For Ote Berry, this is the hard part.
Berry, a former world champion steer wrestler, is in his third year as the event programmer for the Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship at this year’s Junior World Finals in Las Vegas. The OBJSWWC held its final qualifier on Sept. 29 in Stigler, Oklahoma.
So now, rather than spending all his time running cattle or working on his ranch, Berry devotes a few hours each day trying to secure sponsors and raise scholarship money for his contestants.
“I love going to the events because I feel at home there,” Berry said. “But now I’ve got to sit down and start calling people and emailing (college) coaches. It’s always challenging because my weakness is going out there and asking for money.”
Berry might consider it a weakness, but the 1998 ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee is pretty good at it. At last year’s Junior World Finals – which was called the Junior NFR at the time – Berry helped raise more than $60,000 in scholarship money for his bulldoggers, which was almost double the amount of the previous year. That money, combined with payouts for round winners and event placers provided by sponsors, helps make the OBJSWWC a success.
“It’s great to have a good payout,” Berry said, “but also to have the scholarships available to the contestants. And I’m sure the parents really appreciate that. We’re trying to promote their schools and their rodeo program and they in turn support us.
“Some schools are offering full scholarships and some are offering half scholarships so I know that is very beneficial to those kids because hopefully they’re getting an education out of it.”
One cowboy who took full advantage of the scholarship money was Bridger Anderson. The bulldogger from Carrington, North Dakota, won the first OBJSWWC in Vegas in 2017. In addition to pocketing nearly $14,000, Anderson also earned a $1,000 scholarship to Northwestern Oklahoma State, where he was a freshman at the time. In June Anderson continued his winning ways by taking home the title at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.
According to Berry, the Junior World Finals is a great place for young steer wrestlers to get a taste of the big time.
“This is a pretty big stage when you get to Vegas because it’s a bigger crowd than most of them are used to and then there’s the money involved,” he said. “So hopefully it’s preparing them for the trip across town in a few short years.
“We’ve already had a lot of success with some of the kids from the first year like Bridger Anderson coming back to win the college finals. It’s just a matter of time before some of these guys are going to be making the National Finals.”
And that’s something Berry knows a lot about. He was a four-time world champion (1985, 1990-91, ’95) and a 14-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier.
Whether the bulldoggers at this year’s Junior World Finals, which takes places Dec. 5-14 in the Wrangler Rodeo Arena in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, can achieve Berry’s level of success remains to be seen. But it’s a great place to start the journey.
This year’s 60 contestants come from 19 states and competed in qualifiers that ranged from Mississippi to New Mexico.
“We did it on a point basis to qualify and the point system is to seed you at Vegas,” Berry said “but when we get to Vegas it’s a clean slate. We’ll run two and then a short round.”
While Berry’s name is attached to the event, he is quick to praise the other people who help him put it all together.
“We’ve had a great event in Vegas the last couple of years and I can’t take all the credit for that because I have a great staff,” he said. “I have the right people in place and I can’t say enough good things about everybody that helps out. We try to have all of our bases covered before we get there so that it does run smooth and it looks like a professional event.”