By: Justin Felisko
November 28, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger views himself as an ambassador for the PBR at the upcoming 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, presented by POLARIS.
Berger, fresh off winning his third consecutive, and sixth overall, Stock Contractor of the Year award, will be in Las Vegas from Dec. 1-10 with three of his bulls.
Crossfire, Big Cat and American Sniper were all invited to compete at the NFR, which begins on Thursday.
“It says a lot,” Berger said. “Our main focus is here at the PBR. We put on some PRCA rodeos and my goal is to get six to 10 of them there. At the PBR I had 24 or whatever. We are happy to have them there and I like to think I am representing the PBR. It is an honor to have them there and we appreciate every one we get there.”
Also qualifying for the NFR was 2016 PBR World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser, 2015 PBR World Champion SweetPro’s Long John and Sketchy Bob – all of D&H Cattle Company.
Crossfire went into the 2016 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals as a World Champion Bull contender alongside Bruiser and Long John, but he was unable to defeat the two D&H Cattle Company stalwarts.
Crossfire finished 2016 15-3 on the Built Ford Tough Series and 18-4 at all levels of competition.
He did slow down during the final three months of the season and appeared to have lost a tad of a step after Jess Lockwood rode him for 92 points at the Bismarck, North Dakota, Velocity Tour event in June.
Jorge Valdiviezo was bucked off by Crossfire in 3.86 seconds during Round 5 of the Finals, but Crossfire was only marked 43.5 points. It was an improvement, though, seeing as Crossfire was only marked 41.75 points in Round 2 when Valdiron de Oliveira rode him for 85.5 points.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert did point out that Crossfire slowed down a step during the final months of the regular season, which Berger agreed with.
“Crossfire is really strong,” Lambert said before the World Finals. “He likes to spin to the right and has a lot of whip to the outside and most of the guys don’t make the first turn on him.”
Berger admitted, “I was a little disappointed with him. I will get him worked on and have a chiropractor look at him. I just think something was bothering him. You could just tell. I think he will bounce back pretty well next year. We will give him enough time off to get everything in line.”
This year will be Crossfire’s second consecutive trip to the NFR after going 2-0 there last year.
In 2015, Crossfire bucked off Parker Breding and Kody DeShon inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
American Sniper is also making a second trip to the NFR. The 6-year-old bovine athlete last competed at the NFR in 2014, bucking off Trey Benton and Ty Wallace with 46-point bull scores.
Josh Frost won the Idaho Falls, Idaho, rodeo with an 87-point ride on American Sniper.
The ride was one of just three rides surrendered by American Sniper in 23 outs at all levels of competition this season.
Meanwhile, Big Cat is set to make his NFR debut following a strong first impression following his BFTS debut this past August.
Big Cat bucked off Rubens Barbosa in 1.67 seconds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before rocking Wallace de Oliveira in 1.85 seconds in Springfield, Missouri, for a 46-point bull score.
However, Big Cat turned into a valuable bovine athlete for riders to draw instead of being a buckoff artist.
Big Cat was ridden in four of his next five outs.
Ty Pozzobon tied for the Round 2 victory at the World Finals with a sensational 89.5 points on Big Cat, and Cooper Davis also won the 15/15 Bucking Battle in San Jose with an 89.5-point ride on Big Cat on his way to the 2016 World Championship.
“They are gentle giants,” Berger said of Crossfire and Big Cat. “Both of them. You can pet them and do what you want. They have a very good disposition.”
Still, Berger believes Big Cat may not be so easy for the riders in 2017. Berger thinks Big Cat may become a 2017 World Champion Bull contender when all is said and done.
“We just have to see how he does,” Berger said. “We are going to get him in line and shaped up for next year and see how he does. I think he has a shot. Look for him to come back a lot stronger.”
Berger may be excited for the start of the 2017 BFTS in January, but he also can’t wait to see how his three bulls fare at the NFR.
“They are just like human beings,” Berger concluded. “They are a little smarter and they know they are good. They know they have to perform. I truly believe they know when they’re good and that is what makes them special.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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