CSRA bullrider, Brandon Mendenhall is relieved he doesn’t have to sneak off to rodeos anymore. At 16, he secretly visited practice pens for a chance […]
On The Trail with Bridger Anderson
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Bridger Anderson is from Carrington, North Dakota, where winters are seven months long. “For five months out of the year you can’t beat it,” said the 20-year-old who just won the College National Finals in steer wrestling. “In the winter we practice when it’s above 15 degrees, but that doesn’t happen too often. The temperatures will get to -20 with wind chill down to -50.”
“Bridger has been horseback for as long as he can remember. “My parents rodeoed, dad (Glenn) roped and mom (Robin) breakaway roped and team roped.” He has two sisters, Cedar and Dawsyn, who both competed growing up as well. “I was tying goats at amateur rodeos when I was five. The first time I roped at an amateur rodeo was in fifth grade.” He made it to Nationals in the calf roping twice in junior high and once in high school. His true passion has always been steer wrestling.
“When I was three, I told my mom I wanted to be a steer wrestler. I was going to be a Paleontologist during the day and professional steer wrestler at night.” Although he’s not so interested in dinosaurs anymore, he’s definitely got his sights set on the WNFR. “I grew up going to rodeos, it was during the NFR that Luke Branquinho became my rodeo hero – the person I looked up to and idolized growing up.”
He jumped his first steer in the spring of his eighth grade year at Tyler Schau’s bulldogging school.
Then Robin came up with an idea in December of 2015. “We don’t give Christmas gifts; so we look for experiences,” explained Robin. “I wanted to do something that would take Bridger to the next level and to create some relationships. I sent a message to Luke’s Fan page on Facebook, asking if I could pay him to send Bridger to California to throw steers with him for a few days. Luke responded 20 minutes later and said ‘let’s do it’. We flew down and spent a weekend at the Branquinho Ranch in April, 2016. Ever since that weekend, Luke has been a mentor for Bridger; often seen in the box with him if they are at the same rodeo. I could always tell from a distance that Luke was a great human being – you need to surround yourself with people like Luke.”
Luke has been glad to help. “He’s a sharp kid, he excels in the classroom and the arena. There’s a lot of talent out there, but he has all the things that will make a champion out of him. He has the right mentality, technique and work ethic. There’s several ways to bulldog. I teach the basics and let guys find their own timing. Nobody bulldogs the same. That’s what I like about Bridger – he’ll adapt to the situation and picks up things from here or there that will help him out. There’s very few out there that are like that.”
As far as adapting Luke’s signature move once he’s thrown a steer, Bridger said, “I’ll be better known for walking out emotionless – I don’t do much.”
Bridger went to Shawnee to the IFYR his sophomore year (2015) and won the steer wrestling title there. He was the North Dakota State champion wrestler at 170 # in 2016 – his junior year in high school. He was also in football but made the decision his senior year to retire from both sports so he could focus on getting into The AMERICAN. He qualified for the semi-finals that year in Rapid City, but didn’t make it to the AT&T – he finished in the top 25. He turned 18 in August before his senior year, bought his PRCA permit and made the short go his senior year in high school in Denver (2017) at the National Western Stock Show.
When it came time to pick a college, Bridger chose to rodeo for Stockton Graves at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “I’ve known him for three years, said Stockton, who has been the coach for seven years. “He’s a great kid – he works hard in the classroom and he works hard at steer wrestling.”
Stockton is traveling with Bridger this summer along with Billy Bolden and JD Struxness, who was the 2016 CNFR steer wrestling champion, under the coaching of Stockton. They are hauling Bridger’s horse, Whiskers, Freeway, JD’s haze horse Wave, and Billy’s horse. “Whiskers is 10 – and came from Diamond S Performance Horses (Tyler & Jackie Schau, who are also mentors of his). He came off the track. He knows his job, usually if something goes wrong it’s my fault not his.”
Bridger says the driving is just part of the game. “I like to rodeo and you have to travel to rodeo. It’s worth it if you get to run steers; there are cool rodeos and cool arenas out there. We’ve gone to quite a few, and this year we’re going to even more in hopes to make it to Vegas.”
“I never doubted Bridger was going to be here. He’s always been determined, focused and willing put in the work,” said Robin. “When he was three he decided to quit daycare, saying ‘Mom, cowboys don’t go to daycare.’ So at the age of three, Bridger stayed home – Glenn was around on the ranch, and he painted pink fingernail polish on the television remote to show the power on and off button and the channel up and down button. He also taught him how to push ‘1-9 start’ on the microwave so he could make himself a hot dog.” He had lots of stories for his mom at the end of the day including what laundry detergent to use, and what his teacher had taught him during the day, insight gained from the television.
Glenn taught Bridger good horsemanship. “He keeps his hands soft and is light on Whiskers mouth in the corner.” Glenn, who works for ProAg in the crop insurance world, is excited for his son. “The kid is living his dream and more power to him.”