Bobby Mote is a World Champion Bareback Rider who has put together a hall-of-fame career on the backs of bucking beasts.
He’s hoping to add a few lines to his resume at the 2011 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 31-April 3 at Jim Norick Arena at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, where the top cowboys and cowgirls from the 12 regional ProRodeo circuits will compete for national championships and big money.
“It’s always a good rodeo, and it’s a chance to win all that money and a chance at a Dodge truck,” said Mote of Culver, Ore. “Any time I get to compete against the top guys on the top horses, I get excited about it.
“Plus it’s something I haven’t won yet. I’d obviously like to win it.”
Through his career, Mote has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo 10 times and walked away from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with four gold buckles given to World Champions, including the last two. But he’s also a regional cowboy, competing at rodeos close to home in the Columbia River Circuit.
“I think the circuit system is really important for rodeo,” said Mote, one of many NFR qualifiers scheduled to compete for the national championships. “The circuit system gives guys the chance to come up through the ranks and get the experience they need, plus the National Circuit Finals gives the guys that are outstanding in their circuit the opportunity to go in front of a national stage and compete against the best.”
Mote is one of many world champions who have qualified to compete at the DNCFR, which takes the year-end and finals champions in each event from each circuit. That means 24 bareback riders, 24 tie-down ropers and 24 teams of team ropers will do battle over four days inside State Fair Arena, which housed the NFR when it first moved to Oklahoma City in the 1960s.
“Qualifying has always meant a lot to me,” said Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., a six-time NFR qualifier who won the DNCFR steer wrestling title in 2006. “It’s a great deal with Dodge being involved, and it’s always been important to me to make the circuit finals and try to win the circuit and qualify for the Dodge National Circuit Finals.
“It’s a great rodeo with a lot of money, and this year was even more important to me since it’s in Oklahoma and just an hour and a half from the house.”
That’s a benefit to the Prairie Circuit qualifiers. But many contestants like the central location.
“I think it’s pretty historic to get to go back to Oklahoma City for the National Circuit Finals the first year it moves there,” said Heith DeMoss of Heflin, La., a three-time NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding who also is competing at the DNCFR for the third time. “It’s closer for me, but it’s also a good rodeo town. I think it’ll be beneficial for all the stock contractors and fans, too.”
But where does this rank among his list of accomplishments?
“The DNCFR is the next step under the NFR,” said DeMoss, who competes in the Southeastern Circuit. “This is darn sure a big deal, and I’m excited to make it.
“Usually it doesn’t pay off for me to go to the circuit rodeos, because every bit of money I’ve won there is already spent just trying to get to those rodeos. All the chips are in trying to cash in here at the finals. It’s quite a gamble, but I believe in having good horses and riding at the finals. I believe in myself and think I’ve got what it takes to do well there.”
When you’re looking at a who’s who of ProRodeo, you know the competition will be fierce. Not only does the DNCFR host the top regional players who choose to stay close to home to compete, but it’s also home of the elite players in the game, those who are regular fixtures at the NFR:
Bareback riders Mote, Ryan Gray, Scott Montague, Kelly Timberman, Wes Stevenson and Kaycee Field; steer wrestlers Graves, Trevor Knowles, Wade Sumpter and Todd Suhn; team ropers Daniel Green, Russell Cordoza, Charly Crawford, Jhett Johnson, Matt Sherwood and Randon Adams; saddle bronc riders DeMoss, J.J. Elshere, Jesse Kruse, Taos Muncy and Cody Wright; tie-down ropers Tyson Durfey, Hunter Herrin, Ryan Jarrett, Houston Hutto, Matt Shiozawa and Clint Robinson; barrel racers Sherry Cervi, Lisa Lockhart, Brenda Mays, Kelly Yates, Shali Lord and Annesa Self; and bull riders Seth Glause, Clayton Savage, Shawn Proctor and Wesley Silcox.
“It’s always been a really good rodeo and one that you want to qualify for,” said Cervi of Marana, Ariz., a three-time and reigning Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racing champion who has claimed the DNCFR title in her storied career. “It’s a really good bonus program.
“What I think is neat about it is the team deal, where you were trying to get the team title. It made it to where you stayed and watched the other events, which made it fun for us.”
That’s a lot of team pride, but the team concept is built through the rigors of the circuit season. Contestants build camaraderie at all the rodeos in which they compete in order to win the circuit crowns. As a Turquoise Circuit competitor, she’ll probably bee rooting for another Arizona world champion, team roping-header Matt Sherwood of Pima, Ariz.
“I love competing at that rodeo, and it’s something I work at every year in order to make it there,” said Sherwood, a two-time world champion who has qualified for the DNCFR eight times. “To me, it’s a great opportunity to compete against 24 guys for a lot of money.
Six seasons ago, Sherwood and then-partner Rube Woolsey secured the team roping national championship. He knows how important it is to do well in this championship.
“At the time, it was the biggest win of my career,” Sherwood said. “I hadn’t ever made it to the (National) Finals, and I hadn’t won the world. It’s not the world championship, but it’s still a big deal.”
And it’s a big deal to him that it’s in Oklahoma’s capital city, a place he’s played several times in his career.
“I go there every year in October for the U.S. Finals,” he said, referring to the USTRC national championship of team roping. “I love the fairgrounds, and I love roping there. I hope I’m the champ of the very first one in Oklahoma City.”