ProFile: Bridger Anderson
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
Bridger Anderson is getting a good start on his career rodeo resume.
The Carrington, N.D. cowboy won the steer wrestling at Ote Berry’s Junior Steer Wrestling World Championship, held at the Junior National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas in mid-December.
He’s a North Dakota High School Rodeo champ, and he’s secured two entries in the semifinals for the RFD-TV’s The American.
Anderson, the son of Glenn and Robin Anderson, grew up riding. His dad trained horses and roped, his mom was a breakaway and team roper, and by the time he was six, he was tying goats and roping at youth rodeos.
His career progressed to junior high, then high school rodeo, winning the state steer wrestling title twice and the short go at the National High School Finals Rodeo in 2016. He also won the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla. in 2015.
Bridger graduated from Carrington (N.D.) High School in 2017 and is a freshman at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, under the guidance of rodeo coach Stockton Graves. Graves, a National Finals Rodeo qualifying bulldogger, has improved Bridger’s skills. He’s competed at four college rodeos last fall, placing at two of them, and he plans on being at the six spring rodeos. Alva (population 5,100) may not have a big social scene, but that’s OK, Bridger says. “There’s not a whole lot to do in Alva but steer wrestle so it works out pretty good.” One of Bridger’s classmates is another NFR qualifier, J.D. Struxness, and “it’s good to have J.D. around there.”
Last December was the first time steer wrestling was part of the Junior NFR, and Bridger qualified for it at two events: the Dupree (S.D.) Cinch Chute-Out last May, and the Melvin-Swanson-Halligan Memorial Steer Wrestling in Sutherland, Neb. in June. Fifty-two steer wrestlers, ages 19 and under, qualified for the Junior NFR, competing in two rounds. The top twenty made it to the short round. Anderson tied for first in the first round with a time of 4.3 seconds (along with Gabe Soileau and Clay Iselt), was 4.9 in the second round, and in the short round, had a time of 4.0 seconds. His average time of 13.2 was two-tenths of a second better than Marc Joiner of Loranger, La.
His win at the Junior NFR is an automatic qualification to the semi-finals for the American Rodeo, held Feb. 25 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The semi-finals for the American in the steer wrestling (each event is different) is in Alvarado, Texas on February 20; the twenty fastest times from that event go on to compete at Cowtown Coliseum in Ft. Worth, Texas on Feb. 22-24 (along with other event qualifiers). From Cowtown, about five qualifiers in the steer wrestling will compete at the American, along with the invites: the top ten in the PRCA world standings from 2017.
The American allows steer wrestlers two qualifications, and Bridger earned his second qualification in Rapid City at the qualifier on December 17. Two qualifications double a cowboy’s chance to make it to the American and compete for $1 million. If he should make two qualifying runs, he would be allowed only one berth at the American.
Bridger credits a strong team in getting him where he is today. His mom and dad taught him horsemanship and roping, and another North Dakota bulldogger, Tyler Schau and his wife Jackie, helped get him going. “I’m kind of their adopted son,” he said. Tyler and Jackie train horses, and every opportunity Bridger had, he was at their place at Almont, N.D., even though it was more than a two hour drive from Carrington to the Schaus.
The Schaus have known Bridger since he was twelve years old, and they love him. “He’s a good kid, and fun to be around,” Tyler said. As soon as he had his driver’s license, Bridger would load up and spend a weekend, or during the summer, a week, at the Schaus.
He has what it takes to be a good bulldogger, Tyler said. Bridger wrestled since sixth grade, winning a state championship in 2015, and “that helps with his athletics. He has athletic ability, he’s strong, and he’s not afraid to get hurt. Those are three requirements for being a good steer wrestler.”
He also knows how to work. “He ain’t afraid to come over when it’s fifteen degrees out and practice. There’s not a lot of people willing to do that.” The Schaus, who have an eleven year old daughter, help out other steer wrestlers. “If they call and want to practice, I do everything I can to make sure we’re available.”
Bridger is riding a horse purchased from the Schaus. Whiskers, a nine-year-old gelding, was raised and trained by Diamond S Performance Horses, the Schau’s business. He’s a bigger built horse, taller than most steer wrestling horses, which fits Bridger’s style. “He’s got a lot of power, and he’s long strided. It looks like he’s running slow, but he’s covering more ground,” Bridger said.
Whiskers “can power out of there,” he said. “Some guys feel out of time with him and they think he’s too tall. He runs hard, and I don’t mind crawling off a few extra inches.”
Whiskers, a former race horse, shouldn’t be warmed up on a race track. “If you let him run and try to loosen him out, you might not get him stopped,” Bridger said. “I’ve had to run him into a corner to get him to slow down. If somebody else is warming him up, I don’t let them open him on the track.”
Whiskers is also independent-minded. “He likes to do his own thing. He likes to irritate you. He’ll step on your foot when he’s cinched up or run into you.” But Bridger can live with his quirks, because he’s good. “I think he knows that (he’s a winner) and he uses it to his advantage.”
When he was three years old, as he watched the NFR on television with his parents, Bridger announced to his mom that he wanted to be a steer wrestler when he grew up. Advancing from high school, to college, the amateurs, and now professional rodeo is a big step. Bridger has had his PRCA card since the fall of 2016. “College rodeo is glorified high school (rodeo.) But pro rodeo is another level,” he said. “You can go to college rodeos, make a few mistakes, and get by. At pro rodeos, they don’t pay any money if you make a mistake. It’s another level.” In Livingston, Montana last July, Bridger made a 4.3 second run, “and they threw rocks at me,” he joked. “You had to be 3.9 there to place.”
His ultimate goal is to make the NFR, and he’s realistic about what it takes. “You have to sacrifice everything to focus on one task at hand, and that’s rodeoing and winning enough to make the NFR.”
Part of pro rodeo is learning how and what rodeos to enter. Bridger rodeos with Tyler and Jackie, who have helped him sharpen his mental game and stay healthy. He’s also relied on world champion Luke Branquinho and his rodeo coach Graves. Being confident is a big part of rodeo. “It’s huge to move from high school to amateur to pro rodeo and not let that intimidate you. It’s intimidating to bulldog against guys who have rodeoed for twenty years and have been to the NFR. But you have to surround yourself with those guys to get better.”
He also has Plan B. He’ll graduate in 2021 with a degree in ag business, and as of now, he plans on getting his college degree. “If I don’t, I won’t go back and get it. I think going to school is something I should do. You never know what will happen in this sport. Hopefully I won’t need a backup plan, but if I do, it’ll be good to have one.”
Bridger has two younger sisters: Cedar, a senior in high school and a high school rodeo athlete, and Dawsyn, an eighth grade student.