After years spent riding and roping competitively, it’s a word that Bryce Bott knows all too well. The recent Montana State University graduate, who grew up in Powell, is …
After years spent riding and roping competitively, it’s a word that Bryce Bott knows all too well. The recent Montana State University graduate, who grew up in Powell, is competing this week in his third College National Finals Rodeo in four years, having qualified in tie down roping. Bott was sitting in sixth place Monday after one round; the MSU rodeo team member will have to finish in the top 12 after three rounds to make it to the short (final) round this weekend.
“I feel pretty confident in my horse, and I’m feeling ready,” Bott said last week. “I’m excited to see what the week is going to bring.”
A cowboy way of life
Rodeo was always a family affair in the Bott household — Bott’s parents both grew up on ranches in Montana, and his mother Katie competed in rodeo in high school and college. His older sister Kooper also competed collegiately, and preceded her younger brother as a member of the Casper College rodeo team.
“I probably picked up a rope about the time I could walk,” Bryce said. “I roped the dummy a bunch, and started entering junior rodeos when I was 7 or 8. It just kind of progressed from there and I slowly got better.”
But his challenges weren’t limited to the rodeo arena. Bott’s father Kelly has been battling Multiple Sclerosis for years, and as that battle intensified, Bryce became the family’s rock, helping out wherever he could from an early age.
“Both of the kids, I don’t think they’d ever remember their dad not in a wheelchair,” said Bott’s mother Katie. “Bryce has been helping with his dad since he was really small. By the time he was probably a sophomore in high school he was carrying his dad like you would a child. He would pick his dad up and carry him places for me when I couldn’t. He’s been doing a lot of good things for his family for a long time.”
Though adversity may be a word Bott is familiar with, it’s also one he doesn’t shy away from — on or off the rodeo grounds.
“Adversity doesn’t overwhelm him,” Katie said of her son. “He’s had enough of it growing up that he just handles whatever is thrown at him. He never gets worked up or upset; he just moves on through it.”
From Casper to Bozeman
After graduating from Powell High School in 2015, Bott spent two years at Casper College on a rodeo scholarship, qualifying for the CNFR both years. He called his first CNFR a “learning experience,” setting himself up for an even better showing the next year. In 2017, Bryce made it to the short round, eventually finishing eighth overall.
“I took what I learned from that first one, and made it back to the short round and took eighth,” he said. “It was another good learning experience for me.”
At Casper, Bott became close with longtime head coach Tom Parker, who had also coached Bott’s older sister Kooper. Adversity once again reared its ugly head during Bott’s second season, when Parker lost a battle with cancer. Parker’s death had a profound impact on the young roper, who looked to his coach as a mentor.
“That was hard for Bryce, because he was pretty close to him [Parker],” Katie Bott said. “[Parker] was a remarkable man, and Bryce just really clicked with him, because his sister started at Casper too. ... He was a big role model for Bryce.”
After receiving an Associate’s Degree from Casper College, Bryce transferred to MSU in 2017. He didn’t make the CNFR last year, but after getting a new horse this season — and being named the university’s 2019 Agricultural Student of the Year — he’s back in Casper for one final go-round.
“I had a lot better year this year,” he said. “And I’ve really enjoyed the experience of being at MSU.”
Making it count
Ask Bott what sets rodeo apart from other sports, and he’ll tell you it’s the camaraderie between the athletes that makes the sport special.
“Rodeo is an individual sport, but at the same time, everybody is so willing to help you out,” he said. “People will let you ride their horse if yours is hurt, or tell you what the calves are doing. Everybody wants to win, but nobody wants you to do bad, either. It’s just a cool sport.”
Watching her son compete for the final time at the collegiate level (Bott will compete as a pro this summer), Katie reflected on what the sport of rodeo has meant to her family.
“He [Bryce] started competing in the second grade, and it feels like we’ve burned down the road a million miles with him and his sister Kooper,” Katie said. “You can’t complain as a parent when their college education gets paid for. Both of them were competitive enough to get through college on scholarships for rodeo.”
“Bryce is pretty amazing,” she continued. “He’s always been our go-to guy to take care of his dad. He’s been such a big help in our family and sacrificed a lot to help out at home. He’s a compassionate kid. He’s hardworking and very loyal to his family. It’s bittersweet to see college come to an end, but it’s exciting for him to see what the next step in life is going to be.”