Ote Berry didn’t know what to expect Tuesday.
Turns out the former world champion steer wrestler didn’t need to worry. The inaugural Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship went off basically without a hitch at the Junior National Finals Rodeo presented by YETI.
“It’s built up to this all year and to get this first one under your belt feels good,” Berry, the Junior NFR’s programmer for the event, said. “We had one little ol’ hiccup, but I thought for the most part it went smooth.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up. As far as the production end of it, I thought we pulled it off pretty decent and tried to put on a good show for the folks in the stands.”
The fans who packed the Wrangler Rodeo Arena stands likely agreed.
Brady Reno from New Mexico had the best run of the day with a time of 4.6 seconds. Oklahoma’s Ross McGuire, with a time of 4.9, was the only other bulldogger to finish with a time under 5 seconds Tuesday. But with seven other cowboys posting a time in the 5-second range, there was no doubt the field was filled with some of the sport’s elite young steer wrestlers.
Both Reno and McGuire not only put themselves in good position to make it back to the short go on Saturday, but they also pocketed some money and could be in line for some scholarship money.
“I wanted to make my deal first-class and give everybody the opportunity to win lots of money and some scholarships,” Berry said. “It took lots of hours in front of a computer and on the telephone … just hustling.
“I wanted to make this a great event the first year. I just started calling and talking to people and getting ideas from other people.”
Berry was at a jackpot in Texas when he ran into some friends who put him in touch with the people running the jackpot.
“I told them what I was wanting to do and they fell in love with it,” Berry said. “Not only are they sponsoring my event, but they’re sponsoring some of the top cowboys going down the road now. Word of mouth gets around and it kind of snowballs.”
Berry isn’t joking.
Western Texas State College in Snyder, Texas, is offering a full-ride scholarship to one of the Top Four finishers in the average while Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Nebraska, is offering a full-ride to bulldoggers who finish in the Top Six in the average. If no steer wrestler decides to take the full-ride offer from Mid-Plains, the school is going to offer a half-ride scholarship to a lucky cowboy in the rest of the field.
Blake Henry, a senior at Rushville (Nebraska) High School, could be one of those cowboys. He had a no-time Tuesday, but he knows there’s still plenty to work for this week.
“Today I didn’t perform up to my peak,” Henry said, “but I’m looking forward to coming back and getting some round money on Friday. I know I can still get scholarships and there are plenty of people here from colleges that can see potential.”
And that is just what Berry had in mind when he started to put things together for this initial world championship.
“We wanted to make it a big event and we wanted to go all out the first year,” Berry said. “Hopefully it will get bigger and better from here on out.
“It’s a great opportunity to be a young steer wrestler.”