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LAS VEGAS â€“ Cort Scheer arrived in the City of Lights ready to gamble.
It wasnâ€™t so much at the gaming tables for which Las Vegas is best known. Instead, Scheer was placing all his bets on the gold buckle that is awarded to world champions each season at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sportâ€™s grand champion.
In all, the three-time NFR qualifier from Elsmere, Neb., posted 10 scores for a cumulative total of 773.5 points and finished second in the all-important saddle bronc riding average race â€“ only one of two cowboys ride 10 broncs at this yearâ€™s NFR, joining average champion Jacobs Crawley.
In all, Scheer pocketed nearly $39,000 in average money and left Las Vegas with $75,721 in NFR earnings. It boosted his season earnings to $165,452, finishing fifth in the final world standings.
â€śIt was a great NFR,â€ť said Scheer, who actually rode more horses over the course of the NFR with 15, but five were the result of re-rides because those animals didnâ€™t quite hold up their end of the bargain and didnâ€™t give the Nebraska bronc buster an opportunity to win. â€śI had a blast. I feel like I rode good at times. I felt like I couldâ€™ve ridden better at times, but Iâ€™m dang sure happy.
â€śFor all the horses I got on, Iâ€™m happy the judges gave me the opportunity.â€ť
His last re-ride happened Saturday during the 10th round, the final night of the 2013 season. Scheerâ€™s first horse stumbled and came down on his front knees during the ride â€“ an automatic re-ride opportunity. Scheer had a decision to make: Take the 75.5-point score and a sure second-place spot in the average or risk it all on another horse for a shot at the world championship.
In order finish the season with the most money won, Scheer needed to place high in the final round and win the average title â€“ that $9,000 difference from first to second in the average and a big round payday gave him the best opportunity at the elusive gold buckle. You see, in rodeo, dollars equal points, and the contestants in each event with the most money won are crowned world champions.
â€śYou donâ€™t come to the NFR worrying about the average,â€ť he said. â€śWhatâ€™s bad about finishing second at one of the best rodeos of the year? You should never be scared to get bucked off. Thereâ€™s no point worrying about it. The guys at the top donâ€™t worry about getting bucked off.â€ť
No, the best in the world worry about riding well. The only time in the last four years he didnâ€™t qualify for the NFR was in 2011 after suffering a torn knee ligament during the season. In addition to his top-rated work in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Scheer has won some of the greatest titles in the sport. In 2011, he won the bronc riding title at RodeoHouston, which paid its winners $50,000; this past year, he won the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede championship, which paid its winners $100,000, then claimed the year-end title in the upstart Professional Roughstock Series.
â€śThis year blows all my other years away,â€ť Scheer said. â€śThe year I won Houston, I blew out my knee early, so I didnâ€™t really get to finish what Iâ€™d started. Itâ€™s been the best year.â€ť
The Nebraska bronc buster â€“ who attended Montana State University, Garden City (Kan.) Community College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University on rodeo scholarships, placed in three rounds in Las Vegas the last two weeks, and he plans to return in 2014.
â€śThe best thing about the NFR is itâ€™s a great rodeo, and I got to have a blast with all my buddies,â€ť Scheer said.