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LAS VEGAS â€“ Bray Armes has been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo before, and he understands the pressure and the fireworks that come with playing on ProRodeoâ€™s biggest stage.
Now in his second straight qualification to the NFR, he recalls just how nervous he was last December when he walked into the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time as one of the top cowboys in the game. He didnâ€™t realize, however, that those nerves would return with him.
â€śI donâ€™t think I was near as nervous on the first night this year as I was last year,â€ť said Armes, the 14th-ranked steer wrestler from Ponder, Texas. â€śIf you donâ€™t walk into that building and not get wound up, then something is wrong. I just didnâ€™t control it on the first night.â€ť
That changed Friday during the second go-round. Armes grappled his steer to the ground in 5.3 seconds to finish sixth on the night, collecting $3,005.
â€śI felt like the second night, I was still kind of charged up and ready to go, but I controlled it,â€ť he said.
It worked out quite well. A year ago during his first trip to the NFR, Armes didnâ€™t find the pay window until the third round. Heâ€™s hoping that momentum is the key to success.
â€śMy steer was supposed to be the hardest running steer, but my horse got me there and helped me out,â€ť he said of Ote, a palomino now owned by fellow NFR steer wrestler Matt Reeves. â€śI missed the barrier a little, and my horse ran him down.â€ť
A bulldoggerâ€™s best friend is the horse he rides, and it looks like the palomino is a good fit.
â€śI need to get a little better start, but I think itâ€™ll take off,â€ť Armes said. â€śThe nice thing about that horse is that you donâ€™t have to worry about being able to catch one because they run too hard, because I know Ote would get him caught.â€ť
During Saturdayâ€™s third round, Armes will be one of several NFR contestants wearing Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness in honor of a boy name Taylor Tornado, who is fighting neuroblastoma. Armes hopes to bring awareness to the cause while also chasing his gold buckle dreams in Las Vegas. He knows, though, that the next eight days will feature a great race for the 2013 world championship.
â€śBulldogging is so tight; I think itâ€™s going to be a great race,â€ť he said. â€śAs of right now, the world title is anybodyâ€™s to grab. Weâ€™ve got eight more nights, and you can win $18,000 more each night; I think itâ€™s anybodyâ€™s game.â€ť
LAS VEGAS â€“ To be one of the elite saddle bronc riders in the world, cowboys must be able to handle any kind of horse.
On Friday night during the second round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, they were tested by the nastiest bucking beasts in the game â€“ horses that are so hard to ride, theyâ€™re called eliminators. How tough were the broncs? Of the 15 guys in the competition, only six stayed on for the qualifying eight seconds.
Cort Scheer was one of them, riding through the rank moves of Rafter H Rodeoâ€™s Spade for 87 points to finish in second place in the go-round. He won $14,724, pushing his NFR earnings to $25,841 â€“ thatâ€™s the most of any bronc rider competing in Las Vegas. More importantly, the Elsmere, Neb., cowboy has moved to the No. 3 spot in the world standings with eight rounds remaining.
â€śI was real happy with the way it turned out,â€ť said Scheer, who mounted Spade for the first time in his career. â€śIâ€™ve seen that horse a lot. Iâ€™ve seen him rip bareback ridersâ€™ arms off. I was dang sure nervous as heck. You just have to get through those first moves at the start. Once you do, I know heâ€™s really good.
â€śHe feels really good, but heâ€™s hard to get started on.â€ť
Spade has the early moves that tend to push a cowboyâ€™s stirrups back, which gives the horse a big advantage. Oftentimes when bronc riders buck off, itâ€™s because their feet slip back behind them, and they are bucked off over the top of the big black horse. Scheer, though, took care of business.
â€śI believe you can ride anything,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s about getting your mind right. Whatever doubts you have in your mind, you just have to throw it out.
â€śWhen you get to the eliminator pen, theyâ€™re huge, fire-breathing rascals, so to get through that night the way we did was awesome.â€ť
Placing in the first two rounds of ProRodeoâ€™s grand finale is a great way to start the rugged 10-day championship. The key, though, is to keep that momentum going forward.
â€śHonestly the key is not even thinking about it,â€ť Scheer said. â€śYou just donâ€™t think about whatâ€™s going on. It gets a little redundant, but you just ride each horse the best you can and see what happens. I just try to relax and take it a day at a time. I know itâ€™s clichĂ©, but if you can do that, you add just a little fuel to the fire.â€ť
The fire already is burning brightly for Scheer.