A lot has changed since Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling made its debut at the Junior World Finals in 2017. Three constants, however, have been Berry, a four-time world champ and Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame member; three-time JWF champion Cash Robb; and South Dakota bulldogger Denton Cook.
Wednesday, outside the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, Berry presented Robb and Good with a legacy steer skull celebrating their accomplishments in the arena and acknowledging their contributions to the sport.
“I wanted to do something because both of those guys have been with me all six years,” Berry said. “They started young and it’s been fun to watch their progression over the last six years.”
Robb, who won two 16-and-under titles as well as the open title last year, won the second round Wednesday with a 3.8-second run and is fifth in the average with a time of 10.3 seconds on two runs. The Altamont, Utah, cowboy also finished atop the permit standings and was eighth in the Wilderness Circuit standings last year.
Good might not have had as much success inside the Wrangler Rodeo Arena as Robb, but he demonstrated his skills Wednesday when he managed to hang on to his steer with one arm before getting it thrown in 12.6 seconds.
“Today was just a freak run to stay in the average,” he said. “I have a little bit of time to make up, but there are still two more steers. I’m just going to try to keep catching them as good as I can.”
He did that at this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days with a 6.6-second run to win the second performance.
“I started bulldoggin’ when I was 12, and I started Ote’s deal when I was 12,” Good said. “And if I wouldn’t have done that I wouldn’t have made the short round in Cheyenne. This has made me a better bulldogger.
“For young bulldoggers you can’t find a better event than the Junior World Finals.”
According to Berry, bulldoggers are competing for $75,000 in cash this week and more than $40,000 to $50,000 worth of prizes. The list of prizes doesn’t end there.
You also couldn’t find a more lucrative one.
“We’re giving away five beautiful saddles, a buckle a day, YETI coolers, Resistol hats and Justin boots … the list goes on and on,” he added. “We try to make it special for these kids. We make sure nobody is going to leave here empty handed.
“We couldn’t do this without our sponsors. We’re so thankful for the people that have stepped up and helped us monetarily and with products, but the money is what makes this work.”
It’s been working for six years and Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s expected to continue to grow in popularity.
After all, the sport of bulldogging has grown exponentially at the junior level thanks in large part to Berry and his involvement with the Junior World Finals.
“Before, there were some 19-and-under jackpots to go to, but not that many,” Robb said. “Now with the Junior World Finals there are so many more qualifiers and there are usually 30 to 40 kids at each one.”
It’s a far cry from what opportunities were available to Berry when he was growing up.
“When I was in high school we had our high school rodeos and you had nationals, and that was basically it,” he said. “Now we try to go to different parts of the country and put these (qualifiers) on. These kids are seeing each other more than once a year and some of them are loading up and coming to our events in different states.
“The more you’re out there in front of the crowd, and the cameras and the competition the better you’re going to get. The competition is so much better and that comes from going to these events.”
It’s a statement Good agrees with wholeheartedly.
“I’ve watched some of my old videos and it’s just amazing what consistently going to jackpots and running steers will do for you,” he said.
Added Robb: “This has helped me out so much in getting where I want to be.”
As Berry stood between Robb and Good after giving them their legacy awards, he couldn’t help but look back to when the two cowboys made their first runs at the Junior World Finals.
“When Denton was 12 years old he wasn’t any bigger than a minute,” Berry said with a laugh. “And he’s a man now. It’s so fun to watch the progression of these guys getting better and better every year.”
A prime example is Bridger Anderson, who won the first steer wrestling title at the Junior World Finals in 2017. The North Dakota bulldogger went on to win the College National Finals Rodeo championship in 2019 while competing for Northwestern Oklahoma State and qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2020.
“Some of the young kids here may struggle a little this week, but when they come back next year and they’re the ones we’re presenting the buckles to, that’s what makes it special,” Berry noted. “It’s really fun to think that we’re helping these kids progress in our sport to where they need to be. It’s just going to be a few short years before some of our alumni are across town competing in the big building.
“Hopefully this deal is a good experience and a learning experience for these kids.”