CHEYENNE – He’s carried the same business-like mentality for as long as he’s been a cowboy.
One day at a time. One ride at a time. One horse at a time. Nothing more, nothing less.
Brody Cress’ focus is unwavering. His work ethic and dedication back it up.
The supporting cast around him has helped Cress build an unbreakable confidence – one that only grows as the stage gets bigger.
The stage was at its biggest Sunday, and Cress was at hist best.
In one of the most stacked saddle bronc riding finals lineups at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, the 2014 Cheyenne East grad competed against six of the top 20 saddle bronc riders in the world, including the likes of Sterling and Jacobs Crawley, who sit at No. 3 and No. 6 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings, respectively. There also was Wade Sundell, ranked No. 14.
Cress didn’t blink at the competition he faced. Instead, the hometown cowboy rode Stace Smith Pro Rodeo's Resistols Top Hat to an 87.5-point ride and, after watching a drama-filled re-ride by Sundell, captured his third straight CFD buckle to become the first saddle bronc rider to do so in the 123-year history of the “Daddy of ’em All.”
“You have to be the best every day,” said Cress, who edged Sundell by 1½ points. “It doesn’t matter coming in on an average or anything like that. I was blessed to be able to draw three amazing horses that gave me a chance.
“I like where you just know you’re going to have to jump out there and do all you can riding against the best guys in the world on the best horses on this stage. You can’t just stub your toe.”
Cress certainly didn’t.
When the horn sounded and Cress’ score lit up the videoboards inside Frontier Park Arena, the crowd erupted like never before. You could argue the building, itself, shook.
Frank Thompson, one of Cress’ best friend’s dad, was the first to greet Cress after his historic ride. Thompson told the three-time champ to take three victory laps around the park. So, the champ circled the arena, sporting a smile from ear to ear, soaking in everything – the electricity of the crowd, the emotions of forever etching his name into history, the significance of the moment.
“I know people probably thought that was a little bit too much, but I’ve been listening to him ever since I was a little kid, so I didn’t want to stop now,” Cress said. “But that’s awesome to be able to role by the crowd three times and just hear all those cheers and know that it’s paying off.”
Cress, who took home $7,917.68 on Sunday and $12,584.88 in total earnings, will have a day off to celebrate this moment, likely with family, friends and fellow cowboys before heading back out on the road.
He’s all business. One day, one ride and one horse at a time.
“It’s dang sure special for sure, but I know that I’m capable of that,” he said. “As long as I go out there and handle my business when you run a horse under me that’s that good. If I do my part, then it’s going to turn out that well.
“The people that helped me growing up have prepared me to be able to come on these stages under pressure and compete and be able to win. I’ve been getting conditioned my whole life to do that, so it’s truly a blessing and that is extremely hard to do, but I expect that to happen when I put in all the hard work and go out there and do my job.”
Bareback bronc riding
Clayton Biglow had never climbed on top of Witchy Woman, he had seen the horse work before. Sunday was the first time the duo competed against one another and, by the time Biglow’s turn came around, he knew he would have to turn in a magnificent ride.
Richmond Champion’s 89.5-point ride had the thousands of fans inside Frontier Park Arena on their feet in amazement.
“It pumps you up, and it makes you tougher,” Biglow said of watching Champion’s ride. “When competition is high, it just brings everything out of you. To me, it does when guys are going out there and spanking big ones and making big scores, to me, it pumps me up and makes me want to be right there at the top of the leaderboard with them.”
Biglow not only got on the leaderboard, he took it and ran with it.
The Clements, California, cowboy scored a 91-point ride to win the CFD bareback bronc buckle. It took him four tries at CFD to win the buckle and, after placing as high as fifth one year, Sunday was a memory he will forever remember.
“It means everything. It really does,” he said. “One of these rodeos like Cheyenne, even the NFR, it’s a big deal to anyone who wins it. There’s a lot of history. Everyone’s dad’s back here and they all rode here, and everyone has a history. It’s pretty prestigious, pretty special.
“I guess it hasn’t hit me quite yet, you know. When we’re driving out here in a couple hours, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I just won Cheyenne.’”
There has been a long and successful history of the Wright family in professional rodeo. Yet none had ever captured a CFD title.
Until Sunday, that is.
Stetson Wright – the youngest in the prestigious Milford, Utah, rodeo family – will go down in history.
The 19-year-old captured the bull riding title with a 93-point ride – one point shy of the Frontier Park Arena record – and rode away with the CFD all-around title. Wright is sitting No. 1 in the PRCA's all-around world standings. If he won, it would be the first time a roughstock rider claimed the all-around world title since Dan Mortensen accomplished the feat in 1997.
“To be the first one to do it, with all the great riders of my family, I thought for sure that they would’ve won it before this,” Wright said. “But to be able to be the first one to do it means just as much as winning Cheyenne itself.
“It means everything. It’s a real confidence booster. It just showed me that I can be at the top with all these big names and these really good cowboys. It’s just super special to me, and I’m very happy.”
The Utah teenager who has but a few patches of whiskers on his face turns 20 on Tuesday. It’s safe to say he’ll have a good birthday.
“That’s for sure,” Stetson said with a laugh.
Eli Lord lined up in the box inside Chute 9 with hazer Linn Churchill.
Lord shot out of the box, jumped off his horse and tackled his steer. He wrestled it to the ground in a swift 6.9 seconds.
Turns out that time held up to clinch the CFD steer wrestling title Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a huge deal,” Lord said. “It’s one of these rodeos you dream of winning as a cowboy. It’s a great deal for a me, a great feeling. You can’t really describe it.”
It was only after their run when Churchill pulled Lord aside.
“He told me after we were done, that he’s hazed for first here three different times,” Lord said. “This is the third time right there. He did a great job all week, and that’s huge here. You get somebody good to haze for you here, and that’s a huge deal.”