Wyoming bronc buster excels at riding broncs at an elite level
Before he qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo, before he won the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, before he qualified to National Finals Rodeo, Brody Cress was just a Wyoming cowboy who grew up on a small acreage just about 20 miles or so from the state’s capitol building.
“My brother and I watched my dad ride colts, an that’s what we did in the summer,” said Cress, 26, now a five-time NFR qualifier and Cinch endorsee. “When we were younger, we broke ponies. We lived on 20 acres, but we had an arena. Both sides of my family were cowboys. I’ve always been raised up around that lifestyle and learned to love it.”
It’s his life now. Like his father before him, Cress is a saddle bronc rider, and he’s pretty handy at it. He’s young, but he’s a veteran. He went to his first NFR in 2017, and he quickly emerged as a contender for the world championship.
At the age of 21 years and 11 months, the fresh-faced schoolboy at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, earned the first of three NFR aggregate titles by having the best cumulative score through 10 go-rounds. He followed with average crowns in 2019 and ’21. It’s like he’s the odd man out, but he’s been among the top three in the world standings four times out of his five NFR appearances.
In fact, the only year in which he struggled at the year-end championship was 2018, after his regular season had been cut short with a broken ankle; he hadn’t fully recovered from the injury and just wasn’t able to ride to his ability in Las Vegas.
That’s just part of life as a rodeo cowboy, and it definitely didn’t deter him from excelling at the sport he loves.
“I’ve been competing in rodeo since I was little,” said Cress of Hillsdale, Wyoming. “I rode sheep and calves, then I got on steers, but I never got on bulls. At that time, I was riding colts and working with horses, but I didn’t get on my first bucking horse until I was in high school. We had a bunch of practices horses to where we could get on in a controlled environment. I didn’t get on a bucking horse in competition until I was a junior in high school.
“The whole idea was trying to control our environment. We had it set up where we could get on practice horses and get us prepared so when we went into competition, we’d be ready to ride.”
It worked, and he hasn’t looked back since. He was a three-time college finals qualifier and would have made it a fourth time if COVID hadn’t reared its ugly head in 2020 and shut down intercollegiate rodeo. While in college, he took care of business, completing a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business and a master’s degree in consumer science.
When he moved to Texas, he carried his Wyoming work ethic and experience with him.
“When you’re breaking colts, they may buck with you a little bit, and they’re not always the best in the chutes,” he said. “You learn a lot about horsemanship and the little things by being around the horses. Knowing how to be around the colts and handling them, you’re trying to set the colts up to have success as they get older. You teach them and reward them when they’re good so they can be that way throughout their careers.”
That seems to be the right training for equine stars as it is for the men that ride them eight seconds at a time. It’s what’s propelled Cress toward the top of the world standings year after year. It’s the next chapter for a man who was interested in following his father’s footsteps, even as a youngster when he would sneak behind the bucking chutes to watch the rodeos.
He and Blaze, his older brother by 21 months, would ride Dad’s saddle on the trampoline. He showed livestock, and wrestling provided another outlet for his competitive nature. Wrestling also taught him self-discipline and centralized focus. He was a three-time state champion, earning those coveted titles from his sophomore year in high school on up.
That controlled movement was also the perfect precursor to what he does now, riding a 1,200-pound bolt of electricity in order to cash in at the end of the day.
“The thing about bronc riding for me is it’s a never-ending battle,” Cress said. “You always find out you can improve yourself. You’re never bored with it. The rewards you get when you have a great ride or have a great year makes you hunger for more.”
He remains hungry as he rolls through the 2022 season. As of mid-February, he was among the top three in the world standings again, and he’s proven to be consistent enough to remain among the elite through the remainder of the campaign.
Since he began as a professional, he’s continued to call Hillsdale his home, but Cress has lived in Stephenville since he moved to Texas for college. There’s a reason behind his decision to remain in the Lone Star State.
“I’m getting to have an independent life,” he said. “This is the first place I came from living at home. You grow up around a group of people, then you’re going through that phase of your life, and I feel like I still have that.
“You also have the rodeo side of things. All the big winter rodeos are down here in Texas, and they’re spread out so that you can get to them easy enough. It’s also really beneficial living here, because you’re close to an airport here.”
That allows him easier access to rodeos across the country, when he’s not in a pickup outfitted with a Capri camper while traveling the highways and interstates with fellow bronc busters Isaac Diaz and Shorty Gorham.
“Whenever I made the move from the Mountain States Circuit to the Texas Circuit, you got to the finals and you were getting on horses where their last trips were at the NFR,” Cress said. “It helped me grow as a bronc rider, and I think it’s helped my career. I still get to go around there and practice. The warm weather is also beneficial. You’re not going to have very many 75-degree days in Wyoming this time of year.”
Each day of Brody Cress’ life is filled with the excitement and intrigue of being a ProRodeo cowboy. He can handle just about any task assigned him, but he gets excited about the opportunities to compete. He’s been so close to winning a world championship that he could touch it, and it’s what drives him to work at his craft every day.
“I think there’s always a moment of disappointment when you get that close and don’t win it, but you can’t stay in that moment for very long,” he said. “You have to figure out how to move ahead and be successful. If you stay in those moments, you won’t be successful.
“Obviously, one of the main things I want to accomplish is to be able to win a couple of world titles, but the most important thing, in the end, is how people see me and how I carry myself. I want to learn more about bronc riding and being successful, but I really want to be someone that people can say something highly about. You’re going to be remembered by how you acted when you were at that level and were just being successful.
“I also want people to know about the support system I have. There’s no way I could do that on my own.”