Ote Berry has already proven he knows how to put on a good show. The fact that the Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer and four-time world champion steer wrestler gets to do it again in Las Vegas is just an added bonus.
The Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship returns to Vegas once again this December as part of the Junior World Finals. The steer wrestling competition is scheduled for Dec. 7-11 at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Last year’s Junior World Finals were held in Arlington, Texas, because of the pandemic.
“I can’t cuss Texas because we did well down there,” Berry said recently in a phone interview, “but it just didn’t have the feel of Vegas. Our event went better than I anticipated, but I’m looking forward to being back to the more familiar confines.”
The OBJSWWC holds its final qualifier this Saturday with the inaugural U.S. Junior Steer Wrestling Championship in Wimberley, Texas. It’s another opportunity for junior bulldoggers to take home money – the winner gets $2,500 – and other valuable prizes. The money, and the other prizes, which includes saddles, buckles, tack and scholarships, only get bigger when the OBJSWWC comes to Vegas.
“Sponsors are the key because we couldn’t do this without them,” Berry said. “We’re always looking for bigger, better and more.
“The pandemic really hurt us as far as sponsors and that’s totally understandable. But it makes you really appreciate what sponsors and partners you have and those that have stuck with us because this is a complete team effort. Without the sponsors we could not make this happen.”
Berry has made some slight changes to this year’s OBJSWWC at the Junior World Finals as he looks to keep his event, which is now in its fifth year in Vegas, evolving.
“We used to take 60 kids and it was two (runs) and a short go,” he explained. “Now it’s 45 kids and we give ‘em four (runs) and a short go (for the top 20) so they’re basically going every day. It gives them a feel more like the NFR and they’ve got a shot at money every day.
“You better keep getting better or somebody else will. It’s like when I used to rodeo, if you’re not practicing, somebody else is. If you’re not trying to get better and incorporate new things and different ideas to make it better for the kids then you’re not doing it right.”
Heading into this weekend, the top 45 junior steer wrestlers hail from 17 states. The majority of those are from Texas and Oklahoma, but there are also qualifiers from states such as Washington, Illinois and Hawaii.
“We’ve had 28 qualifiers, with one more this weekend,” Berry said. “It was kind of a rollercoaster season. Some of my numbers weren’t as great as in years past, but I was just trying to reach areas to give more kids a chance.”
With other organizations doing what they could to grab a piece of the steer wrestling pie, Berry is confident his event is the best out there.
“I think people were just jumping on the bandwagon because it was popular and they thought we were getting rich doing this,” Berry said. “But when you get too much it kind of gets watered down.
“I don’t hold a grudge against any of those other deals,” he added. “I just try to make my deal the best I can because I know what I can do and I try to do it to the best of my ability.”