LAS VEGAS – The hills, dips and valleys that are ProRodeo mold men into champions.
From experiencing the highest of highs to wading in the gutter, a rodeo cowboy faces it all in the course of a season. It all can be compounded during the rugged 10 nights of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that concluded Saturday in Las Vegas.
“It’s been the roller coaster of my life,” said Casey Colletti, a bareback rider from Pueblo, Colo., who has ridden bucking horses inside the Thomas & Mack Center each of the past three seasons.
Colletti, who attended Garden City (Kan.) Community College on a rodeo scholarship, suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in the early stages of the NFR, and that hampered his ability to ride strong on the best bucking horses in the world. He was bucked off four times and experienced all the pain his knee exposed each time.
Those were the lowest of times, but the Colorado cowboy gritted through the pain to win three go-rounds – he shared the fifth-round victory with four-time world champion Bobby Mote with an 87.5-point ride, then won the sixth and 10th rounds.
“I couldn’t be riding here without the (Justin) Sportsmedicine guys,” Colletti said of the athletic training program funded by the boot company. “It’s amazing how they know the right thing to do at the right place to get me through.”
He concluded his NFR run with a little more than $59,000, placing the exclamation point on the final night of the 2013 ProRodeo season by riding Scarlett’s Web of Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo for 86.5 points. That was worth a final paycheck of $18,630.
“I knew I had a pretty good chance to win the round,” said Colletti, who won the fifth round on the same horse in 2012. “She’s just a big bucking horse that’s stout. She has so much heart and try in her, and you can just feel her; she just gets excited in the bucking chute. She just rolls out of there and jumps, and she has a little move out of there that with a hurt knee is a little tough. Then she just leaps high in the air and kicks over her head every jump.
“If I could get on a bareback horse every day, it would be Scarlett’s Web.”
With three over the final six nights, he pushed his round victories to five – he won go-rounds once each in his first two trips to Las Vegas. The round buckles he owns as a trophy for those rides will give Colletti plenty of solace as he takes about six weeks to recuperate from the knee injury.
“Any money is good money,” he said. “I’ve been here three times and have only won money in the average once. I just go for money in the rounds. It’s not the gold buckle and it’s not the average buckle, but the go-round buckles mean a lot to me.”