Payoff: American Rodeo win will help Nebraska rancher pay for heifers | TheFencePost.com

Payoff: American Rodeo win will help Nebraska rancher pay for heifers

Ruth Nicolaus
for Tri-State Livestock News

Monday nights are Mexican night at Jean's Feed Barn in Cross Plains, Texas, and on Feb. 26, Matt Reeves decided to treat his wife and boys to a meal out.

That's because they had something to celebrate: Reeves had won a share of the $1 million side pot in the steer wrestling at the RFD-TV American Rodeo presented by DISH.

After qualifying for the semi-finals twice: through a jackpot in West Point, Miss., and Mickey Gee's jackpot in Henrietta, Texas, Reeves competed at the Fort Worth events Feb. 22-24, and then found himself at AT&T Stadium Feb. 25, with a shot at $1 million.

He had a time of 4.18 seconds in the long go round, finishing second behind reigning world champion Tyler Pearson to be one of the top four to come back for the short round. In the short round, Reeves finished with a time of 3.73, six-hundredths of a second faster than Tyler Pearson, to win his event.

Reeves was the only qualifier among the four steer wrestlers in the short round (Pearson, Dakota Eldridge and Scott Guenther were invitees) so he was the only one eligible for the $1 million side pot.

The American has two types of contestants: those who are invited, based on their world standings, and those who have qualified through prior events. The invitees are not eligible for the $1 million; qualifiers are, and if more than one qualifier wins their event, the $1 million is split between those who win. The winners of each event, no matter how they got to the American, win $100,000.

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Reeves, along with saddle bronc rider Cort Scheer and bareback rider Kaycee Feild, were qualifiers, thus eligible for the $1 million. All three won their respective events and split the $1 million. And because they all three won their events, $100,000 was added to their check, earning each man $433,333.

SOMETHING WAS MISSING

Reeves, who lives in Cross Plains, Texas, didn't start seriously rodeoing till he was 29 years old. He won an amateur title in 2005, but the next year, finished one hole out of placing at 30-plus pro rodeos. Something was missing, and it was horsepower. He and Brent Arnold, a fellow bulldogger, traveled together to a rodeo in Los Fresno, with another competitor, Sam Koenig (who would end up as his father-in-law). While coming home, Reeves said, "I've got to do something better. I'm always one hole out." Arnold's reply was "just ride a faster horse." It was a turning point for Reeves' career. "I didn't have the finances, but I had somebody who had a belief in me and wanted to support me, and had a fast horse."

In 2006, Reeves made the Texas Circuit Finals and the next year, he won the circuit and made the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time.

His horse at AT&T Stadium was Stolie the Show "Roy," a 10-year-old sorrel gelding that is by Ote, a palomino that Reeves rode and sold in 2013. Ote was his mount at the 2016 WNFR, when he was without a horse due to injury.

Roy's dam is Sixes Future, a horse owned by four-time world champion Kristie Pederson and her husband Chuck. Sixes Future reportedly only had less than a half-dozen colts, and three of them went on to great success: Roy at the American, and two barrel horses, Stolie My Guy and Frenchmans Future, who have won "piles of money in the futurity world," Reeves said.

Roy was purchased by the Reeves' in 2014 as a backup horse, but he's become more than that for Reeves. He's bigger than most bulldogging horses and great in the box. "When he gets in the box, he locks in," Reeves said. "There's no B.S. He's quiet and easy to ride."

He's ready to go the second Reeves drops his hand with the reins, in the box. "He's extremely sharp off your hand. Some horses are the kind, you drop your hand and they go," he said. "Some you have to kick and go. He's one of those horses that you move your hand an eighth of an inch, and he's gone."

Roy also has a lot of heart, which, Reeves said, can cover up a lot of mistakes. "A lot of heart will make up for a lot of inadequacies."

His hazing horse is Frenchmans Kirk, also known as Kirk. Kirk, bought at Bill Myer's sale in South Dakota, started his career as a barrel racing horse, ridden by Reeves' wife Savanah. When Savanah was pregnant with their boys, Reeves rode him, using him for the hazing. "He got so good at it, we kept doing it," Reeves said.

"These horses mean the world to me," he said. He prefers to make his horses instead of buying them trained. "Making horses is an extremely important part of my rodeo. I don't have the money to buy horses that are made, and I'll be honest, I don't do very well on them. I don't know their ins and outs."

With his American earnings, he and his wife plan on paying off the debt on their eighty acres outside Cross Plains. They started improvements on the place in 2010, including an arena, horse and hay barns, and the house. He has some lease places in the area where he runs 65 head of mama cows.

"It's a life changing dream come true for us."

Reeves has competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo six times and is currently ranked ninth in the PRCA world standings.

NEBRASKA BRONC RIDER

At the other end of the arena, Nebraska cowboy Cort Scheer won the saddle bronc riding.

The 31-year-old bronc rider has finished twice in second place, both times to Wade Sundell, who won the American its first three years (2014-2016). When asked in an interview following his win what the difference was this year, Scheer replied, "Wade's not here."

Scheer qualified for the American at the Louie Feilds Rodeo in Salt Lake in early February, turning out of the short round in Fort Worth to be in Salt Lake. Even though he'd drawn a good horse in Fort Worth, he knew he needed to be in Salt Lake. "To me, a guy doesn't get the opportunity to ride for that much money (as the American puts up) in his life. That's more my goal: go where the money is."

On his first horse at the American, he was placing fourth but got a re-ride. He elected to take the re-ride, getting on C5 Rodeo Co's Northern Lights for 84.50 points. He along with Cody DeMoss (the 2017 American winner), Brody Cress and Clay Elliott were the top four to go to the short round. In the short round, Scheer rode Frontier Rodeo's Medicine Woman for 89 points, twenty-five hundredths ahead of DeMoss' 88.75.

His check for $433,333 will go towards two things: a house payment and cattle. He and his brother had bought heifers to calve at the family ranch near Elsmere, Neb. "Shoot, I'll probably pay off my house, pay off the loan on those heifers and keep them. Those are the two big responsibilities I have to take care of."

Scheer built a house in Stephenville, Texas, where he winters, but he comes back to the family ranch to help out. He'll spend the next week or so helping out with the heifers before he goes back out on the rodeo road.

Scheer, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier and reserve world champion in 2014, will compete full time this year, traveling with Chet Johnson, Tyler Corrington and Audy Reed. He won second at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver and third in San Antonio and is currently ranked ninth in the PRCA world standings.

BARREL RACER

London Gorham didn't progress to the short round, but the 10-year-old barrel racer made a name for herself.

The daughter of bullfighter Shorty Gorham and his wife Amanda, London qualified for the American through barrel races in Glen Rose, Texas in January.

She rode Frenchmans Assassin, "Assassin" and got assistance from a futurity trainer, James Barnes. "He's a fabulous guy," Amanda said, "and he deserves a lot of the credit. He took off of his futurity training and spent a week with us in Fort Worth" at the semi-finals."

London won over $40,000 for her efforts and an additional $5,000 as the DISH Up and Comer Award winner. She advanced further than any other young competitor in the American semi-finals. She clocked a time of 15.474 seconds in the long round and finished 16 out of 20 barrel racers.

She doesn't have big plans for her earnings; there are only two things she wants. She would like a fennec fox as a pet, and she wants a new phone.

She was not the only member of her family on the big stage at the American: her dad Shorty worked as a bullfighter, while her uncle JB Mauney, a world champion bull rider, competed. JB is married to her mom's sister Samantha. And her grandpa is five-time world champion Phil Lyne. London and her family live in Cotulla, Texas.

Other winners at the American are bareback rider Kaycee Feild (as a qualifier, he won one-third of the $1 million side pot); tie-down roper Marty Yates, team ropers Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, barrel racer Taci Bettis and bull rider Jess Lockwood. Lockwood, of Volborg, Mont., is the reigning PBR world champion, the youngest man to have won the PBR title, and the son of Ed and Angie Lockwood.

-Nicolaus is a freelance writer from Blue Hill, Neb., and a Great Plains girl at heart. She can be reached at Nicolaus@gtmc.net.