ELSMERE, Neb. â€“ Cort Scheer is one of the best saddle bronc riders in ProRodeo.
Heâ€™s been one of the best for several years, and next week he heads to his fourth qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sportâ€™s premier event that takes place Dec. 4-13 in Las Vegas.
â€śEvery year you go into the finals feeling confident, but this is probably the most confident Iâ€™ve ever been going into it,â€ť said Scheer, 28, of Elsmere.
He has reason to feel that way. Scheer is the No. 3 bronc rider in the world standings, having earned $102,413 through the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season. He trails standings leader and two-time world champion Taos Muncy by a little more than $24,000.
â€śItâ€™s awesome that weâ€™re in that position,â€ť Scheer said, referring to the fact that both he and Muncy were part of the rodeo team at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. â€śIt all goes back to the practice pen when Taos and I and all those guys were getting on in a $10 jackpot.â€ť
Each man who put his name in the hat ponied up $10, and the high-marked cowboy won the pot.
â€śBack in the day, all we wanted to do was win a $10 jackpot,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s amazing to me that weâ€™re still going at each other. Thatâ€™s the best opportunity in the world when you start off riding with the best. You arenâ€™t just riding against anybody; youâ€™re riding against the best in the world.
â€śNow instead of a $10 jackpot, youâ€™re riding for $19,000 a round.â€ť
The NFR is the perfect place to excel. It offers the largest purse in the game, $6.375 million, and features only the top 15 contestants in each event in the world standings. In rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestant in each event who finishes the 2014 campaign with the most money is crowned world champion. Itâ€™s well within Scheerâ€™s grasp.
â€śDoing so well at the Canadian Finals (Rodeo) helps a ton with my confidence,â€ť said Scheer, who won the average title earlier this month in Edmonton, Alberta. Iâ€™m pretty excited.
â€śThis is the best year Iâ€™ve ever had. I usually have a pretty good winter, and I did.â€ť
He was rather consistent this season. He earned eight event titles this year, from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Pendleton, Ore. He also won the January rodeo in Denver.
â€śThe win at Pendleton was probably the biggest one of the year and the most unique one,â€ť he said. â€śI wasnâ€™t even planning on going and didnâ€™t think I had enough horse in the first round to make it back to the short round. I ended up going, and the horse was pretty good. In the short round, the only horse in the pen I didnâ€™t know was the horse I had.â€ť
It turned out to be just fine. Scheer scored 91 points on Four Star Rodeoâ€™s Rounder to win the short round and the average title.
â€śJust to win in that arena in the grass and to be able to take the victory lap around the track there, it was awesome,â€ť he said.
Scheer has won a lot in a career that began seven seasons ago. In addition to attending Panhandle State on a rodeo scholarship, he also was on the rodeo teams at Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Montana State University. He first qualified for the NFR in 2010, then missed the next season after suffering a knee injury â€“ he still finished 2011 among the top 25 in the world. He has returned to Las Vegas every year since.
â€śIf you donâ€™t have momentum, you donâ€™t have consistency or confidence,â€ť said Scheer, who was raised on the Nebraska sandhills, the youngest of three children born to Kevin and Pam Scheer. â€śWhen you get that on your side, it dang sure helps you. When a guy is confident, you feel like you canâ€™t do anything wrong.â€ť
He hasnâ€™t been on a bronc since the final round of the Canadian Finals on Nov. 9, but heâ€™s has a bit of a swagger after his successful run.
â€śI think the timing of it is big because itâ€™s just before the NFR,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s also the format of it, the horses and the caliber of the cowboys. Most of those horses will be at the finals.
â€śMy whole mindset was moving on to the next one. No matter how I did, I put it behind me and moved on to the next one. Now itâ€™s been on the NFR. My saddle feels great, and I feel great. Ninety percent of bronc riding is mental. Iâ€™m real confident in my saddle, real confident in myself. Iâ€™ve also been staying in good shape.â€ť
The past few weeks have been vital for Scheer, who has spent virtually all of it at his Nebraska home. He helps his dad and brother, Clete, on the ranch every day. That type of manual labor is good for the mind and the body. Now he has his sights set firmly on the Nevada desert, where he hopes to take a step up from a solid 2013 NFR â€“ he was one of only two men to ride all 10 broncs, finishing second in the average.
â€śI learned a lot from last year,â€ť Scheer said. â€śI felt like I could ride better than I did in a lot of those rounds. You learn from those mistakes. You always want to be at the top of the food chain. It looked like I was riding for the average in the end.
â€śIâ€™d rather be known for a guy who rides for the rounds and not for the average. I might as well be 85 instead of 75. Sure itâ€™s a confidence booster you can ride them, but you just have to better yourself in the end.â€ť
Thatâ€™s a solid approach by the humble cowboy. Itâ€™s the reason he has been so victorious this year and why heâ€™s one of the elite bronc riders in the game.
Itâ€™s why heâ€™ll battle for the world title.