The Bryant Blog: Life, Wrestling, Pop Culture

Find my wrestling podcasts at

A much-needed update ….

I recall Abby telling me just this week that someone was telling her she needed to update her blog more frequently. Well, allow me to oblige.

As some of the cousins, in-laws, etc. from the Minnesota side of the family have asked – am I ever home?

Yes, I’m home quite a bit, it’s just the weekends that have me on the road. This year, being an Olympic year, it will probably get worse. My boss told me earlier to prepare for the busiest year of my life. Somewhat prophetic if you ask me. I’ve already crossed Premier Executive status on United. I’ve been to New York City four times in the past calendar year, which is two more times than I’d been in my entire life combined. I bug Abby to death with the constant Foursquare updates on my phone. But now we even get United miles for me checking in.

This weekend, I have no travel. Whew. But here’s what I’ve got in store:
Dec. 15-18: Arlington, Texas
Dec. 23-27: Minnesota for Christmas
Dec. 27-31: Chicago, Ill. (Evanston, actually)
Jan. 6-9: Springfield, Ill.
January 10-16: Hampton, Va. (Work trip, but it takes me back home)
January 20-21: Event in Colorado Springs
January 28: Event in Colorado Springs
February 2-4: Event in Colorado Springs
February 5: Another unrelated event in Colorado Springs (TV)
— Nothing Confirmed for these two weekends as yet —
February 23-26: Yet another event in Colorado Springs
February 29-March5: Des Moines & Waterloo, Iowa. (NAIA Nationals)
March 8-12: La Crosse, Wis. (Division III Nationals)
March 13-18: St. Louis, Mo. (Division I Nationals)
March 22-26: Orlando, Fla. (Olympic Qualifier)
March 29-April 1: Cedar Falls, Iowa (Last Chance Olympic Qualifier)
April 19-22: Iowa City, Iowa (Olympic Trials)

Whew … so there you have it. I’m a bit of a road warrior.

And to make up for lost time, here’s a blog I wrote about the Rodeo for my work’s blog site:

“It’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud. It’s the roar of a Sunday crowd. It’s the white in his knuckles, the gold in the buckle, he’ll win the next go ‘round. It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats, it’s spurs and lattigo. It’s the ropes and the reigns and the joy and the pain and they call the thing rodeo.” – Rodeo, By Garth Brooks.

While Las Vegas may be a city that never sleeps, it’s also a venerable sports mecca. The first weekend in December has long been the host of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

Wrestling isn’t alone in Vegas. Amidst the neon lights, card tables and dashed dreams of many a gambler, there’s an oddly disproportionate number of boots and chaps and cowboy hats, even in this part of the country.

Before the action got started in the Las Vegas Convention Center, nearly 18,000 rodeo fans packed the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas for the opening night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

For those of you who didn’t grow up around ranchers, farmland or livestock of any kind, let me give you the neophyte version of what a rodeo is: A BLAST!

Didn’t expect that, did you? While I like to make light of my southern roots and my relatives twangy dialect, where I come from, rodeo isn’t a thing. We (myself not included) prefer things like NASCAR and … NASACAR. Out west, the dialects may be similar but the passion for the original extreme sport, rodeo, is mindblowing.

USA Wrestling hosted the Olympic Trials at the Thomas & Mack back in 2008. Boy, would we have loved to see the same type of crowd then as we did on day one (of ten) of the National Finals Rodeo.

It started out with pyrotechnics and renowned rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus getting the crowd geared up. Polhamus also has a strong connection to wrestling. He was featured in a 2010 issue of USA Wrestler Magazine.

Polhamus is to rodeo what Ed Aliverti was to wrestling. The absolute master of ceremony. He and his sidekick announcer joke the riders and joke each other, providing an endless commentary to the events taking place on an arena floor covered with dirt.

As Craig Sesker and I watched on, we saw bareback bronco bucking, steer wrestling, barrel racing, calf roping and of course, everyone’s favorite, the bull riding.

As Craig scanned the start sheet, he noticed a few names with wrestling backgrounds, including a wrestler he did a feature on while he was working in Omaha, Steven Dent.

On this night, Dent would come away with over $10,000 by riding Nutrena’s Wise Guy (the horse’s name) to a third-place finish in Bareback Riding.

Cliches aside, this really WAS my first rodeo. It’s like going to the Super Bowl to watch your first football game or going to the Kentucky Derby to watch your first horse race – wait, I actually did that Derby thing a few years back.

But this rodeo was captivating. I looked around the arena, surveying opening night of a 10-day festival of belt buckles and 10-gallon hats. I looked up at the jumbotron above the dirt arena floor, only to see Wyoming head wrestling coach Mark Branch on screen enjoying the action.

A few sections over, USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender and his wife were watching the action.

The rodeo production at this stage was nothing short of exceptional. Every rider, every chute, everything had music, a sponsor and excitement tied to it. Opening parades, pyrotechnics, hard rock music … and even some hip hop (yes, at a rodeo). This was a production the likes I’ve never seen with my own eyes, and it belonged to rodeo.

As Polhamus introduced each rider, some of the biggest ovations came when the women took the stage and went barrel racing. The top three ranked riders in the land were the last three to hit the dirt. First through third were decided by two hundreths of a second with Brittany Pozzi and Lindsay Sears tying with 14.03.

You have to remember, there’s 10 rounds. Ten days of action. Ten days to get in the money, which made every session worth attending. In two hours, I went from rodeo rookie to well, someone who truly enjoyed every second of the biggest sporting event Vegas would see that weekend, only it was the third most important to those of us there to watch wrestling.

While the rodeo did provide steer wrestling, the Cliff Keen Invitational and U.S. Freestyle Olympic Trials qualifier was our news – but no matter how great the wrestling was at the Convention Center, Vegas hosting the NFR was the highlight of the weekend.

If money was no object, every wrestling event would have the pomp and circumstance the rodeo does. Many duals and tournaments have it, but maybe someone should take the folks from the NCAA over to the NFR to get some ideas on how to spice up the sport even more.

Written by Jason Bryant

December 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

%d bloggers like this: