LAS VEGAS – The very best cowboys in the world are regular fixtures at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Casey Colletti is part of that group, now in his second season qualifying for ProRodeo’s grand finale. Though his gold buckle dreams vanished quickly this December, he realizes just how special it is to be in Las Vegas for 10 nights competing for the biggest money in the sport, a purse of $6.125 million.
“I definitely wanted to come here and win 10 rounds, and my goal was to win the average,” said Colletti, a bareback rider from Pueblo, Colo. “But I knew after the first round that wasn’t going to happen because I got bucked off. I was going for round wins.”
Go-round winners earned more than $18,000 each night, and Colletti earned that in the fifth round.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” he said. “I won the fifth round, the TV pen, and I was the highest marked bareback ride at the NFR.”
The fifth and 10th rounds feature the best of the best in bucking horses. The “TV pen,” refers to the days when only the 10th round was televised, so the elite bucking horses and bulls were scheduled to buck then. Winning those two rounds is quite an accomplishment, even for the greatest names in the sport.
“When you look around the locker room and you see all these guys, I still get goose bumps because they’re the best,” he said. “I’ve looked up to these guys for a long time. To be marked the highest among all of them, that’s pretty special.”
Colletti, who attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College on a rodeo scholarship, finished sixth on the final night. It was just the fourth time in 10 rounds that he earned round money, matching moves with Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Ship for 84 points.
“I’ve seen that horse buck the best guys off,” said Colletti, who pocketed $35,925 at the NFR, finishing 2012 with $102,559. “To be leaving here with money and not getting three scores, that’s pretty big. To be knocking heads with these guys is pretty special to me.”
Now he’s looking forward to next year.
“I’m going to try to go to as many rodeos as I can, because I’m dang sure going to be No. 1 in the world coming in here instead of 11th,” he said. “I’m going to try to knock heads with these guys from Denver (in January) to Omaha (in September) and really try to do that.”
That’s a man with a plan.