ELSMERE, Neb. – If the third time is the charm, Cort Scheer must like his chances at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Scheer is the No. 6 saddle bronc rider in the world standings, and the Elsmere cowboy is headed to the NFR for the third time in four years. Through the rigors of ProRodeo’s regular season, Scheer earned $89,731 and is in prime position to come away with the 2013 world championship, a title he can earn at the NFR, the sport’s marquee event that takes place Dec. 5-14 in Las Vegas.
“Any time you can go to the NFR, you’re dang sure excited to be there,” said Scheer, who attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College, Montana State University and Oklahoma Panhandle State University on rodeo scholarships. “I’m feeling really good right now and have a ton of confidence.”
He should. Scheer had seven saddle bronc riding championships this season, including a big victory at the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, in which he was awarded the $100,000 first-place prize. He also qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo and won the year-end title in the upstart Professional Roughstock Series, an organization that features the top bareback riders, bronc riders and bull riders in the game.
“I feel like I could’ve ridden better at the Canadian Finals, but I won some money there,” he said. “I did really well at the PRS finals. At both of those events, I got to get on really good horses, and most of them will be at the (National) Finals.”
Qualifying for the NFR is no small feat. Cowboys must compete all year long, crisscrossing North America to do so. In order to earn a paycheck, a cowboy must finish better than most. When the smoke clears and the season concludes the end of September, only the top 15 on the money list in each event earn the right to test their talents at the NFR.
Playing for the biggest pay in the sport in Las Vegas is vital. Go-round winners will earn $18,630 each of the 10 nights of the championship, and the contestant with the best cumulative score at the NFR’s conclusion will win the coveted average championship and a check worth almost $48,000.
“I’ve drawn really good this year, but I’ve always drawn pretty good,” he said, referring to the blind draw that matches cowboy with livestock. “I’ve always put a lot in the draw, because you can’t get a good score without a good horse.”
In rodeo, scores are based on the 100-point scale; half the score is based on how well the animal performs, and half is based on how well the cowboy rides the animal. At Calgary, for example, Scheer posted a 93.5-point ride in the championship round aboard Flying Five Rodeo’s Spring Planting.
“That was a game-changer for me,” Scheer said from his family’s ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills. “I hadn’t had a big hit like that since Houston (in 2011). It was really sweet, because I could never imagine what it would be like to be in that situation.
“It was such a cool experience, and it led up to what everybody brags about when they talk about Calgary.”
Riding such a noted horse as Spring Planting also was a cool experience.
“That was pretty bittersweet for me,” he said. “That horse had bucked me off, and I wanted a little redemption on him. I’m really glad I got it in the $100,000 round.”
Because the Calgary Stampede is not sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, that money did not count in his qualification for the NFR. Nonetheless, it’s a valuable victory; unlike most other professional athletes, rodeo cowboys must pay their own expenses to get from one event to another and also pay an entry fee in order to compete.
“I need to give a lot of credit to my traveling partners,” Scheer said of Tyler Corrington and Chet Johnson, two other bronc riders that will compete at the NFR. “I think it says a lot when all three of you make it together.
“I think a lot of their attitude reflects on how they ride; we’re always smiling no matter whether we’re up or we’re down. Tyler has the best spur out in the PRCA, and Chet’s the businessman in the group. All of us have that competitive spirit to it, and we all want each other to do well.”
Cowboys spend a lot of time away from family and friends, but they find the same in their rodeo family, that tight-knit congregation of cowboys and cowgirls who make their livings in the sport.
“My family is very supportive of what I do, and I get to talk to them on the phone quite a bit,” Scheer said. “When you’re riding good, they don’t want you to come home. Our rodeo careers don’t last very long, so it’s pretty awesome that they support you so much so you don’t have to worry about anything but riding broncs.
“I’ve also got a lot of help from Justin Boots, Cinch Jeans and Bismarck Ranch, because I wouldn’t be able to do this without their support. They make it possible for me to compete at my best and not have to worry as much about some of the other things.”
There definitely is a passion to what cowboys do, no matter the miles they drive in an effort to chase their gold buckle dreams.
“I ride broncs because I love it and I’ve always dreamed about it,” Scheer said. “God has blessed me with the talent to do it, and it’s my responsibility to do it and give Him the glory. All the talents and everything you’ve got are blessings from God, and He wants you to use them for Him. I give Him all the credit for wanting me to and for me having the ability to do it.”