North Dakota’s Bridger Anderson wins Junior NFR steer wrestling
When Bridger Anderson was three years old, he loved dinosaurs and rodeo so much that he declared to his mother that he wanted to be a paleontologist by day and a steer wrestler by night.
The paleontology dream has bit the dust, but the steer wrestling is flourishing.
The Carrington, N.D., cowboy won the steer wrestling at Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship, held at the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in mid-December.
Anderson’s dad, Glenn, was a team roper and horse trainer, and his mom, Robin, was a breakaway and team roper, so rodeo was a natural for him.
He was roping and tying goats at amateur rodeos at the age of six, chute-dogged his first steer during his sixth-grade year, and two years later, he jumped his first steer off a horse. He competed in junior high and high school rodeo, earning two N.D. State High School steer wrestling titles, and qualifying for the National High School Finals Rodeo three times, winning the short round his junior year, in 2016.
Anderson earned his points to qualify for the Junior NFR at the Dupree (S.D.) Cinch Chute-Out in May, and at the Melvin-Swanson-Halligan Memorial Steer Wrestling in Sutherland, Neb., in June. Fifty-two steer wrestlers, ages 19 and under, qualified for and competed at the Junior NFR. Last year, the Junior NFR had roping events but not steer wrestling, and his event’s inclusion was good this year, Anderson said, since he’s a “bulldogger that isn’t good at roping.”
Each steer wrestler at the Junior NFR competed in two rounds and the top 20 went to the short go. Anderson tied for first in the first round with a time of 4.3 seconds (along with Gabe Soileau and Clay Iselt), was a 4.9 in the second round, and came into the short round second in the average. His time of 4.0 seconds in the short round clinched his title by two-tenths of a second over Marc Joiner of Loranger, La.
At the Junior NFR, Anderson won $13,083, a trophy saddle, Resistol hat, Justin Boots, and $1,000 scholarship to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he is a freshman.
After the Junior NFR ended, Anderson competed in Denver at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo qualifier, then in Rapid City, a qualifier for the American Rodeo, presented by RFD-TV. He did not make the cut to compete at the National Western but got a qualification for the semi-finals for the American. (His title at the Junior NFR earned him an exemption for the semi-finals; the American allows two entries per steer wrestler for the semi-finals.)
Anderson’s mount is an eight-year-old gelding named Whiskers, trained by and purchased from Tyler and Jackie Schau of Diamond S Performance Horses. Whiskers, a former race horse, isn’t the most pleasant horse to deal with but he’s outstanding as a steer wrestling horse.
“He’s a bit of a pain,” Anderson said. “He likes to do his own thing.” But he can run. “He’ll race the hazing horse. He likes to win. You need a high-quality haze horse” to go with Whiskers. If Whiskers is warmed up on a track, “good luck getting him stopped,” Anderson said.
He purchased Whiskers about a year ago, but wasn’t the first bulldogger to ride him. Two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier J.D. Struxness won the 2016 Cheyenne Frontier Days on Whiskers, and Whiskers carried Anderson to the short round at the National Western in Denver last January.
Whiskers isn’t built like a typical bulldogging horse. He’s taller and thicker, but “it gives him more power,” Anderson said. “I don’t mind crawling off a big horse. He has a bigger stride.” Whiskers is a Teller Cartel son and a Corona Cartel grandson.
Anderson is Tyler and Jackie Schau’s “adopted son,” he said. “They taught me how to steer wrestle and helped me improve my roping and horsemanship.”
At Northwestern Oklahoma State University, he is studying ag business and competes on the rodeo team, under the tutelage of coach Stockton Graves, who is a former NFR qualifier in the steer wrestling.
He has two younger sisters: Cedar, a senior in high school who participates in rodeo, and Dawsyn, an eighth grade student who loves golf. His sponsors and supporters include Diamond S Performance Horses, Hepper Ranch and Performance Horses, and Gader Cattle Company. F