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LAS VEGAS – Saddle bronc rider Brody Cress came into this year’s National Finals Rodeo, his first, sitting sixth in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings.

Saturday, after 10 rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, the Hillsdale cowboy finished his year as a world champion.

The 2014 Cheyenne East graduate, who won three Class 4A state wrestling titles (2012-14) for the Thunderbirds, is the first Wyoming cowboy to win a saddle bronc world championship since Enoch Walker from Cody in 1960.

“That’s too long for the amount of great cowboys that we have coming out of Wyoming,” Cress said. “It’s awesome to finally get one again.”

Cress scored 86 points aboard Frontier Rodeo’s Delta Force to finish with 841.5 points on 10 head and win the NFR average title. The only one of the 15 saddle bronc riders here with 10 qualified rides, Cress finished 77.5 points clear of No. 2 Hardy Braden.

“I came in here and did my job,” Cress said. “I took it one horse at a time and rode ‘em the best I could. It’s awesome to be able to walk away with an (NFR) average buckle.”

Cress, who wears a “Team Wyoming” patch on his saddle bronc vest, added that he couldn’t wait to share his moment with his family and friends, as well as everybody else in the state.

“Wyoming’s special,” he said. “I have such a great support system and that’s what got me here. So to be able to represent them and the state of Wyoming, I feel honored.”

Cress almost added another title Saturday, finishing just behind 19-year-old Ryder Wright in the final world standings. Wright pocketed $284,938 in total earnings for the year while Cress won $282,287. Cress won more than $176,000 at the 10-day NFR.

“I’m extremely happy,” Cress said, “but I expected to come here and do that. I’ve been riding good all year and I had a game plan coming in here and I stuck to it.”

While Cress was obviously pleased with his performance, he displayed little emotion throughout the rodeo. Even after making it to the 8-second buzzer Saturday, Cress did little more than acknowledge the crowd.

“I’ve kept my head level all week,” he said, “so it really hasn’t set in yet. But it’s an honor to be able to come here and do this well and hopefully it carries right over into the 2018 season. I’m definitely ready to keep rodeoing.

“I feel great. I wish I could go another 10 (rounds). I’m definitely excited to turn right back around and get back on some horses.”

First, though, Cress will head home to spend the holidays with his family. Saturday’s results capped an impressive week for the 21-year-old, who finished his finals at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, and can now add college graduate to his list of accomplishments.

“It’s been a great week,” he said. “Being able to ride in this arena and compete against the top 14 guys in the world, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Well, maybe one thing. This past June at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper he finished third after getting bucked off in the second round.

“I’m coming back to Casper,” he said. “And this time I’m going to win it.”

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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