CHEYENNE – Brody Cress will compete in his sixth National Finals Rodeo starting tonight in Las Vegas.
He enters the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s year-end event as the No. 3-ranked saddle bronc rider in the world standings. Cress has finished second in the world standings twice and won the NFR’s aggregate title three times.
The 2014 Cheyenne East graduate’s sustained success has him closing in on “best to never win a world title” territory. Cress is neither taking his success for granted nor looking too far ahead. He knows he’s owed nothing, and has his sights set squarely on the task that awaits him over the next 10 days.
“It’s easy to get stuck sitting around wishing you would have won a world title already, but the main thing I need to do is focus on doing whatever I need to do to do well out there,” Cress said. “You have 10 head of horses you’re getting on, and you never know what you’re going to draw or what’s going to happen.
“The best thing you can do is focus on what you can control and competing hard.”
That’s an approach that has carried Cress throughout his rodeo career.
The 26-year-old won the championship buckle at 12 rodeos this season, and shared the crown at another. Mixed in with all that success was an early-summer drought, a severe illness and a tear to the acromioclavicular joint in his right shoulder. The latter injury happened during Cheyenne Frontier Days.
“I was lucky to start my season really strong during the winter,” Cress said. “In between the winter rodeos and kicking off the summer rodeos, we had a pretty good set of bronc matches people put together.
“It’s awesome to have those, because you get to ride some of the best horses in the world against some of the best bronc riders in the world. It’s an awesome opportunity to build momentum going into the summer.”
Cress has claimed titles at some of the most prestigious rodeos in the world, but this season was filled with wins at small to mid-size competitions. He found value in what he describes as chipping away at the standings.
“What separates the guys who consistently make the NFR from the guys who don’t is how they handle the times they aren’t having as much success as they would like,” Cress said. “It’s easy to have a bad attitude and be negative. But the guys who are going to keep having success are the ones who figure out what they can control, figure out what they need to fix and keep moving forward.”
Cress recently got engaged. He and his fiancee, Sierra Davis, own Level Up Wellness in Weatherford, Texas, which provides a number of treatments for injuries and everyday health. Sierra often brings cryotherapy equipment with her when she accompanies Brody on the road, and treats numerous athletes. Having that as a resource was invaluable to Cress this season.
“Being able to come home and get that treatment is another aspect of my training and recovery,” he said. “It’s made a huge difference.
“... We’re building toward taking more stuff to rodeos. I love seeing how hard she works and the passion she puts into it.”
Cress’ three NFR aggregate titles are the second-most for a saddle bronc rider. In two of those years, he recorded scores in all 10 rounds. A similar effort this week would help him close the $71,000 gap between him and top-ranked Sage Newman and put him on the verge of a world championship.
Cress knows that’s possible, and not just for him.
“Any of those 15 guys could win a world title, so you have to show up every single night and compete to the best of your ability,” he said. “You can’t play the safe game there. Being cautious is no way to win a world title.
“You have to go out there and do your job and leave it on the line every night. Some nights you’ll win the round, and some nights you’ll get bucked off, but you still have to do it to give yourself a chance. It’s simple and straightforward, but it’s also exciting because of all the possibilities.”
More Wyoming ties
Cress isn’t the only Cowboy State contestant competing in this year’s NFR.
Saddle bronc rider Tanner Butner of Daniel is No. 15 in the world standings entering tonight’s first go-round. The 25-year-old banked nearly $104,000 to earn a berth in his first NFR. Butner did not return multiple messages left for him through the PRCA’s communications staff.
Buffalo’s Cole Reiner is No. 1 in the bareback standings entering his third NFR. The 23-year-old has a little more than a $1,700 lead over second-ranked Jess Pope of Waverly, Kansas. Reiner did not return text messages from WyoSports seeking an interview.