LAS VEGAS – When Seth Glause first rolled into this southern Nevada city for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, he was a wide-eyed, 20-year-old kid who wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Already he was one of the best bull riders in the business. That was 2008, and Glause was coming off a great sophomore season at Central Wyoming College in Riverton, where he was the Central Rocky Mountain Region’s all-around champion and a bull riding qualifier to the College National Finals Rodeo.
The lights of Las Vegas were especially bright, but Glause was where he needed to be: ProRodeo’s championship event. He returns this year for the third time in his young career, ready to tame the wildest bucking beasts in the business with the skills God gave him and the fortitude to battle through whatever obstacles come his way.
Oh, and still he’s only 23.
“It’s been my goal to qualify for the NFR since I was a kid,” said Glause, of Rock Springs, Wyo. “For it to happen three times is pretty special to me.”
That’s a brief description of the magnitude of the NFR, which takes just the top 15 contestants on the money list in each event at the conclusion of the regular season and provides them with the biggest purse they’ll experience all year, $6 million paid out over 10 days. Glause will test his mettle against 14 other elite bull riders in a rugged challenge against the most celebrated, athletic bulls in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
His goal, though, is to collect as much of that multi-million prize pool as possible, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities. Go-round winners will earn a check for $17,885 each of the 10 nights, and the contestant with the best cumulative time or score at the conclusion of the marathon event will ad an additional $45,865 for being crowned the average winner. It’s exciting and mind-boggling all at the same time.
“The first grand entry into that building is the most memorable experience out there,” Glause said. “I just can’t wait to get out there, do my job and hopefully walk away with quite a bit of money.”
Glause earned the right to compete in ProRodeo’s grand championship by finishing the regular season eighth in the world standings with $75,473. He won three big rodeos – in Lawton, Okla.; Guymon, Okla.; and Colorado Springs, Colo. – to earn some significant paychecks, but he punched his ticket to the NFR by placing high at several other events. The $5,650 he won in Lawton was great, but so was the $1,665 from Lovington, N.M., that same week.
“I had a good start to the season,” he said. “I won some at Denver, Fort Worth (Texas) and San Antone. It seemed like it quieted off there about the Fourth of July, but then it went all right from there.”
It’s a mind-mannered approach to a rock star lifestyle – when you tie your hand to a 1,800-pound bull for a living, you are living on the edge. Of course, it helps when you’re pretty good at it, and Glause is.
“He’s just a heck of a hand,” said Craig Latham, rodeo coach at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, where Glause attended one year on a rodeo scholarship. “I’ve known him since he was growing up. After he was done at Central Wyoming, I wanted him to come down and finish his four-year degree and rodeo with us.
“He rides broncs as good or better than he rides bulls. He team ropes, too. I like those cowboys who can work both ends of the arena, and Seth was one of those for us for sure.”
Bronc riding comes quite naturally to Glause, whose father, Tom, was a saddle bronc rider who serves as a municipal court judge in Rock Springs and is the coordinator for the PRCA’s Mountain States Circuit.
“I got on my first steer when I was 4 or 5, but I had some help,” said Seth Glause, who credits his relationship with Wyoming Tourism, Excel Drilling and B Tuff jeans for helping him handle the business side of rodeo. “Dad held on to me, and another guy held on to the steer’s tail. I got bucked off.
“But I was good from there.”
A rodeo career was born, but those who know the Glause family knew it was bound to happen.
“I used to travel with Tom,” said Latham, a nine-time NFR qualifier in saddle bronc riding. “I rodeoed with J.D. Hamaker and Tom when I was on my permit. Those guys took pretty good care of me.”
That led to Latham’s recruitment of the younger Glause, who had already competed at the NFR by the time he arrived in Goodwell, Okla.
“Seth is a great kid and a great athlete,” Latham said. “I’d say his strengths are, bottom line, try … there’s no quit in him, and there’s just try every time he gets the chance.”
That’s a key ingredient in the development of a champion. Glause is in the mix to chase the 2011 bull riding gold buckle, but he’s got a long ways to go – he trails world standings leader Shane Proctor by $96,285. It’s not the first time Glause has faced an incredible challenge.
“I’ve heard that stuff growing up about being too tall to ride bulls,” said Glause, listed at 6-foot, 170 pounds, about five inches taller than the average bull rider. “I think it goes back to one of my strengths, that all those people who called me too tall were just motivating me to prove them wrong.”
And now he hopes to proof all those doubters wrong during his 10 nights of competition in the City of Lights.
“It’s what you work toward all year long,” he said. “You want to make the finals, trying to win a world title. It’s just great that it’s right there in front of you.”