BILLINGS — For professional rodeo athletes, there are certain buckles on their bucket list.
Salinas, California, is one, and obviously, the Cheyenne Frontier Days is another.
Young Brody Cress got them both within a one-week span.
Now he put himself in position for another buckle during his summer of fun.
One from the PRCA Yellowstone River Roundup.
The 21-year-old Wyoming cowboy posted a stellar 82-point ride aboard Sankey Pro Rodeo’s Strip to become the new saddle bronc leader with one performance remaining.
The rodeo, Montana’s second-highest paying, concludes Saturday with a 7 p.m. performance.
Cress was one of four competitors to emerge as event leaders from Friday night. He is joined by Helena’s Rene Cloninger in barrel racing (17.37 seconds), steer roper Vin Fisher Jr. (10.2, fourth round) and North Dakota bull rider Riley Blankenship (76 points).
“The season, it’s going good. I love it right now,” said Cress, from Hillsdale, Wyoming, and a graduate of Cheyenne East High School, where he was a three-time state champion wrestler. “My goal is always to go hard and make the National Finals Rodeo. That should be your goal every time you enter.
“But it’s going to be a challenge to make the Finals. The standings are so tight, even all the way through the top 30. One bad week, you’re out of the top 15. One good week, you’re back in. It’s nice to be up there right now and have a shot at making it.”
Cress came to Billings 13th in the PRCA world standings. He vaulted into NFR contention by winning Salinas and Cheyenne – his hometown rodeo – on successive weekends. The two victories earned him more than $21,000.
“Cheyenne, I’ve been dreaming about winning that rodeo since I was little,” he said wistfully.
Cress, who will be a senior at Tarleton State in Texas this fall, placed in the first two rounds, and returned to win the final round with an 88.5-point ride aboard Sankey’s Black Box, his re-ride horse.
“I tried to not let anything get in my head,” he said. “Luckily, I was going to a bunch of rodeos that week and not just staying around there and watching and thinking about it.
“It was surreal after I won it. It was awesome to be able to make it happen.”
Cress earned $14,241 in Cheyenne. He jump started his season with a win worth $2,122 in Fort Smith, Arkansas in June, followed by a victory at Strong City, Kansas the following week.
“I got a new saddle at the first of the year, right after Christmas,” he said. “Things just started clicking, going my way.”
Cress is one semester shy of a degree in ag business and plans to pursue a master’s degree in ag consumer science. His father Tommy is the principal at Cheyenne East after being an ag teacher for 15 years.
“I’m trying to have a little bit of plan,” said Cress. “There is still a lot of time left in the season, a lot of rodeos to go to. I’ll work out my schedule with my teachers when I go back to school.
“I’ll be busy rodeoing until the end of September.”
NOTES: Team ropers Clay Smith and Paul Eaves moved into the money with a time of of 4.6 seconds. … Helena's Kolby Bignell put himself in the top four with 4.6 seconds in steer wrestling. ... Trevor Brazile, a 23-time world champion, was 11.2 seconds in steer roping to move to second in the average, took a no time in team roping with partner JoJo LeMond, and broke the barrier for a 10-second penalty in tie-down roping. His time of 8.2 seconds would have led. … Blankenship had the only bull ride of the night, with nine buck offs. … Saturday’s performance features brothers Travis and Brady Tryan, both NFR qualifiers, combining forces in team roping, with Montana cowboys Parker Breding and Dakota Louis in bull riding.