North Platte, Neb. – The contestant list has been set for the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte this weekend and it is peppered with world champions, former North Platte rodeo champions, Cornhusker contestants, and more. All nine of the 2017 Buffalo Bill Rodeo champions will return to defend their titles: Austin Foss, Terrebonne, Ore. (bareback riding); Taz Olson, Prairie City, S.D. (steer wrestling); Cody Quaney, Cheney, Kan. (tie-down roping); Hardy Braden, Welch, Okla. (saddle bronc riding); Coleman Proctor, Pryor, Okla. and Billie Jack Saebens, Nowata, Okla. (team roping); Stevi Hillman, Weatherford, Texas (barrel racing); Trevor Kastner, Roff, Okla. (bull riding), and all-around hand Eli Lord, Sturgis, S.D. For four of those champions, the North Platte rodeo was one of the stepping stone rodeos that catapulted them to the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), pro rodeo’s “world series.” Braden, Proctor, Saebens and Hillman all competed at the WNFR last year. Several dozen Nebraskans are among the 467 cowboys and cowgirls who will converge on North Platte this weekend. One of those is a transplant from Canada. Bareback rider Orin Larsen grew up in Inglis, Manitoba and competed collegiately at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls and Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Okla. He met his wife Alexa in Goodwell, and because of her family ties to Gering, the couple moved there after marrying last year. Currently ranked in the top ten in the PRCA standings, Larsen grew up in a rodeo family with a dad who rode bulls, a brother (Tyrel Larsen) who has qualified for the WNFR in the saddle bronc riding, and a second brother who rides bulls. Larsen has competed at the last three WNFRS, finishing the 2017 season in eighth place in the world. Being ranked in the top ten is good, Larsen said, but with the busiest time of the rodeo season about to occur, he knows a lot can happen, and he doesn’t look at the standings. “It’s too early to be looking at that stuff,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens. We’ll let the dice roll.” Larsen tied for first at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in 2015, splitting the championship with his traveling partner Seth Hardwick. He will ride in North Platte on Wed., June 13 then hit the road for rodeos in Reno, Nev., Wainwright, Sundrie, High River, Ponoka and Airdrie, Alberta; Pleasant Grove Utah, and more.
Fan favorite Cort Scheer, Elsmere, will be on hand for the saddle bronc riding on Thursday, June 14. The 32-year-old cowboy has qualified for the WNFR five times (2010, 2012-2015) and won the RFD-TV American Rodeo in February, cashing a check for $433,333. Scheer finished the 2014 rodeo season as reserve world champion and is currently ranked eighteenth in the world standings. The top fifteen in each event qualify for the WNFR at the conclusion of the rodeo season, which ends September 30. Kyle Whitaker will also compete in North Platte. The Chambers, Neb. cowboy is a steer wrestler, saddle bronc rider and tie-down roper but will only steer wrestle in North Platte. Whitaker has won the Linderman Award eight times, four times more than his dad Chip, and more than any other cowboy. The Linderman Award is given to the cowboy who wins at least $1,000 in each of three events, and those events must include at least one roughstock event and one timed event. Whitaker, a 1999 University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate, has been a PRCA member since 1996 and won the Linderman in 1997-98, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2011, 2015, and 2016. He has competed at the North Platte rodeo nearly every year of his career, and he’s starting the next generation of cowgirls; his three daughters, ages fourteen, ten and six are competing in youth rodeo. Other notable competitors from the area include bareback rider and saddle bronc rider Steven Dent (Mullen); steer wrestlers Dan Barner (Hershey) and Boyd Sawyer (Thedford); tie-down ropers Troy Pruitt and Riley Pruitt, father and son from Gering and Levi Fisher (Hershey); team ropers Levi Tyan (Wallace) and brothers Cooper and Tucker White (Hershey), and Jeff Johnston, Thedford, who will compete in the steer wrestling and the team roping. The rodeo begins at 8 pm each night. Slack, the extra competition that doesn’t fit into the performances, will be at 8 am on June 13 and 14 and is free to the public.