BILLINGS — Entering 2018, Bridger Chambers was a relative unknown outside Montana in the world of steer wrestling.
Competing locally, the Stevensville native had just a little more than $21,000 in PRCA earnings since joining the organization in 2013.
How things have changed.
When the dust settled in December at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Chambers had established himself as one of the best steer wrestlers in professional rodeo and a legitimate contender for more.
He finished second in the final world standings, earning $135,583 in 10 days at his first National Finals Rodeo, and $216,762 for his 2018.
And that career-making year began at the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida.
Chambers, along with the other Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit year-end and Finals champions, returns to Silver Spurs Arena for the RNCFR.
Chambers will be joined by: Tristan Hansen, Cache Hill, bareback; Chase Brooks, Jesse Kruse, saddle bronc; Parker Breding, Brett Fitzpatrick, bull riding; Hank Hollenbeck, steer wrestling; Haven Megen, Chance Hays, tie-down roping; Kory Mytty-Shane Schwenke, Delon Parker-Ryan Zurcher, team roping; Tara Stimpson, Carmel Wright, barrel racing.
Breding and Wright are both former RNCFR champions with Breding winning three times.
The RNCFR is March 21-24.
“This is where we got the ball rolling,” Chambers said of Kissimmee.
The 30-year-old father of four finished second at the 2018 RNCFR, earning $17,064. The money he won jump-started his season and gave him the confidence to compete at the world-class level.
“Just the difference with my attitude, the feeling going into it,” Chambers said of returning. “Last year, I was not sure what to expect and then I was happy with the way things turned out.
“This year, I have expectations to do well … hoping that I can. But you have to balance expectations. Not get over amped and just go make the best run you can.”
There will be two full rounds of competition with the top eight in the average advancing to the semifinals. The board will be wiped clean with the top four advancing to the finals, again with the competitors getting a clean slate.
While the perspective has changed, his approach has not.
“You worry about the things you can control,” said Chambers, who played basketball and competed in rodeo at Montana Western in Dillon. “You want to be consistent in your runs. Focus in the moment.”
Chambers, now living in Butte, goes to Kissimmee ranked 20th in the world standings after earning $6,625 at RodeoHouston. His 2018 world standings finish earned him a spot in the high-paying Texas rodeo.
“Right now, I have twice as much money won as I did last year,” he said.
He will be riding his own horse, Rooster, in Florida. “It’s a big advantage of riding your own horse,” Chambers added. “It makes you that much more comfortable.”
Following the RNCFR, Chambers will be competing in Austin, Texas, two days later, followed by leaving his horse in Arizona. He will go north to steer wrestle in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and return to Arizona to begin the PRCA spring run.
“It’s the same goal as every year, to make the NFR,” said Chambers. “Hopefully, you make your goals a little higher. And they should be.”