Like the New England Patriots or Alabama football, Chad Berger’s bucking bull dynasty shows no signs of slowing down.
The Mandan-based, eight-time PBR Stock Contractor of the Year – including the last five in a row – is primed for No. 9 with another loaded pen of behemoths in 2019.
With three of the top six ranked bulls in the world – Smooth Operator (No. 2), Smooth Wreck (No. 3) and Legit (No. 6) -- and six of the top 16, it’s been another banner year even by Berger’s lofty standards.
“I think we’re having as good a year as we’ve ever had, so far,” Berger said. “We keep striving for perfection. We don’t work by the time on the clock. We work until the job is done.
“That, and having a helluva banker,” the quick-witted Berger joked.
Berger will have many of his top-ranked bulls inside the Bismarck Event Center for the 19th Annual Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding Challenge this weekend. The action begins at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Berger’s success is a lifetime in the making and goes back to the beginning.
“I had an awful good teacher, my dad,” Chad said of Joe Berger. “When we were at home, the bucking bulls got to eat before we did. If one of us had a broken leg, and a bull had a toe problem, he’d tell us to get the bull’s toe fixed and worry about the leg later.”
As usual, Berger’s big-dollar event is bringing in many of the top stars in the PBR circuit, and the show features a unique twist. This year, Berger is putting $125,000 on the line for the Team World Championships. There’s also $40,000 up for grabs for the regular bull riding competition. Additionally, more than $35,000 in prizes will be doled out when it’s all said and done Saturday night.
“When we come to Bismarck we want to make it a premier event and get all the premier guys to come,” Berger said. “We want to put on a great show.
“Those guys know we have the bull power and we’re going to put our money where our mouth is.”
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The stars are turning out.
Among the A-list of riders coming to town are current world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme, No. 3 Chase Outlaw, No. 4 Jess Lockwood, No. 5 Cody Teel, No. 6 Cooper Davis, No. 7 Luciano De Castro, No. 8 Derek Kolbaba and No. 9 Ryan Dirteater.
“All the guys you see on TV, the top bull riders, the best bull fighters, the top funny man (Flint Rasmussen), they’re all going to be there,” Berger said.
For the team challenge, Berger set up a draft with five captains. Held in April in Sioux Falls, S.D., each captain drafted three bull riders to create teams of four.
The team captains are Lockwood, Davis, Vitor Leme, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, and six-time PBR World Finals qualifier Stetson Lawrence from Williston.
Mauney’s team features Joe Frost, Teel and Scottie Knapp. Joining Lockwood are Kolbaba, Jake Lockwood -- Jess’ brother -- and JT Moore.
Davis will be teamed with Outlaw, Sage Kimzey and Braden Richardson. Vitor Leme selected De Castro, Marco Eguchi and Lucas Divino.
Lawrence’s team is made up of all Native Americans, including Dirteater – replacing the injured Colton Jesse – plus Cody Jesus and Cannon Cravens.
Berger said ticket sales are down slightly from last year's $100,000 Match of Champions -- won by Jess Lockwood -- but ahead of the 2017 pace. Fans will get their money’s worth. Between the two nights, the top-ranked competitors will likely ride six bulls each.
“We wanted to drum up something different, something exciting and we think this will be a lot of fun for everybody,” Berger said. “We want to put on a great show for our fans in Bismarck, so hopefully we’ll get a bunch of people to come out and have a blast.”