LAS VEGAS – If you ask Cort Scheer about his rodeo dreams, he can give you explicit details.
They’ve been part of his life all his life, from his first days in the saddle in the sandhills of Nebraska to his first Prairie Circuit saddle bronc riding championship. It’s also part of every day over the past 12 months, the best year of his short career and the guiding force to his first qualification to ProRodeo’s championship, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“I’m dang sure happier than heck, but I don’t think it’s really set in,” said Scheer, 24, of Elsmere, Neb. “When I get there and stand behind the bucking chutes, I’m pretty sure it’ll set in.”
That will happen Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, home of the Wrangler NFR since 1985. Scheer earned his spot in the finale by finishing the 2010 regular season No. 7 in the world standings with $82,503 in earnings. It is just the next step for the four-year pro that has already made a name for himself in the sport, winning regional crowns and, just this year, the All-American Series title.
“He’s like the All-American kid,” said Jim Boy Hash, rodeo coach at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, where Scheer attended for two seasons before transferring to Montana State University, then to Oklahoma Panhandle State University. “He was dang sure a pleasure to have around here. Not only was he intelligent, but he was reliable. If I needed anything done, he was there.
“There is a small percentage of kids like him. It’s neat to see somebody like that be able to make it. I wish I could have six of him every year on my men’s rodeo team.”
Scheer has worked his way up the ProRodeo food chain, one bronc at a time. In 2009, he finished 25th in the world standings, just 10 spots out of qualifying for the grand finale. But he took a big step in 2010. He earned his way to the NFR through earnings – in rodeo, money equals points, and the contestant in each event with the most money won at season’s end wins the world championship.
This season, he won rodeos in Texarkana, Ark.; Amarillo, Big Spring and Pasadena, Texas; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Isanti, Minn.; and Strathmore, Alberta.
“He’s just a really good athlete who loves riding broncs,” said Craig Latham, a multiple NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding who coaches the rodeo team at Panhandle State. “He’s an all-around hand, who also made the college finals in steer wrestling and calf roping.
“He was an outstanding bronc rider in college, and he’s just improved. He’s riding outstanding right now.”
It’s all part of the growth of a cowboy, who spent his youth competing in many sports in the Nebraska sandhills. Though his rodeo idol is five-time world champion Billy Etbauer, Scheer considers his father, Kevin, the biggest influence.
“He rode all three roughstock,” Scheer said of bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. “Saddle bronc was his favorite. Once I started going, my parents hauled me all over heck. I had so many people who helped me out in Nebraska.”
He also had some big influences in western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. His brother, Clete – who returned to Nebraska – was the assistant rodeo coach in Garden City under Hash, and some of the greatest bronc riders in the history of rodeo were part of the Panhandle State community – world champions Robert Etbauer, Tom Reeves, Jeffrey Willert and Taos Muncy were part of that rodeo team.
“Coming down here just topped it,” said Scheer, who spends much of his time away from the rodeo arena in Guymon, the Oklahoma Panhandle’s largest community. “It’s amazing how much you can learn, and it’s not only from the people who have been to the finals.”
It’s an eager nature, a fantastic attitude that has helped propel Scheer to the pinnacle of the sport, which takes place over 10 nights and features the biggest purse in ProRodeo.
“What got him to the NFR is a little bit of everything,” Hash said. “His work ethic, his attitude, his demeanor … he has a never-quit attitude.”
Scheer also has a humble nature, and all those attributes are fairly typical of ranch-raised cowboys who find their ways into the best rodeo arenas across this land. But what does it take to make ProRodeo’s grand finale?
“It’s like that Chris LeDoux song, ‘One Ride in Vegas.’ ” Scheer said of the song about a cowboy that handles the challenges rodeo throws at him in order to compete at the championship. “It takes more than you can get. That many miles on the road are tiring on a guy. You’re driving, eating cheeseburgers and drinking Mountain Dew.
“But it dang sure is a gift to have. The only thing you’ve got to think of is that if it were easy, everybody would do it. Anything you have to work for is going to be worth it.”