PENDLETON — Jesse Brown’s name has been on the champions’ wall on the back of the Pendleton Round-Up Stadium for two years. He wouldn’t mind if it stayed there a little bit longer.
“That would be cool with me,” said Brown, who won the Pendleton steer wrestling title in 2019. “That would be a pretty awesome deal. And the fact we haven’t been back in two years, it will be exciting and the energy will be pretty good, I think.”
In 2019, Brown won his first Pendleton title, and set an arena record in the process.
Brown, 29, turfed his steer in a record 3.7 seconds in the finals, and finished with a time of 14.8 seconds on three head to pick up a hefty paycheck of $9,982.
“As far as trinkets go, it is pretty unmatched,” Brown said of the prizes handed out at Pendleton. “You walk out of there with a truck full, and a pretty cool saddle. The way they build the saddle, it’s usable for steer wrestling, but I think I will leave it where it is to look at. It’s prettier than a treadmill.”
Coming into Pendleton, Brown ranks second in the world standings with $84,715. Jacob Talley leads the standings with $116,072.
With the top 15 in each event earning a trip to the National Finals Rodeo, Brown is headed to Las Vegas for his second one.
He placed 15th at the NFR last year, which was held in Arlington, Texas, because of COVID-19.
“My goal was to get back, and to be as high as I am right now,” said the Baker City cowboy. “Going back to Vegas is exciting. I will kind of be a rookie again. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Brown will be up Tuesday in slack and the Friday performance in Pendleton. The top 12 advance to Saturday’s finals.
Pendleton is my favorite,” Brown said of the rodeo schedule. “Calgary and the money compare, as does Houston. I am biased. I think Pendleton is hard to match.”
A man and his horse
Brown travels with Curtis Cassidy, Tanner Milan and Scott Guenthner, and rides Cassidy’s horse, Tyson. Though at Pendleton, he will be riding his own horse, Gunner.
“I have done really well,” Brown said. “The horses I have been riding have been a big part of that. I have had better starts and my head catches have been better. I am with a great group of guys and things are positive. Things have been rolling the right way.”
As a group, Brown and Guenthner (sixth, $73,778) have earned a trip to the NFR, while Cassidy is sitting 20th and is less than $5,000 out of 15th place. Milan, who had made two trips to the NFR (2015, 2017) is sitting 42nd.
Getting a late start
Brown, who was a standout quarterback at Baker High School, was the 4A Player of the Year as a senior. He went on to play football at Washington State University as a preferred walk-on.
“I do miss football, but I think this is what I was meant to do,” said Brown, who started rodeoing seriously in 2015. “I was never going to go past college ball. In rodeo, I have a chance to be the best in the world.”
And, taking down a steer is easier than reading Pac-12 defenses.
“Steer wrestling is less complex,” he said. “I was on the practice squad at WSU, so that was different. A lot less goes into steer wrestling than reading those defenses.”
Going to his second NFR at 29 also is not the norm for most high-end rodeo athletes.
“I got started late,” he said. “I don’t have the experience that most have who started out of high school.”