on the rodeo road and at home in Nebraska the rest of the year.
Prepping for the WNFR for Scheer involves daily work. “I’ve always believed, if you’re working, you’re working out.” He’s welding arena fence now, hauling pipe, doing fix-up work, and “I’m usually pretty tired at night. I figure working all day is better than a two-hour workout.”
On the side, Scheer owns cattle that his dad, Kevin, and his brother, Clete, help with while he’s in Texas. He jokes, “they’re back (in Nebraska), working their butts off, and I’m in paradise, enjoying this beautiful weather.”
His parents, Kevin and Pam Scheer, travel to some of the destination rodeos where he competes. They’ve been to Pendleton, Houston, Calgary, and will come to San Antonio next spring. During the Finals, his brother, Clete, will stay home to do chores, but if it looks like Cort has a chance to win a gold buckle, Clete will be there for the last two performances, along with his and wife Chancey’s daughter Talon, who is in first grade.
Cort’s sister Kema will also be in Vegas. She’s a “dad gum angel,” he said, helping him with whatever he needs. “She’s my big supporter.”
Scheer is in ninth place going into the WNFR, with $101,842.66 won during the regular season.
The WNFR runs December 6-15 and consists of ten nights of rodeo, after which champions are crowned in each of seven events. The top fifteen contestants in each event, based on money won throughout the regular season, qualify to compete at the “super bowl” of rodeo, as the WNFR is sometimes called.
Total payoff for the rodeo is $10 million. First place for each round pays $26,230.77; first place in the average pays $67,269.23
The rodeo begins at 7 pm Pacific Time each night and is aired live on CBS Sports. It is aired with a delay on www.prorodeo.tv, with a subscription fee.
For more information, visit www.ProRodeo.com.
Five Wrangler National Finals Rodeo WNFR competitors call beautiful Montana their home.
Bull rider Parker Breding, Edgar, is the only roughstock cowboy among the group.
Of the four remaining, two are team ropers (cousins Chase Tryan and Clay Tryan) and two are steer wrestlers (Ty Erickson and Bridger Chambers.)
In Montana, the Tryan name is synonymous with team roping. Clay Tryan, the son of Dennis Tryan, a 1984 WNFR qualifier, and Terri Kaye Kirkland, also a WNFR qualifier, is the oldest of three boys. His brothers Travis and Brady have also team roped at the WNFR (they were the first set of three brothers to rope there the same year, in 2010).
Even though the three-time world champion (2005, 2013-2014), has qualified for fifteen WNFRs, the excitement never wears off.
“It’s why you do it,” Clay said. “There’s a thrill. Big events are exciting for me, whether it’s a big jackpot, Cheyenne (Frontier Days), or the BFI (Bob Feist Invitational Team Roping). That’s why you work hard and practice.”
Tryan spent the early part of the summer heading for Jade Corkill. But when Corkill decided to rodeo less, he teamed up with an old partner, Travis Graves. Tryan and Corkill hadn’t done well in the winter rodeos, but he and Graves got hot quick. In late June, when the Reno, Nev. rodeo hit, Tryan had won $19,000. By Sept. 30, he and Graves had added another $80,000 to their winnings. Tryan thinks it was the most won by a team in the summer.
It wasn’t his ideal way to rodeo, but it worked. “I like doing it way better when I can do well in the winter. It makes it easier. When you’re coming from behind, it’s a little tougher. I’d rather have a good winter and spring and start the summer off in the lead but sometimes it doesn’t work that way.”
He and Graves roped together from 2010-2012, making it to the WNFR all three of those years, and doing “everything but win a world championship,” he said. “Maybe this time around we’ll finish the deal.”
Tryan, who with his wife Bobbie has three sons, ages 12, 10 and 4, lives in Texas even though Montana is home. Being a top 15team roper with Montana winters is hard. In Texas, “the weather’s nice, you can practice a lot, and there are a lot of team roping jackpots.” But Montana will always be his home state. “I still call Montana home,” he said. “It’s where I got good. If I wasn’t good, I’d still be living there.” His two older boys spent the summer there, with his dad, as Dennis took them to ropings. His boys are “roping pretty good, and it was fun for my dad to take them.”
Clay’s dad was instrumental in his success.
“He’s the reason I rope, for sure,” he said. “He was good. He’s the one who got me going.”
And his wife is critical to his success. Bobbie and the boys, who are homeschooled, travel with him nearly all the time.
“She knows the drill,” Clay said. “She’s pretty savvy about what goes on.” Traveling together “is the only way to do it.”
Clay enters the WNFR in fourth place with $96,990.03 won.
Clay’s cousin Chase, who is nearly 10 years his junior, will compete at his second WNFR.
The heeler’s first place finish in the average at the Montana Circuit Finals last January kicked off his year. Good runs in Reno, Nev., Cody, Wyo., Edmonton, Alb. and Livingston, Mont., contributed to it.
Chase, who lives in Helena, roped with Brenten Hall for much of the year, but because Hall didn’t qualify for the WNFR, he will rope with Bubba Buckaloo, Caddo, Okla., there. It is Buckaloo’s first trip. The two have been in Texas practicing, and Chase appreciates how Buckaloo ropes. “He’s aggressive and smart, all at the same time. He seems to always put himself in a good spot to win. He’s a winner.”
Chase competed at the 2012 WNFR, roping with Keven Daniel and finishing second in the average that year. There’s more money up for grabs now (first place in each round pays $26,230), but he’s just happy to be going back. “I’ve been working at it really hard lately.”
He never hung out with his cousins Clay, Travis and Brady much, because of the age difference. “By the time I got out and about and started entering rodeos, (Clay) was already gone.” He did stay at Clay’s house in Texas early in his rodeo career. “I owe a lot of credit to him and his family. They helped me with a lot of stuff and put up with me for a long time.”
Chase spends most of his time in Texas with friends, but like his cousin, Montana is home. “I love it. I grew up here. It feels like home, every time I go back.”
He enters this year’s WNFR in 12th place with $68,283.81 won.
Ty Erickson is in a different position this year, headed into his fourth WNFR.
The Helena steer wrestler will go to Las Vegas in fourth place. The last two years, he’s been in first place going into the Finals but finished as reserve world champion last year and in seventh place in 2016.
“I’ve been joking with people that I’m glad I’m not going in No. 1. The pressure isn’t there to be No. 1 and stay there. I’m an underdog, so to speak.”
His game plan hasn’t changed. “I’m going to go at every steer as if it were a one-header and try to make the best run on every steer I can.”
As a little kid, he dreamed about bulldogging at the WNFR. “Me and Tim Sparing (a fellow Helenan and steer wrestler who hazed for Erickson at the 2016 WNFR) grew up thinking about making the Finals. That’s all we ever thought about. Now that I’m doing it, it’s pretty amazing.”
In Vegas, he will ride the two-time AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year, Scooter. Scooter, owned by world champions Tyler Pearson and Kyle Irwin, will be ridden by Erickson, Pearson, Irwin, and Tyler Waguespack at the Finals. Scooter “is unbelievable,” Erickson said. “He’s great in any kind of setup you take him to. And he fits so many different guys. Anybody that gets on him can win on him, and I think that’s what makes him so special.”
Erickson rode Scooter during the regular season.
Erickson’s wife, Cierra, (they married in October), never watches him compete at the WNFR. She’s outside, with the horses.
“She really cares about taking care of horses, and the last four years, she’s not ever watched the rodeo,” he said. “She’s been in the warmup pens, taking care of horses and getting them ready for us. She’s a pretty incredible woman.” In addition to readying Scooter, she warms up Metallica, the haze horse for the four cowboys.
Erickson has won $89,661.75 coming into this year’s finals.
The rookie of the Montana timed event men is Bridger Chambers.
The 29-year-old bulldogger is headed to his first WNFR after having a fabulous rodeo year.
Chambers, who lives with his wife and four children in Butte, has circuit rodeoed for the past six years but never went too far out of Montana, in part because of the cost of rodeo, but also because of his “belief in my ability,” he said. “I always felt like I wasn’t good enough.”
Last winter, he made a commitment to himself to practice harder, and in the practice pen, he set goals. Each time he reached a goal, he set a new one. One of the goals was to win the average at the Montana Circuit Finals, which he did, which qualified him for a trip to the RAM National Circuit Finals in Florida. While there, he won second place, which added to his world rankings.
The win in Florida qualified him for some of the big winter shows, where he won money in San Antonio, Ft. Worth, and other places.
Before going to Florida, he had a serious discussion with his parents and his wife. He and his dad own a drug dog business, and Chambers being on the rodeo road would keep him away from work. He was hesitant. “Do I fulfill my obligation as a business owner, or do I take a shot at my dream as a little kid?” With his parents’ and wife’s blessing, he chose to rodeo fulltime.
After the RAM National Circuit Finals, he jumped into the top 15 and stayed there for nearly all year. He never had any big wins, but lots of little ones, a lot of second, third, fourth place checks “that add up in the end.”
In Vegas, Chambers will be aboard Rooster, a 12-year-old sorrel who he has owned for three years. It took awhile to gel with Rooster, but once Chambers did, the horse got better. On Rooster, a person better be ready to nod for his steer. “When you turn him into the corner, back up (in the box) and everything’s set, you’d better get going.”
Rodeoing full time and qualifying for the Finals has been everything that Chambers had heard it would be.
“You hear people talk about how crazy the driving is, how many rodeos they’re going to, and you think about how cool that would be. You want to be a part of it.” People think the road is all glitz and glamour, but it’s not. “They don’t see that we warm up horses, make a run, then drive 15 hours just in time to pull into slack somewhere.”
His wife, Kristen and their kids, a daughter who is 13 and three sons, ages 11, 4 and 3, missed their dad when he was gone. Facetime helped, he said, and when Chambers was on the road, he sent home videos of his runs for the younger boys to watch. But the youngest one “dang sure got tired of mom telling him that dad would come home in a couple more days.”
Chambers enters the WNFR in eighth place, having won $81,178.35 in the regular season.
The 60th annual WNFR runs Dec. 6-15 in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Arena on the grounds of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The rodeo will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network starting at 9 p.m. CT/8 p.m. MT. For more information, visit www.ProRodeo.com. F
Four roughstock cowboys from North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana have qualified for the 60th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D., Parker Breding, Edgar, Mont., Brody Cress, Hillsdale, Wyo., and Chase Brooks, Butte, Mont., have all finished in the top fifteen in their respective events, and will be in Las Vegas for the WNFR December 6-15.
Breuer is a bareback rider; Cress and Brooks are saddle bronc riders, and Breding is a bull rider. Of the four, Breuer is the veteran; this will be his fourth trip. For Breding, it’s his third, for Cress, it’s the second trip, and for Brooks, this is his inaugural year at the WNFR.
Breuer, who is 28 years old, rodeoed differently this year. Smarter, he said. “I was a lot smarter about how I went,” he said. “I got on horses I knew I had a chance to win a check on.” Once he learned his draw, he would call buddies who had ridden the horse or he checked the bucking horse stats on prorodeo.com. “You have to start taking care of your body, not going and getting on horses you don’t know or that don’t have stats. There are times you have to get on those horses, but there are times you don’t have to, either.”
Breuer ranches with his parents, Ed and Penny, and his grandparents, Ed and Dalas Breuer, south of Mandan. Ranch work is part of his physical workout to train for the WNFR, but he’s going to a trainer, too, working on core strength. The training is three times a week, before daylight, so he can come home and work all day.
He traveled with fellow bareback riders Steven Dent (who has also qualified for the WNFR), Tanner Aus, and JR Vezain, and he loved it. “I wouldn’t want to travel with anybody else. Those guys were a good group to travel with.” The four often won the top four places at a rodeo. “Whenever we showed up, you knew we were riding for first, second, third and fourth. It’s fun when you travel with three of the best.”
Breuer does regret that Vezain won’t compete at the WNFR. The Cowley, Wyo. cowboy suffered a broken back during September; the injury keeps Vezain out of competing at his sixth WNFR. “It just sucks,” Breuer said of Vezain’s injury. “You try and block it out, but it dang sure makes you think. You never know when your last horse will be. So every time you nod your head, give it everything you’ve got, like it’ll be your last one.”
Breuer is married to Kelli; they have a daughter, Kayd, who is one year old, and a second child on the way, due in June. They will both be in Las Vegas during the WNFR, as will his parents, and grandparents Ed and Dalas Breuer and Lloyd and Peggy Nelson. Granddad Bob Abrahamson will be watching on TV from home.
Breuer enters the WNFR in twelfth place with $91,558.39 won.
Bull rider Parker Breding had the best year of his rodeo career.
The 26-year-old cowboy started off by winning the RAM Montana Circuit Finals year-end and average titles in January, then the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee in April. “I was trying to get out there (on the rodeo trail) and get back on top of things and be relevant. It ended up taking off and being more than I was hoping for. I was extremely blessed.”
He got his start by riding calves at brandings. “I got the crap beat out of me, doing that, and I’m surprised I wanted to keep at it,” he said. His dad, Scott, led him into it, but never pressured him to do it. He rode his first steer at age ten at the Cody (Wyo.) Night Rodeo, and “that did it for me. I never looked back, and I loved it immediately.” He won $30 for it. “I wish I had framed” the check, he said. “That was huge for me. It was the first time I stayed on and I’ll never forget that.”
Five-time WNFR qualifier Scott Breding is proud of how his son is doing. His dad “considers me to be doing way better than he did,” Breding said. “But I disagree with that.” Scott didn’t qualify for the WNFR till he was 30 years old (he qualified in 1994-1997 and 1999). “I’m way ahead of that, so if he had had the opportunities that I had, I know he’d have been a world champion. He had quite the career. If I could do as much as he did, I’d be thrilled.”
Breding has changed his preparations for the WNFR this year. In past years, he didn’t get on many bulls before the WNFR, but not this year. He won Casper, Wyo. on November 3 and will get on a few bulls at a bull riding school in Miles City, Mont., this weekend. He’ll also do some hunting near Helena or Miles City. “It’s quite a bit of walking, and I could use that, and hopefully get some meat in the freezer.”
He is ranked second in the world, more than $110,000 behind the number one man, Sage Kimzey, who has won $297,025. He knows it will be tough to make up that much money at the WNFR. “If everything went how it needed to go, I could catch him. But it’s quite a mountain in front of me, to do that. I’m trying not to think about that and put blinders on.” Breding’s primary goal is to make ten qualified rides. “If I could ride ten bulls, it would dang sure make things interesting.”
Parker’s parents, Scott and Jana, his older sister Lacey and younger brother Jase will be in Las Vegas to cheer him on.
Brody Cress qualified for his second WNFR but did not finish the season like he had planned.
The saddle bronc rider was ranked second in the world when he broke his right ankle at a saddle bronc riding in Sentinel Butte, N.D. on August 4.
After two surgeries, three plates, and 25 screws, Cress will be ready for the WNFR. He hasn’t ridden competitively since the accident, but plans on getting on some practice horses in California before he heads to Vegas.
The injury broke his fibia in half and shattered the bottom of the tibia. It happened when he jumped off the bronc, instead of waiting for the pickup man. “The injury came of my own accord,” he said. “People told me to stop jumping off and I wouldn’t listen. You learn lessons like that. I guarantee I won’t be jumping off any bucking horse, unless I absolutely have to.”
Cress won the average at last year’s WNFR and finished as reserve champion by $2400 behind the world champ Ryder Wright. Having the experience at the WNFR is so helpful. “It’s nice to know what to expect, especially since I’m facing a different challenge coming into it.”
He’s also excited to get back to the WNFR. “It’s surreal there,” he said. “The atmosphere in that building, to ride against that level of guys, for that much money, it’s outstanding.”
Cress has dropped four spots in the standings since his injury in August; he enters the WNFR in sixth place with $111,587.67 won.
His parents, Tommy and Lannette Cress, and his older brother Blaze, will be on hand to watch him ride in Las Vegas.
The rookie of the bunch is saddle bronc rider Chase Brooks.
Brooks, of Butte, Montana, made his first appearance in the pro rodeo world standings on July 9, after a phenomenal Fourth of July run. Over the Fourth, Brooks won first place at rodeos in Prescott, Ariz., Livingston, Mont., Belle Fourche, S.D., and St. Paul, Ore. “It was a good time to hit a hot streak, that’s for sure,” he said.
He grew up thinking he would be a bull rider. He rode mini bulls and junior bulls, then started roping. In high school, though, he switched interests. “I decided I didn’t want to deal with (roping) horses, and bulls are scary. I thought the bronc rider on the buckle looked pretty cool, so I decided to go with that one.”
But even as a youngster, he was watching saddle bronc riding. “My parents have pictures of me watching the NFR when I was two years old,” he said. He also liked saddle bronc riding legend Billy Etbauer. “I watched Billy on TV. Every bronc rider looks up to Billy. I always liked his style: all or nothing.”
Towards the end of the rodeo season, it was nip and tuck for the 24 year old, who was ranked seventeenth the week before the season ended. He and saddle bronc rider J.J. Elshere, Hereford, S.D., who was ranked eighteenth, went to the same rodeos the last weekend of the season, but on Sept. 30 (the last day of the 2018 rodeo year), Brooks had moved into fifteenth hole and Elshere into sixteenth. Only about $400 separated the two. “It was cool to be in the race with him,” Brooks said. “I’ve been watching him ride forever. I remember looking up to him in high school.”
Brooks is prepping for his first trip to the WNFR with time in the gym, stretching and the spur board. And he’s excited. “It’s been a damn good season. I’ve never had any luck remotely this close. It’ll be awesome, to get on the best ten horses for ten days. That’s the best way to rodeo, right there.”
His parents Matt and Shannon Brooks, younger brother Dalton, and grandparents Scott and Suzie Graveley will be in Las Vegas to cheer him on.
He enters the WNFR in last hole, with $76,141.28 won.
The WNFR runs Dec. 6-15 with ten consecutive nights of rodeo. It is held in Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Arena, and after the final performance on Dec. 15, world champions are determined in each of seven events. Fans can watch the action live, online, for a fee, at www.ProRodeoTV.com.
For more information on the WNFR and the PRCA, visit www.ProRodeo.com.
The Good Family of Long Valley hosted their 5th Annual Steer Wrestling Qualifying Jackpot for the February 2019 American Semi-Finals Rodeo at the James Kjerstad Event Center in Rapid City on Nov. 17, 2018. In addition to this year’s jackpot was a Steer Wrestling qualifying jackpot for both the February 2019 Jr. American Rodeo and the December 2019 Jr. National Finals Rodeo (Jr. NFR).
1. Chason Floyd 3.88, $1,000
2. Kody Woodward 3.92, $750
3. Kyle Whitaker 4.3, $500
4. Jake Fulton 4.32, $250
1. Taz Olson 3.96, $1,000
2. Brody Cleveland 4.1, $750
3. Taz Olson 4.18, $500
4. Chad Van Campen 4.2, $250
1. Brad Johnson 3.75, $600
2. Clint Nelson 4.08, $450
3. Carson Good 4.11, $300
4. Tee Burress 4.71, $150
AVERAGE (ON THREE HEAD):
1. Clint Nelson 13.75, $1,500
2. Kalane Anders 14.35, $1,125
3. Kyle Whitaker 14.5, $750
4. Clint Nelson 15.36, $375
TOP 10 2019 AMERICAN SEMI-FINALS RODEO QUALIFIERS:
1. Clint Nelson
2. Kalane Anders
3. Kyle Whitaker
4. Clint Nelson
5. Brad Johnson
6. Kody Woodward
7. Tee Burress
8. Carson Good
9. Sterling Lee
10. Kris Rasmussen
Jr. American and Jr. NFR Qualifying Jackpot results
1. Denton Good 4.27, $205.71
2. Wynn Schaack 4.48, $137.14
1. Gus Franzen 4.51, $205.71
2. Wyatt Tibbitts 4.93, $137.14
1. Wynn Schaack 4.5, $100
AVERAGE (ON THREE HEAD):
1. Gus Franzen 15.03, $308.57
2. Wynn Schaack 17.44, $205.71
TOP 10 2019 JR. AMERICAN RODEO AND 2019 JR. NFR QUALIFIERS:
1. Gus Franzen
2. Wynn Schaack
3. Seth Shorb
4. Wyatt Tibbitts
5. Logan Lemmel
6. Wynn Schaack
7. Denton Good
8. Denton Good
9. Seth Shorb
10. Wyatt Tibbitts
Three South Dakotans have qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
Bareback rider Shane O’Connell, Rapid City, and barrel racers Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, and Jessica Routier, Buffalo, will be in the city of “neons and nylons,” Las Vegas, competing at the 60th annual WNFR December 6-15.
For Lockhart, the veteran of the trio, this will be the twelfth consecutive trip.
For O’Connell and Routier, it is the “maiden voyage.”
O’Connell, who is 23 years old, had a “world champion-type season” all year, up till mid-July.
He won second place at the 2017 RAM Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot, first at the All-American Finals in Waco, Texas, and placed at nearly every rodeo he went to.
After winning third at Cheyenne Frontier Days, he was ranked seventh in the world standings. A separated and strained sternoclavicular (SC) joint, connecting the sternum to the collarbone, didn’t keep O’Connell from rodeo but slowed him down. Sports medicine trainers helped, but he slipped in the standings. “I didn’t win but five, six thousand dollars from Cheyenne to the end of the year (Sept. 30),” he said. “That’s a pretty rough three months of rodeo when you’re hurt. But they were going to have to rip it away from me before I would go home. Making the Finals was what drove me.”
O’Connell has had time to rest, rehab and relax since the rodeo year ended, and he’s appreciated it. “Being home, not getting on for the last three or four weeks, has been tremendous for my body and great for my head. I’m able to relax. There’s a lot of pressure towards the end of the year.”
O’Connell’s dad, Jiggs, was a bareback rider and started his only son. “Dad pushed me into riding bareback riding pretty hard, but I loved it. I could take it,” O’Connell said. He rode junior junior barebacks in Little Britches Rodeo, winning the National Little Britches Rodeo five years in a row. He also won the S. D. State High School bareback riding title three times and the bull riding once, and at the National High School Finals in 2013, he won the bareback riding.
This won’t be O’Connell’s first time to compete in the Thomas and Mack Arena, the home of the WNFR. When he was thirteen years old, he was one of three top Little Britches Rodeo bull riders to ride a bull as part of the PBR World Finals.
His dad has been anticipating this for a long time. O’Connell has twice finished the rodeo season in nineteenth hole, four places out of the WNFR qualifications, and when his son had won $18,000 last October (for the 2018 rodeo season), Jiggs made room reservations in Las Vegas. “I knew this was coming,” Shane said.
He doesn’t have butterflies, either. “I’m more just ready to get it done. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time. I might get nervous when I get there, but right now, no way. I love riding bucking horses, and they’re going to run the best ten horses under me for a lot of money. Bring it on. I’m just waiting for it.”
In addition to his dad Jiggs, his mom Ann will be in Las Vegas to watch their son ride, and his sisters Rylee and Eryn will be there for part of the rodeo.
O’Connell enters the WNFR in thirteenth place, with $80,162.66 won.
Two busy mamas’ lives are going to be a bit hectic for ten days in December.
Lisa Lockhart, the mother of three, and Routier, the mother of five, will both be in Las Vegas to run barrels at the WNFR.
It is Routier’s first trip.
She’s aboard a seven-year-old palomino mare, Fiery Miss West, “Missy,” owned by Gary Westergren of Lincoln, Neb.
It was never Routier’s plan to make the WNFR. But when she won second at the 2017 Badlands Circuit Finals and second at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida, she thought maybe she should try. (Monies earned from the ’17 circuit finals and the national circuit finals counted for the ’18 rodeo year). “The way things looked,” Routier said, ”I thought it would be silly not to go a little bit more. We kept going, and it kept going well. It wasn’t our goal at the beginning of the year to make the Finals by any means.”
It was at the rodeo in Guymon, Oklahoma, when Routier sat down with a map and the rodeo listing, and planned her schedule. She figured out how much it had taken in earnings to qualify for the barrels in past years, and “I had an idea in my head of how much I needed to win each week to be in the top fifteen.”
She was never more than ten to fourteen days from home, her husband Riley, and their kids: son Braden, twelve, and daughters Payton, ten, twins Rayna and Rose, three, and Charlie, two.
The older kids, Braden and Payton, understood what their mother was trying to do and urged her on. “Braden has asked me for years why I never tried to make the NFR,” she said. “I told him I’d have to be gone from home a lot. They were part of what pushed me to do it.”
Braden and Payton are excited for their mom, and through the year, Braden kept track of her earnings. “They checked the standings online, and after every run, Braden would want to know what (the rodeo) paid.”
Missy, by Firewater Frenchman and out of Frenchmans Bo Dashus by Royal Quick Dash, came to the Routier ranch as a two-year-old, and Routier ranched on her, breakaway roped and did poles on her. “She’s good at every task you put her to,” Routier said. She doesn’t like cattle that are facing her, however. “She’s terribly afraid of them if they’re facing her. I think that’s one of the things that made her tough. At a young age, we made her work through it.” Routier, aboard Missy, worked the alleyway during AI season, so “she had to work through that fear. She’s tough as nails.”
Missy also faced new arenas and situations all summer long and handled them with aplomb. The first barrel at the Thomas and Mack is “blind,” meaning horses don’t see it till they’re through the alleyway and in the arena. But Routier doesn’t think it will bother Missy at all. “She’s never had anything throw her for a loop.”
The mare also loves her job. “When we decided to (rodeo to make the WNFR), I decided, if she gets tired or sore, I’m not going to push her. She kept running strong all summer long and jumped in the trailer every time it was time to go. She handled it really well.”
Routier also isn’t worried about making so many runs consecutively. “It’s hard on a horse to make ten runs in ten days in a row, but we’ve almost done that this summer, and we had to drive between runs. Usually if you run her several times at the same place, she gets stronger and stronger every run.”
She has turned to veteran barrel racer Lockhart for advice about the WNFR. “I’ve asked a lot of questions from a lot of people who have been there before, mainly Lisa,” she said. “She’s been my go-to all summer.”
While Riley and Jessica are in Las Vegas, a trusted babysitter, Jada Maher, will stay with the kids at home. All of them will fly out for the last four days of the rodeo.
Routier enters the WNFR in eighth place, with $98,704.23 won in 57 rodeos.
Veteran barrel racer Lisa Lockhart will have two horses in her trailer, when she and husband Grady head for Las Vegas.
Fans know and love her main mount, Louie, and they are becoming familiar with her number two horse, an eight-year-old mare buckskin named Rosa who looks very similar to Louie. The way fans can tell the two horses part: Lockhart takes Louie to the right barrel first, whereas, Rosa goes to the left first.
Louie is Lockhart’s “Mr. Consistent,” she said. “There’s not an arena that Louie doesn’t love.” If it means staying in the average, Louie might be her mount. But if it means winning a round, Rosa might be her choice. But that doesn’t mean the two horses aren’t interchangeable. “There is no right or wrong answer,” Lockhart said, “and there is no right or wrong horse. It’s an instinct thing and we haven’t decided what we’re doing.”
Even though, after nearly a dozen trips to the “big show,” a person might think the WNFR would be old hat, but it’s not. “You can’t get too comfortable,” Lockhart said. “It’s great, having expectations of what our schedule will be, and things like that, that make a huge difference. But we’ll be just as nervous for the first round (this year) as we were for the first round the first year.”
And even though the routine is somewhat familiar, it’s still a big deal. “The stakes are higher,” Lockhart said. “You’re going to do your job, to the best of your ability, regardless of whether it’s a regular rodeo or the NFR, but in the back of your mind, you know what’s at stake. There’s a lot of money to be won out there these days. It’s a game changer for your year and your life.”
She and Grady have three children: Alyssa, a student at Black Hills State University (and also a WPRA barrel racer), Thane, a senior, and Cade, a freshman, both at Hot Springs High School. The boys won’t come to Las Vegas to watch their mom; there are basketball practices to attend. But Alyssa might come for the entire ten days. “She’d love to see how it all happens,” Lockhart said, “from start to finish. We’d love to have her there with us.”
But before they head to the WNFR, there are plenty of obligations at home: wrapping up high school football, Alyssa’s last college rodeo for the season, selling calves next week, and a few circuit rodeos.
And the day after the WNFR is over, the Lockharts will make a beeline for home. There’s a high school basketball game on Monday, Dec.17, and two of the Hot Springs Bison – Thane and Cade – will have their mom and dad in the stands. “We switch modes pretty quickly,” she said. “It’ll be back to the parent mode, the cheerleader mode, in short order.”
Lockhart enters the WNFR in third place, with $123,515.19 won in 43 rodeos.
The WNFR consists of ten rounds on ten consecutive days, December 6-15. After the final performance, two champions are crowned in each event (four for the team roping): the average winner, who won the WNFR by having the best cumulative time or score over the ten rounds, and the world champion, who won the most money throughout the year (including what was earned at the WNFR). The average winner and world champion might be the same person, or different people.
The weather has sure been a roller coaster of temps. Down in the single digits then up to 60, all in one week. Apparently it’s November. We’re shipping our calves this week and preg checking all the cows the next day. The grandboys are getting to skip school and watch their calves sell then be here to help work the cows. Now that they’re in school it’s harder for them to be here for important events like this so I’m pretty excited for them and me. I think they’ll learn more doing this than they will in a day and a half of school, but maybe I’m just prejudiced. I was never a fan of school myself but always a fan of cow sales and working cattle.
I’m so excited for Jessica Routier as she is heading for her first WNFR in a few weeks. She’s worked hard for this and it couldn’t be happening to a nicer person either. She and her husband Riley and their family ranch south of Buffalo, S.D.
Jessica’s friend Nichya Gunderson had ordered slug of t-shirts to sell, in order to raise money to help Jessica pay her way to Vegas. Then a friend and neighbor of Jessica’s, Caroll Comes, of Camp Crook, was in a horse accident. Carroll broke her back and is hoping to recover the use of her legs. Jessica has now diverted the proceeds from the “Teammissica” t-shirts to help Caroll with medical expenses.
I mentioned Lloyd and Patty Gilbert’s L7 Arena big winner last week, so now I’ll share the other winners at the roping held near Buffalo, S.D. The Jr. American winner was Sawyer Gilbert; Breakaway average winner Tomie Peterson; Boys Tie Down Roping winner Bodie Mattson; Boys Tie Down Chute Out was Rio Nutter; and of course, the Breakaway Chute Out winner was Taylor Engessor. Congrats to all and we’re all looking forward to next year’s event!
This is short notice, but, the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame Region 1 Induction Ceremony will be Nov. 21, 3-6 p.m., at Boot Hills in Gillette, Wyo. There will be a slide show, ceremony, silent and live auction to benefit the WCHF. All are welcome to come and enjoy some wonderful Wyoming ranch history.
There will be a free saddle bronc and bareback school with Tom Reeves and Kelly Wardell as instructors on Nov. 23-25 at Healing Horse Ranch, Parshall, N.D. Gear will be provided if needed and any age and ability is welcome. What a good way to get the right start in these events. For info or to reserve your spot, call 918-964-9551.
There will be a NRCA Team Roping Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Event Center in Rapid City, S.D. Enter at 8 a.m., rope at 9. There’s Open Handicap 4 head, mixed handicap (one roper must be over 60, under 15 or a woman) 4 head; #13 with #8 Incentive 4 head; Draw Handicap 4 head. You can enter four times each end, progressive after one. It counts toward the Circle T Arena Winter Roping series too. Call Jim at 605-209-8064 or Les at 605-390-8407.
The James Kjerstad Event Center is resuming its open riding for the winter months. It is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. unless there’s another event going on. On Monday nights youth riding and roping if you provide the cattle; Tuesday nights barrels; Wednesday nights open riding. Adults cost $20 and kids $10. Be sure and check the website before going to make sure there isn’t something going on. It’s www.blackhillsstockshow.com, look for the Event Center calendar.
The Western States Ranch Rodeo Association (WSRRA) is sanctioning a new event for 2019. It’a WSRRA Jr/Sr division ranch teams. It’s you’re putting on a WSRRA rodeo, consider including this fun event in your lineup. You can learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As most of you know, J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., was badly injured in September when the bareback horse he was riding flipped over and broke several vertebrae and compressed his spinal cord. He had no feeling below the waist as a result. He and his wife are staying in Houston where he is undergoing therapy and working toward walking again. As a result, the expenses are adding up, plus they have a baby due in the spring. So, there will be a benefit dinner, dance and auction at the Firehall in Melstone, Mont., on Dec. 29. The dinner and silent auction will be at 5 p.m., the live auction at 6:30 and the dance to follow. All proceeds will be given to the Vezains for their medical expenses. Tickets are $15. If you want to donate to the auction, call Liane Newman at 406-320-1323 or 406-358-2257.
Well, that’s my circle for this week. I hope you have a good week and remember to count your blessings every day.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.- The highly anticipated release of the back numbers for the 2018 Wrangler Nationals Finals Rodeo has finally come to fruition.
The Top 15 competitors in each event will pin the following numbers to the back of their shirts or vests at the 60th annual Wrangler NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Dec. 6-15.
The 2018 Wrangler NFR back numbers are as follows:
* Injury replacement for J.R. Vezain.
The sport of college rodeo has come full swing for Laramie County Community College’s new head coach, Seth Glause.
“College rodeo kind of gave me the ability to chase my dreams and do what I was able to do with rodeo and now it’s cool that I can stay involved and give back to the kids,” says Glause. The earned promotion comes after previous head coach, Beau Clark, accepted the position of head coach at the University of Wyoming. Glause had been the men’s assistant coach for over two years at LCCC, and after an interview process, was the chosen new leader of the Golden Eagles.
Glause’s rodeo career began long before college. “My dad rodeoed. I looked at pictures of him on the wall and I knew I wanted to be a cowboy. I kind of grew up in town, so there were lots of days just playing in the basement, riding air bulls and doing all sorts of crazy stuff that kids do. It was just always my dream to be a rodeo cowboy.” The Rock Springs native then went on to compete in both timed events and roughstock events in the Wyoming Junior Rodeo Association and Wyoming High School Rodeo Association. A versatile athlete, he qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo two years. He competed twice in bull riding and one time each in saddle bronc riding and team roping.
From there, Glause’s vision for the future became crystal clear. “I knew I wanted to pursue a professional career in rodeo,” he says. In unique fashion, Glause accomplished this goal while earning a degree and competing in college rodeo at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, Wyoming. “My freshman year of college, I won the all around [regionally] and went to the college finals in the bronc riding and bull riding. I ended up having a good college finals, top five in both events in the nation that year.” The next year, 2008, he nearly replicated that success by winning regional all around honors once more, qualifying in bronc riding and bull riding, and placing top five in the nation in the latter. His sophomore year stands out in his memory, because it was also the year of his first qualification to the National Finals Rodeo in bull riding.
Glause’s college and professional rodeo career paused for a year while he recovered from injury, but in 2010 he joined the college rodeo team at Panhandle State University. There, he earned enough points to qualify with the men’s team for the College National Finals Rodeo once more. He again qualified for the NFR, the second of four trips to Las Vegas.
Though he packed a bull rope on all four trips, Glause confesses that his passion remains in saddle bronc riding. He says, “It’s just the way stuff works; I ended up making the NFR in the bull riding, and it just kept kind of going down that road and had a successful career at it, but my heart’s always been as a saddle bronc rider. The event that I loved and still love the most is the saddle bronc riding.” His versatility in the bucking chutes, as well as his skill for team roping, give him insight to several events that he will be coaching.
Somewhere in between juggling professional and college athletic careers, Seth was introduced to his future wife by mutual friends. Glause says Jayme was involved in college rodeo as well, and the pair have been together for the better part of a decade and married in 2015. According to Seth, Jayme is complementary to his success as a coach. He says, “It’s an awesome opportunity for us. Jayme has always been real supportive and she loves getting to know all the college kids and creating a relationship with them and getting to know their families.” Their young daughter, Kinlee, also enjoys the company of the Golden Eagles. “It’s fun to be able to bring our daughter around the kids. They’re such a great group of kids and they’re great with Kinlee,” says Glause.
Glause hopes to imitate the coaches he learned from in college, the first at CWC. “I was lucky enough to have a great coach in Rick Smith. He was a very good mentor and taught me a lot and gave me a lot of ways to get better,” he says. Smith is a six-time NFR qualifier in the bronc riding and currently the coach at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. At Panhandle State, Glause was coached by a nine-time NFR qualifier in Craig Latham.
Currently, he looks to Smith and former LCCC head coach, Beau Clark for advice as he takes the position of head coach. “I still keep in contact with Rick Smith who was my rodeo coach at CWC. He’s given me a lot of insight. I still call Beau and ask questions because there’s lots to learn. He’s been great about helping me find my way and who to talk to and what needs to get done and how to structure my practices,” he says. Glause will work towards earning a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Wyoming while coaching.
His first week as head coach, he has been “introducing himself” to the community of Cheyenne and LCCC. “We’re lucky we’re in a city that really supports rodeo with Cheyenne Frontier Days and things like that. They get behind rodeo and they see the importance and they want to see the sport grow,” he says.
A team of tough returning sophomores and competitive, incoming freshmen makes Glause’s first team look promising. “As far as the men’s team goes–they’re going to be solid. They’re going to be in contention all year,” he says. Several returning members of the women’s team will be aggressive in the region, as well, according to Glause. However, his goals lie within cultivating each athlete to their full potential, in and out of the arena. “I’m hoping I can build a great team and give our students the opportunity to be the best they can be in whatever they choose. We want them to succeed in the classroom, succeed in the arena and be able to pursue their dreams. I consider myself to be successful when my students are successful.”
Kim Sutton and her daughter Amy Sutton Muller are at the top of their profession.
The mother-daughter duo, part of the Sutton Rodeo Company of Onida, South Dakota, were selected to time at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2017.
It was Kim’s fifth time and Amy’s third to be selected for the honor. It is thought they are the first mother-daughter duo to time the WNFR in the same year.
Sutton was selected to time the WNFR in 1987, 2011, 2012, 2013, and this year. Muller timed the rodeo in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The ladies, along with a third timer, Jayme Pemberton, are responsible for running the Daktronics scoreboard, starting the clock when the run or ride begins, and stopping it when the run is over (or the eight seconds is over.)
It’s a big responsibility at the WNFR, with world championships on the line, and the women do not take their job lightly. Things move faster at the WNFR than at a regular season rodeo, Sutton said, with production times timed to the second and very little time between runs. “Everything moves so quickly,” she said. PRCA timers are trained to watch, in the timed events, the flag at the box to the flag carried by the judge on horseback, starting their watch at the first flag and stopping it when the judge drops the flag. There is so little time between runs, that they have enough time to write the time down, clear the scoreboard digitally, and be ready for the next run.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Sutton said. But they also realize that whether it’s the WNFR or a summer rodeo in South Dakota, all rodeos are important. “You time the same,” Muller said, “because every run, every dollar has equal importance. You see that at the end of the year, when people make (the WNFR) or break it by a few dollars.”
There’s more to the job than what fans see at the rodeo each night. They are required to be at the rodeo office two hours prior to start time to help with posting information and the draw. After the rodeo, they stay another hour, making copies of times, scores, and statistics needed by the media, announcers, television personnel, and chute bosses, and helping with the next day’s draw.
The three timers take turns working the office every day. The rodeo secretaries (this year Sunni Deb Backstrom and assistant secretary Dollie Riddle) are in the office from about 8 till 11. Then a timer takes over, manning the office from 11 to about 12:30 pm. She is there to answer questions, proof daysheets, make copies, and relay messages.
During the rodeo, one of the timers wears the headset and communicates the contestant, their time and score, to the rodeo secretary, who relays it on to the media room. At the end of each event, the three women reconcile their sheets before they are sent to the secretary’s office, making sure they have the correct times and scores.
There’s no room for error, Sutton said. In 2011, during the team roping, a steer on the end of a rope in the team roping crashed into the front part of where the timers sit, severing a cord that went from the timing console to the scoreboard computer. The timers were working, but the data wasn’t being received on the computer. The rodeo cannot stop; it’s on live television, so the timers kept timing while screen operators scrambled to fix the cord. “We had guys diving under the table, changing cords, and we never quit timing,” Sutton said.
When they do have time off, Sutton and Muller take care of business at home. Both women are involved in Sutton Rodeo, and even when they’re in Las Vegas, work continues for upcoming Sutton rodeos in Rapid City and Grand Island, Nebraska.
They do take a little time to shop, however, hitting the trade shows in Las Vegas and helping out Santa with gifts. The trade shows are “one hundred percent of my Christmas shopping,” Muller said.
The entire family goes to the WNFR, several of them with official jobs. Sutton’s son Brent was assistant chute boss and son Brice flanked the Sutton animals that went to WNFR. Kim’s husband Steve was in Las Vegas, taking care of business for the family’s future rodeos, and Steve’s parents, Jim and Julie, are the 2017 Donita Barnes Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.
Muller’s husband Steven was also in town, with an official job, too – daddy daycare. The couple’s younger child, a six month old daughter, Shally, was his responsibility while Muller worked. Their older child, a four-year-old son, Shaden, stayed with grandparents in South Dakota.
Sutton Rodeo has sent bucking horses and bulls to all WNFRs except one. This year, they had one bareback horse, two saddle broncs, and a bull selected to buck at the WNFR.
For Sutton and Muller, it’s a real honor to be selected to work the WNFR. “This is our Super Bowl,” Sutton said, “the top of our game for rodeo. We work together all year long. To get to do it in Las Vegas is a pretty neat experience.”