LAS VEGAS -- When Caleb Bennett moved from his home state of Utah to Montana in late 2018, the bronc rider wasn't sure what kind of reception he would receive from Treasure State rodeo fans. It's safe to say he's pleased with his findings.
"Moving to Montana has been awesome. I love the people, love the area that I'm in. The biggest thing is that my wife is happy up there, and happy wife, happy life, so there you go, right?" Bennett joked after Tuesday night's bareback performance, a go-round that saw him split first place following an 88.5-point ride.
Bennett, who was born in Ogden, Utah, and attended Bear River High School in nearby Trementon, got his start in rodeo through his mother, Claudine, a former barrel racer. He became a four-time qualifier of the National High School Finals Rodeo, winning the 2007 NHSFR bareback title.
His bronc-riding career continued in college at Weber State University, where he qualified for the College National Finals as a freshman in 2008. After graduating from Utah Valley University, Bennett has been one of the mainstays on the PRCA circuit, qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals each year since 2012.
But it was last year at the 2018 NFR when Bennett first competed for the Treasure State, moving from Morgan, Utah to the Corvallis area, joining Montana's Pro Rodeo circuit in the process.
"It's been an awesome circuit rodeo throughout the year, and being able to come down here and rodeo with 'Montana' next to my name is awesome, I love it," said Bennett. "I love all the support that the people are giving to me, welcoming to me, even though I haven't been there that long. Being able to come out here (Tuesday night) and get me a round win is pretty awesome, even though I have to split it with these couple of yahoos."
Bennett laughed when pointing at fellow bronc riders and good friends Clayton Biglow, the world leader in the bareback standings, and Tilden Hooper, who also posted scores of 88.5 on Tuesday evening. Bennett is currently sixth in the world standings but 10th in the average with a cumulative score of 439.5 on five rides. He was bucked off in Round 2.
Though every cowboy enters rodeo's Super Bowl with dreams of a world title, Bennett admits there's an appreciation for watching other bronc riders dominate the week, thanks mostly to being a tight-knit group throughout the year.
"We are. That's one thing I've always said is, you won't believe the brotherhood that there is in the bareback riding. We're probably the tightest bunch of guys going down the road, in my opinion. We do a lot together," Bennett said. "We kind of have some traditions here that when we get to the NFR, we do as a group, and no other group does. We're always there for each other helping one another on, helping guys up when they're down and just carrying on. It is, it's a true brotherhood that you won't see anywhere else."
Bennett and the bareback riders kick off Wednesday night's Round 7, which begins around 8 p.m. MST.