postheadericon Doescher shooting for double dip

DUNCAN, Okla. – Early August is always a hot time for rodeo in the Prairie Circuit.

Over the last four weeks, 11 rodeos have taken place inside the boundaries of the circuit, which encompasses Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. It’s a great opportunity for cowboys and cowgirls to cash in and push their way toward qualifications to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20-Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

Cody Doescher

Cody Doescher

Cody Doescher of Oklahoma City is at the top of the list, primarily because he pocketed big circuit dollars at the largest event in the region, Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Doescher, who earned $6,457 in Dodge City to claim the all-around championship. “It’s a privilege, a blessing. It’s for sure a blessing, because I filled in for the team roping and didn’t even enter it.”

When Cale Markham needed a replacement heeler, Doescher took that role and ran with it. While he and Markham qualified for the championship round together, Doescher also earned a spot in the finale in steer wrestling.

“I was actually worried about making it back (to the short round) in bulldogging, and I actually ended up winning more money in bulldogging than I did team roping,” he said.

He sits third in the regional all-around standings with $15,045, is fourth on the steer wrestling money list ($9,063) and is eighth in heeling ($5,982). In the all-around, he trails brothers Trell ($17,056) and Shade Etbauer ($15,766).

All three are hoping to be part of the mix in Duncan in multiple events. Whoever has the most opportunities to win money inside the Stephens County Arena will have the best shot at walking away with the Prairie Circuit’s all-around title.

Doescher also earned more than $5,000 at the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo in early May. While he squeezed a check worth $1,191 the first week in May at the Wild Bill Kickok Rodeo in Abilene, Kan., he has found most of his success at the bigger events inside the region.

“I really needed to capitalize here,” Doescher said in Dodge City. “I was a little behind and needed to win some more for sure. This is a good one to do it at. I’m shooting for the all-around in the circuit and making the circuit finals in both events.”

He’s got the tools – and a month left in the circuit’s regular season – to do it.

postheadericon Call collects Kennewick win

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Zach Call didn’t start the year among the top 15 men on the Bullfighters Only tour.

He’s almost there, though, with strong performances during the BFO’s inaugural season. He made a solid move Friday night by posting an 80-point fight to win the championship in Kennewick in association with the Benton County Fair and Rodeo. He now sits tied for 16th in the standings heading into the final month of the season.

BFO-Logo“It got my foot further in the door with the BFO,” said Call of Thedford, Neb., a community of about 200 people in the north-central section of the state. “This was my fourth event.

“I think Bullfighters Only is great to help grow the sport and get it out there where it belongs.”

It is, and Call is just one of the reasons why. Not too bad for a man who has only been fighting bulls for three years.

“I used to ride, and that didn’t work out too well, so I made the switch,” he said. “I love the adrenaline rush of it, and I still get to be close to bull riding. I’ve loved it since I was a little kid.”

As a newcomer, he is still working his way up. Having the opportunity to showcase his talent at an established and prestigious rodeo like the one in Kennewick is a big move in his young career.

“It’s cool to be part of that rodeo,” Call said. “The atmosphere was outstanding.”

If he keeps performing like he did Friday night, Call will have more opportunities to be part of events that have that type of credentials.

“I just want to be able to go to the events and get a few more wins under my belt,” he said. “Hopefully that will help me move up the standings.”

RESULTS
1. Zach Call, 80 points
2. Toby Inman, 77
3. Justin Josey, 75

postheadericon Apple peels off Bremerton title

BREMERTON, Wash. – Not much separates the top men from the rest of the field in the Bullfighters Only.

Schell Apple proved that Friday night during the Bullfighters Only competition held in conjunction with the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede, posting an 81-point fight to win the title.

BFO-SchellApple“It’s pretty cool to get that win,” said the 20-year-old Oklahoman, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Wednesday. “I was going up against Ross (Hill) and Cody (Webster), who are both in the top five in the standings. If either of them would’ve won the event, they would’ve moved to first.”

Instead, Apple moved up from 10th to at least seventh in the standings. Depending on how the weekend finishes, he could be among the top six.

All three men were matched with aggressive bulls that made their presence felt. Both Hill and Webster were hooked and knocked to the ground; their scores revealed as much. Webster finished second with a 77.5-point fight, and Hill placed third with a 71.

“I got bumped around and knocked off my feet, but I never fell,” said Apple of Fay, Okla. “None of us got away clean. All the bulls were real hot and right in your pocket.”

With half the score coming from the bull, it’s vital for the bullfighters to be matched with quality animals. They got that with Darrell Diefenbach’s 12x Fighting Bulls.

“It wasn’t the luck of the draw in those fights,” Apple said. “All those bulls were good.”

It worked out for the young bullfighter as he continues through Bullfighter’s Only’s inaugural season.

“It shows the kind of talent we have top to bottom in the BFO,” he said. “Even guys that are way back in the standings can come out and beat the top guys. I don’t care if you’re first or 15th; you have a chance to win on any given night.”

RESULTS
1. Schell Apple, 81 points
2. Cody Webster, 77.5
3. Ross Hill, 71

postheadericon A birthday bash in Bremerton

Schell Apple will celebrate his 21st birthday next week, and he has hopes of having the Bullfighters Only tour title from Bremerton, Wash., in his hands when the day arrives. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Schell Apple will celebrate his 21st birthday next week, and he has hopes of having the Bullfighters Only tour title from Bremerton, Wash., in his hands when the day arrives. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Young bullfighter to celebrate his 21st during BFO stop at Kitsap County Fair, Stampede

 

BREMERTON, Wash. – For many young people, a 21st birthday is cause for celebration and for an outrageous party.

Schell Apple isn’t like most people his age. He plans to celebrate a few days early by standing toe-to-toe with a fighting bull during the Bullfighters Only tour stop Friday held in conjunction with the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede in Bremerton.

BFO-SchellAppleIt’s the perfect way to ring in such an anniversary for the young man from Fay, Okla., who attends Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

“I’ve been fighting bulls since I was about 14,” Apple said. “I actually think the bullfight in Bremerton will be exactly seven years to the day that I first started, which was actually a few days before my 14th birthday.”

While he’s still young, the Oklahoman is a veteran in the game and has been recognized as one of the top 15 bullfighters in the game. He will be matched with a couple of other veteran bullfighters – Cody Webster of Wayne, Okla., and Ross Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala. – during the three-man freestyle bullfight in Bremerton.

Cody Webster

Cody Webster

“I think it’s really cool to be able to travel to prestigious rodeos like that and to be able to perform in front of crowds like that and showcase the abilities God has given me,” Apple said.

That’s what true athletic competition is like in any arena, especially in the case of Bullfighters Only. In fact, the men themselves were the guiding force behind the creation of Bullfighters Only. It was developed a little more than a year ago, and it has seen rapid growth. That’s been a good thing for the BFO and the bullfighters.

“It has taken off ridiculously fast,” he said of the BFO. “I didn’t know a company could get this much momentum so fast. I think it’s awesome.

Ross Hill

Ross Hill

“Basically we had a website to sell products. Someone had an idea to put on a bullfight, so we booked a venue in Las Vegas. That tone event in Vegas is what lined up the other 30 events of this tour.”

Now it its inaugural season, Bullfighters Only will crown its first world champion later this year. Bremerton is just one of the many stops along the way to deciding which man will earn that title.

“I have not been in the lead all summer,” said Hill, the No. 4 man in the BFO standings. “I’d like to jump myself up there. My mission is to ease into that first-place spot and put a little heat on them.”

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

Hill won this past weekend in Gooding, Idaho, so he hopes to parlay that a solid run to close out the season. Webster won last week in Caldwell, Idaho, to add to his victory run; he is third in the standings.

“I’ve never been to Bremerton,” Webster said. “It’s definitely one of the top rodeos in the sport. We’ll just go out there and do what we do everywhere else, and that’s put on a show for everyone to enjoy.”

When it’s a battle of man vs. beast, the bull has the upper hand. That’s why the bullfighters volley with their own athleticism and maneuvers that keep them close to the action and just out of harm’s way.

Combined, the danger, the excitement and the speed of a 40- to 60-second fight is an incredible display that fans have enjoyed all season.

“I think we as Bullfighters Only have put freestyle bullfighting on a whole new level and on a whole other platform,” Apple said. “Back when they had the Wrangler Bullfights 16 years ago, it was pretty awesome. I think we’ve brought it up to a whole new speed. It’s almost an acrobatic sport now.

“It’s fun what we’re doing and how we’re all feeding off one another. Now we’re doing flips over bulls. We’ve stepped it up to a whole new level, and it’s just going to keep going up.”

CONTESTANTS
Schell Apple
Cody Webster
Ross Hill

postheadericon Inman returns to bullfighting

KENNEWICK, Wash. – It’s been five years since Toby Inman looked into the eyes of a bull.

He returns to competition this Friday for the Bullfighters Only tour event that will take place in conjunction with the Benton County Fair and Rodeo in Kennewick.

“I don’t know if it’s been retirement (from bullfighting) or if it’s just been a break,” said Inman, 33, of Davis Junction, Ill. “I left because of the economy and for other personal reasons. When you’re trying to juggle your own business and fighting bulls, too, it’s just pretty difficult.”

Toby Inman

Toby Inman

Inman owns Toby’s Tree Service in his hometown, so juggling that with a life in rodeo oftentimes proved difficult. That’s why he’s been away from the game so many years. But he knows the game well.

That’s why he’s in the field in Kennewick.

“It’s been mind-blowing,” Inman said of the experience. “I got the call last week. It wasn’t really planned. I’m still wrapping my head around it.”

He will serve as a replacement for Chuck Swisher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week and a half ago. He’s more than capable.

In 2011 when he opted for the break from bullfighting, Inman was considered one of the best in the game. Now he will test his skills in a three-man, winner-take-all bullfight inside Horse Heaven Arena – he will be joined by Zach Call and Justin Josey, the latter of whom is 12th in the BFO standings.

The return to freestyle bullfighting is in conjunction with the sport’s rise in awareness, thanks to Bullfighters Only, which has helped propel the sport into the mainstream. Each bout lasts between 40 and 60 seconds.

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

It’s a test of talent, mental awareness and the ability to read what a bull is about to do. Is Inman concerned about his stamina?

“I cut trees for a living, so I’m in more shape than most people,” he said. “I figure I’ve got to know-how to keep the bull close to me so I don’t have to exert too much energy. That’s the plan, anyway.”

Inman has shied away from the game he loves for many reasons, the biggest of which is handling his tree business at home. He has clients and employees that need his attention. Still he’s excited to see what he can do in Kennewick.

“When you have the personality of a racecar driver or a fighter or people that jump out of airplanes, it’s a mentality of ‘Why not?’ ” he said.

That mentality served Inman well in the past. There’s no reason it shouldn’t benefit him this weekend in Kennewick.

CONTESTANTS
Zach Call
Toby Inman
Justin Josey

postheadericon Swisher out for 4-6 months

Chuck Swisher competes earlier this year at the Bullfighters Only's Cavender's Cup in Cedar Park, Texas. Swisher suffered a knee injury during his bullfight in Sikeston, Mo. He will miss at least four months. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Chuck Swisher competes earlier this year at the Bullfighters Only’s Cavender’s Cup in Cedar Park, Texas. Swisher suffered a knee injury while working as a protection bullfighter in Sikeston, Mo. He will miss at least four months. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Oklahoma bullfighter suffers torn ACL, will miss remainder of 2016 season

 

Chuck Swisher has been fortunate much of his career to shy away from serious injuries.

That stopped during the Sikeston (Mo.) Jaycee Boothill Rodeo, when Swisher suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament while serving as a protection bullfighter. In that role, his primary job is to protect fallen bull riders and all others inside the arena.

Swisher’s right knee buckled, but it didn’t slow him down. In fact, the Dover, Okla., man didn’t realize the depth of his injury until the rodeo had ended two nights later.

Chuck Swisher

Chuck Swisher

“The next day, my right knee never really hurt, but I could tell it felt weak,” he said. “I got it taped up real good, then I went out and fought bulls. Three or four bulls in, I planted my right leg, and my knee buckled again.”

That night he had an inkling of news ahead. A few days later, an MRI in Oklahoma City revealed the tear. Swisher has scheduled ACL replacement surgery for Aug. 30 in Dallas by noted rodeo surgeon Dr. Tandy Freeman.

That means he will miss four to six months of not only the Bullfighters Only season but also miss rodeos in which he was hired as a protection bullfighter.

“By stepping into the arena, I know what I’m getting myself into,” Swisher said. “Injuries are part of the game. Being upset won’t solve anything.

“If I have anything wrong with my lower half of my body, I’m going to get it taken care of. My knees and my ankles … that’s my team.”

Swisher is just 26 years old, so he has a long future in front of him as one of the top bullfighters in the game. That’s another reason to make sure the repair is complete.

“I could go the rest of my career with a bum knee and one not working 100 percent,” he said. “Our job’s too serious to not be 100 percent, so it’s off to surgery.”

That doesn’t mean humor can’t be part of the remedy.

“Hopefully by the time I have surgery, Usain Bolt can tell me to have just part of his ACL,” he said jokingly.

Though he’s suffered a few broken bones – including bones in his cervical vertebrae – and been knocked out, the ACL injury is the first to knock him out of the arena for a lengthy time.

“I’ve been fighting bulls for 10 years, and I’ve only had a few broken bones,” Swisher said. “I’m bummed I’m out, but I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to do what I’ve done. I’m excited to go into this break with 100 percent joy.”

 

postheadericon Hill has a barrel of fun

Ross Hill shows the crowd that he has placed his cowboy hat on the head of his bull, AK-47, during Saturday's Bullfighters Only tour event in Gooding, Idaho. Hill won the event with an 89.5-point fight in the final round. (W.T. BRUCE PHOTO)

Ross Hill shows the crowd that he has placed his cowboy hat on the head of his bull, AK-47, during Saturday’s Bullfighters Only tour event in Gooding, Idaho. Hill won the event with an 89.5-point fight in the final round. (W.T. BRUCE PHOTO)

Veteran goes ‘old school’ en route to his Bullfighters Only tour victory in Gooding

GOODING, Idaho – Ross Hill is a veteran bullfighter who has a few tricks up his sleeve.

He earned his spot in Saturday night’s championship round of the Bullfighters Only tour event in association with the Gooding Pro Rodeo, then pulled out some old-school items from his toolbox to pull off an 89.5-point fight to win the championship and $3,000.

“We had a long-round fight to start with, and the top two scores from that advanced to the short round,” said Hill, who bested rising star Cade Burns in the final round to take the title. “The head-to-head format has been awesome.”

Ross Hill

Ross Hill

It was there, though, that Hill shined while matching moves 12x Fighting Bulls and Costa’s AK-47.

“Weston (Rutkowski) had him in Reno and won on him,” said Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I was really excited to have him. He’s got a big ol’ set of horns. I had seen Weston really shine on him and figured it was my opportunity to do the same.”

The quick little black bull was true to his name, spitting out rapid shots that the Alabama bullfighter countered. When the time came, the 33-year-old Hill pulled the animal toward the barrel and its inhabitant, barrelman Justin Rumford.

“I like to get some showmanship out of the barrel,” Hill said. “I watched the four guys go before I went, and I was on the fence next to the crowd, and they were loud the whole time. The loudest they got was when the bulls hit the barrel.

“I heard a long time ago that if you win the crowd, you win the gold. I wanted to bring that barrel into the fight. Of course, I drew the best bull, so that was the biggest thing.”

That, oftentimes, is the difference in the Bullfighters Only events, which serve as a world-class showcase of the sport’s top talent. Hill has 10 years of bullfighting under his belt, and it shows.

“To be the best bullfighter, you have to fight the best bulls,” he said. “With the BFO, the progression of our group is so high that it really comes down to who draws the best bull. We’re all pretty even in our fights, so it comes down to the bull.”

With half the score coming from the animal, having a talented athlete on the other side of the equation is vital. All the men in Gooding experienced that with 12x Fighting Bulls. In a field that included BFO No. 1 Nate Jestes and three other top bullfighters in Evan Allard, Justin Josey and Zach Call, only Hill and Burns made the short round.

“I really like that format where we can have one on one,” Hill said. “Had it not been that way, I would’ve finished second.”

That’s because Burns put on a solid performance in his inaugural Bullfighters Only competition. He won the opening round with an 88-point fight.

“I’m just excited to get my foot in the door,” Burns said. “It seems like the BFO is really taking off, and I just felt lucky to be part of it.

“It couldn’t have been any better. I’ve been working out all summer, and (Bullfighters Only CEO) Aaron Ferguson said I would probably be able to get into one this year. The way the cards fell, I got that chance. To get to step in the ring and get to compete with those guys was an honor. To be the first one and to be the new kid on the block was just a blessing to me.”

He fared fairly well for not having been part of a freestyle bullfight in several years.

“I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t worked up,” he said. “I was just excited to have the opportunity to go out there and show my stuff.”

When the ink dried, though, Hill took the top prize. He wasn’t able to put it into any type of season perspective, but there’s a reason for that.

“I don’t rank my bullfights,” he said. “You conquer your bulls, and you don’t look any further than that. Don’t pride yourself on what was yesterday, because there’s another one next weekend. The 0only reason you want to look back is to keep it fresh for the future. None of your premier rodeo guys look at last weekend.”

With the victory, Hill pushed closer toward the top three in the BFO standings. He sits fourth with just eight events remaining in the regular season, but he’s only $1,300 behind the leader, Jestes.

“We’re just now getting cranked up for my season,” Hill said. “I’ve got three events coming up one right after another one, and I plan on winning three of them. My goal is to stick three W’s up on this Northwest run.”

RESULTS
First round:
Cade Burns, 88 points
Ross Hill, 87
Justin Josey, 85
Evan Allard, 84
Nate Jestes, 79
Zach Call, 77

Championship round:
Ross Hill, 89.5 points
Cade Burns, 86

postheadericon Webster wins on a wild night

Cody Webster jumps his bull, Little Foot, during Tuesday's Bullfighters Only tour event in conjunction with the Caldwell Night Rodeo. Webster won the event with an 89.5-point fight. (KIRT STIENKE PHOTO)

Cody Webster jumps his bull, Little Foot, during Tuesday’s Bullfighters Only tour event in conjunction with the Caldwell Night Rodeo. Webster won the event with an 89.5-point fight. (KIRT STIENKE PHOTO)

Packed crowd at Caldwell Night Rodeo enjoys Bullfighters Only competition

 

CALDWELL, Idaho – Having served as a protection bullfighter for a few years, Cody Webster knows all about the raucous crowd at the Caldwell Night Rodeo.

On Tuesday during the opening night of the five-night rodeo, Webster showed that crowd his tremendous athleticism during the Bullfighters Only tour competition that concluded the performance. He posted an 89.5-point fight on 12X Fighting Bulls’ Little Foot to claim the title.

“It was awesome, and it was in front of a sold-out crowd,” said Webster of Wayne, Okla. “Caldwell, Idaho, is one of the premier rodeos in our sport. It was just a Tuesday night, and it was completely sold out. It was amazing.

“I work this rodeo every year, but to bring the BFO in and add a new flair to it, the crowd loved it. I think they will be talking about it for a long time.”

Cody Webster

Cody Webster

The four-man bullfight was just what the crowd needed. In addition to four of the top men in the world, it also featured the fighting bulls from former bullfighter Darrell Diefenbach. From the opening moment, the stage was set.

“It was a pretty awesome night,” Webster said. “We had a really strong crowd, and the first bull out was a little red bull that will probably be a 24-point bull based on the 25-point scale the bull is judged on. That bull just set the tone, hooked Evan (Allard) and drug him around a little bit.”

Allard, of Vinita, Okla., wasn’t the only one who struggled a little with his aggressive bull. Nathan Harp of Tuttle, Okla., also got knocked down a bit. Allard finished with 73 points, and Harp was 81. Dusty Tuckness of Meeteetse, Wyo., wrapped up a solid fight with an 86-point score.

But the night belonged to Webster.

“One of my good buddies, Nate Jestes, who leads our standings, had that little black bull at Reno, and I think he ended up winning the night,” Webster said. “He’s just a really good fighting bull. He runs the whole time and doesn’t really get away from you.

“I had a really good, sweet fight. I broke him down pretty hard (with a fake) to get some separation and lined up a good jump to sell it.”

It’s vital to have strong bulls in a fight. The better the bull, the better the score can be. But that also opens the door for potential danger. Both Allard and Harp went down, and their scores reflected that.

“Nathan had kind of a bad go,” Webster said. “The bull got him caught and knocked down. When you get knocked down and take a shot, it usually takes a little out of you.

“This was definitely the strongest set of four bulls we’ve had all year long. It was one of those cool nights everyone will remember. The tone was set early on and stayed that way the whole night.”

He pocketed $1,500 for winning Caldwell and kept himself in contention for Bullfighters Only’s inaugural world championship.

“It gives me another little bump to move up in the standings,” he said. “Most of all, just going out every week to do the best we can makes a difference for us.”

CALDWELL RESULTS
1. Cody Webster, 89.5 points
2. Dusty Tuckness, 86
3. Nathan Harp, 81
4. Evan Allard, 73

postheadericon Bullfighters Only to be showcased on final night of Gooding Pro Rodeo

GOODING, Idaho – The men of Bullfighters Only take danger to a new level.

It’s one thing to face danger; it’s another thing to attack it and bring it to its knees. That’s what the Bullfighters Only competition will be about Saturday during the final night of the Gooding Pro Rodeo. Five men will compete in the freestyle-bullfighting battle for the title.

Chuck Swisher

Chuck Swisher

“It’s crazy to think this is our actual first year and that we have so many events at these historic rodeos,” said bullfighter Chuck Swisher of Dover, Okla. “For my first year to walk into an arena with such prestigious awards, it’s a true honor for me to fight bulls there.”

The award-winning Gooding Pro Rodeo has a grand history, and Bullfighters Only is just adding to the showcase of the world’s best.

Freestyle bullfighting is not new to rodeo, and the Bullfighters Only has created public demand for the sport. The events feature man vs. beast in a head-to-head battle inside an arena. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver the agile bulls.

Now just a little more than a year old, Bullfighters Only is still in its infancy, but it has grown rapidly. The Gooding rodeo is the 21st stop on the BFO’s inaugural tour.

Nate Jestes

Nate Jestes

“In my opinion, Bullfighters Only is the most elite set of guys that have ever been involved in freestyle bullfighting,” said Nate Jestes of Douglas, Wyo. “There hasn’t been a set of 15 guys that are as strong and as talented that are going down the road at this time. It’s not only the elite guys, but the elite bulls, too.

“These are the kinds of bulls that allow us to showcase our abilities and our talents. We’re fighting bulls that are good, fun to fight and are fun to watch. I think that’s what sets Bullfighters Only apart from other freestyle events. It’s the best guys, it’s the best bulls, and it’s the best freestyle competition around.”

Jestes leads the BFO standings with more than $19,000 in earnings, but his lead is slim. In bullfighting, dollars equal championship points, so every penny counts in a big way as the men battle their way toward the inaugural world championship.

Evan Allard

Evan Allard

“I think it’s a good thing we’ve all done to bring the bullfights back to where they belong,” said Allard of Vinita, Okla. “It’s taken off because bullfighting is the greatest extreme sport in the world, and we have the best freestyle bullfighters alive all doing it right now.”

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

“What’s cool about Bullfighters Only is that the top 15 guys are part of what we call the Pioneer Project,” Jestes said. “It’s 15 of the sport’s best. We’re in it for each other and for the sport of freestyle bullfighting. No matter who wins, we’re happy for each other. It’s pretty amazing.”

That’s a big deal to the bullfighters.

“To me, Bullfighters Only is more like a group of brothers,” Swisher said of the top 15 bullfighters in the game that make up the BFO. “We all went in and are part of this team that helps in bringing the freestyle bullfights back in front of the fans. It’s something we’ve always wanted for so long.

“Even before there was even a thought of the BFO, we always stuck together and stuck our necks out for each other. We push each other to get better, and now we put a name on it.”

The men of Bullfighters Only have shared their passion with others, and now the world will see what true athleticism goes into freestyle bullfighting.

CONTESTANTS
Nate Jestes
Chuck Swisher
Zach Call
Evan Allard
Justin Josey

postheadericon Bulldogger wins on final night

J.D. Struxness his way to a share of the bulldogging title at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. He was one of three cowboys who earned the Lovington championship on the final night of competition.

J.D. Struxness his way to a share of the bulldogging title at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. He was one of three cowboys who earned the Lovington championship on the final night of competition.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – J.D. Struxness has had an outstanding week on the rodeo trail.

He put an exclamation point on it Saturday night by earning a share of the steer wrestling title at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo. During the final performance of the 2016 exposition, Struxness wrestled his steer to the ground in 3.6 seconds.

That, combined with his first-round run of 3.9, pushed the Minnesota cowboy to a 7.5-second cumulative time; he owns the bulldogging title with Shayde Tree Etherton, who competed earlier in the week.

“Lovington’s a good rodeo,” said Struxness of Appleton, Minn. “Last year was my first year here. It’s a cool set up and looks like a good rodeo to win. This year I had the steers to do it on, and I’m glad I capitalized on it.”

He did that all week. In all, the cowboy pocketed $10,894 this week and pushed his season earnings to nearly $56,000. That will move him inside the top 10 in the world standings and closer to the leader, Jason Thomas of Benton, Ark. Struxness needs to finish among the top 15 in the world standings to earn his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.”

“It’d be great to make it to Vegas this year,” he said. “It would be an excellent start to my career; to be able to move right from college to that would be outstanding.”

R.C. Landingham, shown taking up prior to a ride in Estes Park, Colo., earned the Lea County Fair and Rodeo title on Saturday night with an 86-point ride on Pete Carr's Hometown Girl.

Bareback rider R.C. Landingham, shown taking up prior to a ride in Estes Park, Colo., earned the Lea County Fair and Rodeo title on Saturday night with an 86-point ride on Pete Carr’s Hometown Girl.

He finished the 2015 season 19th in the world standings. He returned to Northwestern Oklahoma State University to finish his collegiate rodeo career. He did that with a bang, earning the championship two months ago at the College National Finals Rodeo. If everything falls into place, he could be just the fourth cowboy in rodeo history to have won a collegiate title and world championship in the same discipline in the same calendar year.

“Just missing (the NFR) last year put a fire in my belly,” he said.

Struxness wasn’t the only man competing on the final night to have that fire in his belly. Both bareback rider R.C. Landingham of Hat Creek, Calif., and bull rider Cody Rostockyj of Lorena, Texas, are well within range of earning their first NFR qualifications, too.

Rostockyj, who finished 29th last year and has been as high as 18th at the end of a season, rode Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Leroy Brown for 88.5 points to win the Lovington title and $5,464.

“This is always a big rodeo that everybody wants to win,” the bull rider said. “It’s going to help a lot on the way to the NFR. You don’t want to count your chickens, but it gives you some cushion.”

Landingham has been an NFR bridesmaid each of the past three seasons. In 2013 and ’14, he finished 16th in the world standings, just missing ProRodeo’s grand finale. A year ago, he placed 19th. He has a firm place on fifth place heading into the final month and a half of the regular season.

He padded his earnings Saturday night by winning the bareback riding title in Lovington wi9th an 86-point ride on Carr’s Hometown Girl.

“She’s a little horse, and I’m a bigger guy, so I didn’t fit her as good as other guys would,” Landingham said. “She felt outstanding and was really fun to ride, and the two of us together put up a pretty good score.”

Like Struxness, Landingham has had a phenomenal week. He earned $8,170, with $5,154 in earnings from this southeastern New Mexico community.

He has earned more than $87,000 this season, and that doesn’t include potential earnings from a rodeo in Hermiston, Ore.

“I’m guaranteed (to go to the NFR) now,” he said. “I’m placing at every rodeo I’ve been to this week. Now I’m just going to be picky about what rodeos I go to and what horses I get on and finally go to the NFR.

“It’s a big relief. I always felt like I was going to be there.”

Now he knows for sure, and, like Struxness and Rostockyj, he has the Lea County Fair and Rodeo to thank for playing a role in it.

Lea County Fair and Rodeo
Lovington, N.M.
Aug. 10-13
Bareback riding leaders:
1. R.C. Landingham, 86 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Hometown Girl, $5,154; 2. Kyle  Brennecke, 85, $3,951; 3. Chad Rutherford, 84, $2,921; 4. Tim O’Connell, 83, $1,890; 5. (tie) Caleb Bennett, Teddy Athan and J.R. Vezain, 82, $916 each; 8. (tie) Troy Vaira and Winn Ratliff, 80, $258 each.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Shayde Etherton, 3.7 seconds, $1,791; 2. (tie) Wyatt Jurney and J.D. Struxness, 3.9, $1,441 each; 4. Riley Duvall, 4.0, $1,090; 5. (tie) Monty Eakin and Matt Reeves, 4.1, $740 each; 7. (tie) John Franzen and Shane Frey, 4.2, $273 each. Second round leaders: 1. Josh Clark, 3.2 seconds, $1,791; 2. Josh Peek, 3.5, $1,558; 3. J.D. Struxness, $974; 4. (tie) Shayde Etherton and Dirk Tavenner, 3.8, $974; 6. Dean Gorsuch, 3.9, $623; 7. John Franzen, 4.1, $389; 8. Tanner Brunner, 4.2, $156. Average leaders: 1. (tie) J.D. Struxness and Shayde Etherton, 7.5 seconds on two runs, $2,512 each; 3. Dean Gorsuch, 8.2, $1,986; 4. John Franzen, 8.3, $1,6365; 5. Josh Peek, 8.5, $1,285; 6. Juan Alcazar Jr., 8.7, $935; 7. Josh Clark, 8.8, $584; 8. Matt Reeves, 9.3, $234.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. Ryle Smith, 8.2 seconds, $2,258; 2. Josh Peek, 8.5, $1,963; 3. Westyn Hughes, 8.8, $1,669; 4. Sterling Smith, 8.9, $1,374; 5. Kooper Saiz, 9.2, $1,080; 6. Shank Edwards, 9.3, $785; 7. Ryan Jarrett, 9.6, $491; 9. (tie) Bryson Sechrist, Marcos Costa and Joseph Parsons, 9.7, $65 each. Second round leaders: 1. Hunter Herrin, 7.6 seconds; 2. Marcos Costa, 8.3; 3. (tie) Shane Hanchey and Connor Hall, 8.7; 5. Reese Riemer, 8.8; 6. Timber Moore 8.9; 7. Sterling Smith, 9.0; 8. Cimarron Boardman, 9.1. Average leaders: 1. Sterling Smith, 17.9 seconds on two runs, $3,387; 2. Marcos Costa, 18.0, $2,945; 3. Westyn Hughes, 18.2, $2,503; 4. Reese Reimer, 18.8, $2,062; 5. Josh Peek, 19.5, $1,620; 6. Russell Trent Schilling, 20.2, $1,178; 7. Timber Moore, 20.1, $736; 8. Connor Hall, 20.7, $249.

Saddle bronc riding leaders: 1. Sam Spreadborough, 86 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Cool Runnings, $4,766; 2. Nat Stratton, 85, $3,654; 3. (tie) CoBurn Bradshaw, Dean Wadsworth and Ryder Wright, 84, $1,853 each; 6. Curtis Garton, 82, $794; 7. Jacobs Crawley, 80, $635; 8. (tie) Cole Elshere, Cody DeMoss and Rusty Wright, 79, $159.

Steer roping: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Bryce Davis and J.P. Wickett, 9.5 seconds, $1,799 each; 3. Shay Good, 9.6, $1,290; 4. (tie) Cody Lee and Jess Tierney, 10.1, $781 each; 6. (tie) Steve Wolf and Scott Snedecor, 10.4, $170 each. Second round leaders: 1. Rocky Patterson, 8.7 seconds, $1,969; 2. Scott Snedecor, 9.5, $1,629; 3. J.P. Wickett, 9.6, $1,290; 4. (tie) Jason Evans, Marty Jones and Shay Johnson, 9.8 $634 each; 5. Landon McClaugherty, 9.9; 6. Roger Branch, 10.7. Third round leaders: 1. Garrett Hale, 9.1 seconds, $1,969; 2. Lawson Plemons, 9.5, $1,629; 3. JoJo LeMond, 9.8, $1,290; 4. Chet Herren, 10.2, $950; 5. (tie) J.B. Whatley and Jess Tierney, 10.5, $475 each. Average leaders: 1. J.P. Wickett, 32.7 seconds on two runs, $2,953; 2. Shay Good, 32.8, $2,444; 3. Jess Tierney, 33.4, $1,935; 4. Jason Evans, 33.8, $1,426; 5. Bryce Davis, 34.6, $917; 6. Scott Snedecor, 35.0, $509.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Luke Brown/Jake Long, 4.4 seconds, $1,756; 2. Dustin Egusquiza/Clint Summers, 4.5, $1,527; 3. Chase Massengill/Daylan Frost, 4.6, $1,298; 4. Tyler Wade/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 4.7, $1,069; 5. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 4.8, $840; 6. (tie) Billy Bob Brown/Logan Medlin and Chris Francis/Cade Passig, 4.9, $496; 8. Colby Lovell/Travis Graves, 5.0, $153. Second round leaders: 1. Garrett Rogers/Jake Minor, 4.3 seconds, $1,756; 2. Nathan McWhorter/Dustin Davis, 4.4, $1,527; 3. Kaleb Driggers/Junior Nogueira, 4.5, $1,298; 4. Cody Snow/Dugan Kelly, 4.6, $1,069; 5. (tie) Luke Brown/Jake Long and Kyle Roberts/T.J. Brown, 4.6, $725 each; 5. 7. J.D. Yates/Trey Yates, 4.9, $382; 8. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 5.1, $153. Average leaders: 1. Luke Brown/Jake Long, 9.1 seconds on two runs, $2,634; 2. Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, 9.9, $2,290; 3. Billy Bob Brown/Logan Medlin, 10.1, $1,947; 4. Cody Snow/Dugan Kelly, 11.5, $1,603; 5. Chris Francis/Cade Passig, 17.1, $1,260; 6. Robert Ansley/Brian Sullivan, 18.0, $916; 7. Bobb y Boyd DVM/Bubba Paul, 25.4, $573; 8. Garrett Rogers/Jake Minor, 4.3 seconds on one run, $229.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Sarah Rose McDonald, 17.36 seconds, $3,898; 2. Kellie Callier, 17.45, $3,119; 3. Hailey Kinsel, 17.50, $2,534; 4. Taylor Homuth, 17.51, $1,949; 5. Emily Miller, 17.61, $1,559; 6. Katelyn Scott, 17.90, $1,170; 7. (tie) Kristin Carlson, Liz Herrin and Stephanie Kirkpatrick, 17.95, $887 each; 10. Barbara Johnson, 17.96, $682; 11. (tie) Sherry Cervi and Falena Hunter, 17.97, $536; 13. Kortney Cleveland, 18.03, $390; 14. Jana Bean, 18.10, $292; 15. Tierra Gray, 18.10, $195.

Bull riding leaders: 1. Cody Rostockyj, 88.5 point on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Leroy Brown, $5,464; 2. (tie) Tim Bingham and Brennon Eldred, 87, $3,643; 4. Jordan Wacey Spears, 86, $2,004; 5. Shane Proctor, 85.5, $1,275; 6. Jacob O’Mara, 83, $911; 7. Cole Melancon, 81, $729; 8. Justin Hendrix, 80.5, $546.