LAS VEGAS – There are a lot of thrills that come with competing at the National Finals Rodeo.
It’s the world’s richest rodeo, with go-rounds paying nearly $100,000 for 10 performances. Bridger Anderson is getting to experience many of them in his first NFR at Las Vegas; his first qualification came in 2020, when the finale took place in Arlington, Texas, because of COVID restrictions.
On Monday night, he wrestled his steer to the ground in 3.5 seconds, the fastest run so far at this year’s championship, to win the fourth round. That was worth $30,706. He also was presented his Montana Silversmiths go-round buckle at the South Point Casino and Resort during a special ceremony for winners each night.
“I’m looking forward to getting that buckle and talking on that stage,” said Anderson, the 2019 intercollegiate bulldogging champion from Carrington, North Dakota. “It’ll be great getting all the family on stage and introducing them.”
He won his national title while competing at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, which was well represented in the money. Fellow steer wrestler J.D. Struxness, who won his intercollegiate crown in 2016, finished second, and header Coleman Proctor finished fourth in team roping.
“When I first got down there to Alva, I lived with J.D., practiced and rodeoed with him,” Anderson said. “It’s cool to be able to compete against a lot of the Northwestern bulldoggers that went down there, too; they were the ones I used to get beat by.”
He knew he had a solid opportunity when he arrived at the Thomas & Mack Center just by looking at the steer he had drawn.
“I knew he was going to be great,” he said. “That steer wants to sit down a little bit and throw his head back at you. He kind of caught Will Lummus in the first round, and I had everybody telling me what I needed to do.”
Anderson and his hazer, NFR veteran Clayton Hass, made a game plan, and then they went to work. Hass was riding a horse named Metallica, owned by Tyler Pearson, and Anderson was riding his own horse, Whiskers.
“We executed the plan the way we wanted, and I knew we had a good shot at it,” said Anderson, who pushed his NFR earnings to $53,583 and his annual salary to $139,094; he is 11th in the world standings, three spots up from where he began last week. “Whiskers is firing, feeling great, and Clayton is doing a great job. We couldn’t ask for anything better.”