ELSMERE, Neb. – There always has been a competitive fire that burns inside Cort Scheer.
The furnace has been overtaken by the flames for the saddle bronc rider from Elsmere. His hunger for gold is greater now than it has ever been, because he’s finished oh-so-close each of the past two seasons.
Scheer is the reigning two-time reserve world champion, the runner-up to the titlist. In 2013, it was Chad Ferley of Oelrichs, S.D. A season ago, Scheer finished just behind Spencer Wright of Milford, Utah.
“I’m not very good about accepting failure,” said Scheer, who returns to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the fifth time when it takes place Dec. 3-12 in Las Vegas. “Second place is the first loser; that’s losing, and I don’t like it. If you want to be the best, you have to do it. Nobody wakes up and is the best. You have to work at it.
“Winning the title is my No. 1 goal. I don’t like being No. 2.”
Scheer attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College, Montana State University and Oklahoma Panhandle State University on rodeo scholarships. Since then, he’s been one of the best bronc riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In fact, the only year he didn’t qualify for the NFR was 2011 when he suffered a knee injury midway through the season; still, he finished 25th in the world standings.
He finished the 2015 regular season seventh in the standings, having earned nearly $89,000. This year’s NFR will feature the largest purse in the event’s 57-year history, where winners will earn more than $26,000 each round for 10 nights.
“I think this is an opportunity to win a championship,” Scheer said. “As soon as the NFR got over last year, that was still losing. You have to wait the whole year to have a chance at it. Now the chance is here to go back at them this year.”
Gold buckles are awarded to the contestants who finish the year with the most earnings in each event. That’s why doing well in Vegas is so critical.
“It’s going to come down to who makes the money there,” he said. “The NFR is love-you or hate-you. If you’re drawing good and riding good, that’s the perfect time. Spencer proved that last year.
“I’m feeling healthier this year than I ever have. I’m more focused.”
Much of that can be attributed to his girlfriend, Katelyn Webb. When he’s not on the rodeo trail, he and Webb are gym rats, and workouts are a big part of their routines.
“I’m really excited to have Katelyn in my life,” Scheer said. “No matter how much I think I work hard, she always works harder. She gets up early every day and works out. She’s got me in the best shape of my life.
“She’s awesome, and we share a lot of the same values. She’s a Christian, and that’s very important to me. I’m very blessed to have her in my life.”
She’s another addition to a supportive family. Scheer grew up in the Nebraska Sandhills with a powerful work ethic. He and his siblings – brother Clete and sister Kema – know the labor of love that comes from their family ranch. Father Kevin runs the operation, while mom Pam teaches school.
That support system is vital as he travels the rodeo circuit chasing his gold buckle dreams.
“My family is very supportive of what I do, and I get to talk to them on the phone quite a bit,” he 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, Outlaw Buckers 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.”
Of course, there’s not much to worry about when a cowboy rides as well as Scheer. In 2015, he won at least a share of nine rodeo titles, including some of the biggest events in the sport. That’s helped him get to this spot. Now he’s hoping his mental approach is what makes the overall difference.
“I think what’s changed the most in the last year is maturity, and I put a lot on my traveling partners,” he said, noting that he commutes from one rodeo to another with fellow NFR qualifiers Chet Johnson, Tyler Corrington and Wade Sundell; though injuries knocked Johnson and Corrington out of this year’s finale, Sundell returns for the seventh straight year.
“After the last two years, I realized I either start strong or finish strong. I want to put it all together, and I think I can maturity-wise. My dad always told me was that you learn more from losing than you do winning. Throughout the year, I was winning consistently. Whenever I had my chance, I capitalized on it. Whenever you have your chance, you don’t want to let it go.”
That’s the theme for Scheer’s season. He and his traveling posse spent a great deal of time north of the border competing at Canadian rodeos, many of which were co-sanctioned by the PRCA and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. He returned to the Canadian Finals Rodeo, where he won the average championship in 2014.
“Winning the Canadian title is another goal,” Scheer said. “The top 15 guys up there can ride with anybody down here. There’s a lot of money at a lot of great rodeos, and there are a lot of great people. A lot of those guys don’t come down from Canada. The scenery is amazing.
“We get paid to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people and hang out with them.”
He made a run in mid-November at the CFR and earned nearly $26,000 in Edmonton, Alberta. He finished fifth in the Canadian standings. With that now in his saddlebags, Scheer has his eyes focused on Vegas and that elusive world title.
“As long as you can take advantage of opportunities, everything is open to you,” Scheer said. “It comes down to how you handle those situations.”
Spoken like a true champion.