On The Trail with Brody Cress

by Siri Stevens

Brody Cress ended his 2017 season with the PRCA with an 88 point ride on Dakota Rodeo’s Bartender to win the saddle bronc riding championship at the Wrangler Champions Challenge Finale on September 30 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “It is an outstanding feeling – the whole year has been. I can’t think of a weekend that I wasn’t able to win some money,” said the 21-year-old cowboy from Hillsdale, Wyoming. “That helps keep it going and keeps it exciting. You can’t ask for a better season. It makes you want to get on a bucking horse every day.” Brody did something that no other cowboy has done – he won Cheyenne, Salinas, and Pendleton in one season. “I didn’t go to any winter rodeos, but I came back to the first one and won and it’s been clicking – I’ve drawn good and it’s been a year of focus and shooting for the finals. I’ve never been this consistent – 90% this year – dang sure knew things were clicking,” he said. “I’ve always shot for going to the NFR. I’ve always thought if that wasn’t a goal, why rodeo. But this year it’s realistic.” Brody will be heading to the Thomas & Mack this December, but not before completing his finals for his Senior year at Tarleton State University where he is majoring in Ag Business. “I won’t be able to walk with the class, but that’s ok.”

 

Winning 88.5 point ride at CFD Short Round on Black Box of Sankey Rodeo - Hubbell
Scoring 90 points at the Mountain States Junior Bullriding. - Ross Lampshere
Brody and his favorite horse, Final Touch - Courtesy of the family

This year has been a lot better than last year, when Brody had a horse fall on him and injure his ankle at St. Paul. “After Cheyenne I took the rest of the year off; my ankle was hurting. I couldn’t walk for ten minutes after I got off the horses. Taking the rest of the year helped me refocus on getting to the gym.”

Growing up, Brody stayed in the practice pen and didn’t ride a bronc at a rodeo until he was a junior in high school. He rodeoed at junior rodeos from the time he was big enough to steer his own horse, competing at Murray’s arena summer series. He was a member of Mountain States Junior Bull Riders, starting as a mutton buster and stopping with steer riding. He started wrestling at the age of six and concentrated on that, showing pigs and sheep, and being involved in FFA. “My dad was our Ag teacher for freshman year, and then moved into principal. I was around his FFA kids all the time, and I was very big into showing pigs and sheep.” He competed in the Creed his freshman year, as well as sales. FFA taught Brody how to interact with people. “I got put in a lot of situations – when I was practicing for the Creed, my dad would take me to speak in places I was really nervous about. It allowed me to learn how to turn an awkward situation into something I could handle.” FFA also helped Brody learn how to speak in front of large groups. “I built leadership skills – as I got older I liked helping out the younger kids.”

His parents; Tommy and Lannette, both rodeoed when they were younger. “Mom grew up on a ranch, and she was a rodeo queen, and team roped, breakaway roped, ran barrels and poles in high school rodeo.” Tommy college rodeoed for LCCC and the University of Wyoming, as well as pro rodeoed, qualifying for the Mountain States Circuit Finals numerous times. He rode saddle broncs and got on a few bulls in college. Now Tommy is an assistant principal at Cheyenne East High School with 1,500 kids.

“I’m really lucky to be in this system – these kids are great,” said Tommy. “It’s my 21st year, and times have changed, but the kids haven’t. My wife works as an Administrative Assistant for the Wyoming Supreme Court. She has a lot to do with the success of the boys – she’s the one they call for everything still.”

“We did everything we could do to support them all along and the lessons they learned – the biggest one is that life’s not easy – and we never made any excuses for them. He’s done this on his own,” said Lannette. “I’ve helped him get plane tickets and motel rooms, but he tells us when and where. Brody was in the bucking horse sale two years ago and Blaze was in the permit challenge two years ago, and we went to one round, but this year it’s going to be so exciting. It’s a dream of our entire family. I’m really proud of Brody – he’s made this his goal and he got it done.”

“My parents put me in wrestling to get the mental and physical aspects,” said Brody. “I almost wrestled in college. It started when I was six and I won nine state championships growing up. In high school I was the state champion my last three years.” Throughout those years, he would wrestle up to 140 pounds going wherever coach needed him. “I learned how to handle myself. At first when I would lose, I would get frustrated. As I got into high school I learned how to handle my emotions – I had to cut 16 pounds my Sophmore year and I learned how to go through that mentally. Wrestling also helped me learn how to take a loss and not just quit.” Working on the mental and the physical aspects of wrestling really coincides with riding broncs. “You have to give it all you have as long as it takes.”

Brody gained respect for all of his coaches along the way. “I had such amazing coaches that helped me be a great young man as well as a good wrestler.”

Both the boys worked on riding broncs for several years before competing on them. “My dad and Colt Bruegman really started us. We were lucky enough to get great horses from JD Hamaker, the Millers, Morgan and John Forbes. Frank Thompson would come pick up for us; we got help from Rick Griego flanking and my friends, Levi Romsa, Zane Thompson, Dax Cathcart, Anthony Green and Clayton Hanzlik helped on the neck ropes and pulled gates. It was whoever we could get to come help. Sometimes we would practice twice a week – as long as it was warm enough. I know during high school it was twice a week. Up until I was a junior that’s the only bronc riding I could do. I couldn’t go to a rodeo until I was a junior in high school. We had an amazing pen of practice horses, at one time we had nine. It was a great pen of solid horses.”

 

Brody and his 2007 Reserve Champion Market Swine, National Western Stock Show
Brody wrestling at University of Northern Colorado Christmas Classic sophmore year - Lannette Cress

His parents wanted to make sure Blaze and Brody knew what they were doing before they went to a high school rodeo. Tommy’s rule was they couldn’t get on until they were 100 pounds. “They wanted us to learn how to get off, and how to make somewhat of a successful ride – it made it a little more fun. It was still rough – but I won my first rodeo I went to my junior year, so that proved that staying home and learning paid off. Up till this year, there’s been bumps in the road, but I was more successful because I had a good start.”

Brody is in his senior year at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. “I picked TSU for one because it’s warmer. I wanted to be on a rodeo team that would send me places and a bunch of people came here that went on to the NFR. This is a prestigious program and the kids know how to win. My coach knows I am moving up to the next level and he’s there for me. He is awesome – he helps us do more than rodeo, to be respectful and handle ourselves in front of people. He’s taught me not to make excuses – I face the fact of what I did wrong and how to fix it.”

He also chose Tarleton for the academic side. “I didn’t want to waste my time, and this school will let me get it all done – all the way through my masters.” Brody is going for his Masters in Ag consumer science so he can teach. “If I get in situations where I could coach and be able to teach that would be awesome.” Classes start three weeks after the NFR.

Between now and December 7, Brody will get back into the gym and finish up his undergraduate degree. “I’m going to get back to working out and get everything set for Vegas. One of the trainers, Shawn Ready, has put together a workout for me that I’m starting now that I’m home and settled. It’s hard to work out on the road. We stay in shape by getting on so many horses, and I still have college rodeos. I’d like to get on two or three a week to keep things going. I’d like to slow down some, but I want to keep things clicking.”

He will be joined in Vegas by his family, including his brother, Blaze, who is working with Eric Wisehart in California training cutting horses. “Blaze has taken his love of riding colts to another level. He got the opportunity to go to California to ride cutting horses for Eric Wisehart. He’s riding two year olds and is getting to cut. We have different focuses in life and he’s in a great spot. We’re both doing what we want to do.”
For now, Brody is basking in the texts and messages from everyone cheering him on. “It is awesome to be on the road and know there are people watching. It’s great to be a professional rodeo cowboy and know you have fans.” And Brody will warm up the same way in Vegas he has done all year. “I wear my tennis shoes in the locker room, the amount of time I spend jumping around getting ready – this warm up is left over from wrestling, and that makes sure my body is prepared.”

 

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