Jeremy Buhler needed to catch in Sioux Falls, S.D., at the Wrangler Champions Challenge, to give himself a shot at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, while his header, Levi Simpson, was mathematically unable to catch up to Charly Crawford in the number-15 spot. They roped their first steer in 5.7 seconds worth $464 a man, and their second in 5.5 seconds worth $2,204 each, to unofficially give Buhler enough to secure his second consecutive WNFR qualification.
Chelsea Shaffer: How did you end up on the bubble?
Jeremy Buhler: Our year went pretty good for the most part. Our July was really good and in September we just didn't win a whole lot.
CS: Have you ever been as nervous as you were this weekend?
JB: I've been really nervous for a couple weeks now. I knew either way I'd go home and work really hard at it and come back next year. The bubble isn't ideal. I'm pretty disappointed I didn't get Levi to the Finals, so either way I'm going to work really hard to get ready for next year.
CS: Did your fall at Pendleton hurt Levi's chances?
JB: Maybe. After we didn't win anything there, things got pretty hard for Levi. We might have placed in the round, so it was pretty significant.
CS: Did you ride Rick James, your dun horse, all year?
JB: My bay horse colicked in January so I had to ride a sorrel that was pretty green in the winter. Then come Reno, I couldn't just go home and fix him during the week–and at that point I had to ride Rick so he got the major workload over the summer. He's really gritty. He's not the fastest, the brokest or the hardest stopping. I won't tell you he's the best heel horse. To me I've ran a million steers on him. When I need to catch, he always lets me. To me that's more important than one that can spin a hole in the ground or slide 30 feet.
CS: How was Levi's attitude at Sioux Falls, knowing he had to catch to get you in but couldn't get in himself?
JB: I've always had good respect for Levi, and I've always gotten along with him, but how much he was in my corner through this deal, took it to a whole new level. When he figured he couldn't mathematically win enough, it was all about what he could do to get me there. It could have been easy for him to have an off attitude because he didn't have a chance. He could have not wanted to drive 18 hours to Sioux Falls. Even the last steer we ran, he said it was the most pressure he'd ever been under. That goes to show what his character is like.
CS: You and Levi are doing pretty well in the Canadian Pro Rodeo standings though, right?
JB: We ended up winning the season in Canada. The finals are the second week of November. They'll be good this year, with equal money.
CS: So you're planning to rope with Tom Richards in Las Vegas?
JB: Yes. I talked to him, and he lives like an hour and a half away from our place in Arizona. We can both be at home and practice. We can go to all the jackpots, without having to travel too much.
CS: Have you ever roped with Tom?
JB: I haven't. But I try to keep my heeling pretty simple. I haven't thought about that end of it yet. This is Tom's second time making it there. I don't want to change what he's doing because it works, so if I need to change something, I will.