postheadericon Johnson wins Burlington crown

BURLINGTON, Colo. – Ross Johnson was excited just to be part of the Bullfighters Only tour stop Friday night in conjunction with the Kit Carson County ProRodeo.

He did it one better with an 86-point freestyle bullfight to win the title.

“Whenever Cory (Wall) called me and asked me to come up there, it was a big honor,” said Johnson of Merit, Texas. “Then he talked to us and said it was a BFO-sanctioned event, so that made it even bigger. To win it is just icing on the cake.

Ross Johnson battles his bull for 86 points on Friday night to win the Bullfighters Only stop in Burlington, Colo. (BRIAN GAUCK PHOTO)

Ross Johnson battles his bull for 86 points on Friday night to win the Bullfighters Only stop in Burlington, Colo. (BRIAN GAUCK PHOTO)

“It was awesome to be there, but winning it made it twice as good.”

A bullfighter for less than six years, there were lots of benefits to doing well in Burlington. Not only did Johnson collect $3,000 for the win, he also got to show off his talents before a great crowd and a bullfighting legend in Wall, who organizes the annual rodeo in his hometown.

“It means the world to have Cory see me fight or have anybody with that big of a name in rodeo,” Johnson said. “It’s a blessing to have a night like that. As a retired bullfighter, the bullfights get him pumped up, too.

“We got to town Thursday and went out to the rodeo that night. The whole night, they just kept promoting the bullfight. I guess it got through to some people, because it was packed out. They were really into it. After the bull riding, you didn’t see a single soul leave. I think they enjoyed the bullfight as much as we did.”

A big portion of his fun came in the form of a solid fight.

“When I called for the bull, I could tell he was definitely the ace of the group of bulls we had,” he said. “I did draw good; he was on me the whole time, and he kept pushing me.

“There was no time to think. It was all reaction and instinct; it was fun.”

As he gains more experience, Johnson will utilize his instincts and ability more. He hopes it carries him on to greater things in his career.

“Right now, I do some day work and fight bulls, but I want to be able to do this and not have to worry about having a typical job to make ends meet,” said Johnson, 23. “If I could do this full time, then I’d be living a dream.

“I believe in the next five years, if I keep working at it, I could be up there with the top guys.”

He definitely has the right attitude.

BURLINGTON RESULTS
1. Ross Johnson, 86 points
2. Tanner Zarnetski, 84
3. Zach Flatt, 77
4. Kyle Lippincott, 75
5. Cody Emerson, 74

postheadericon Struxness seeking circuit title

DUNCAN, Okla. – This year has been a pretty good one for J.D. Struxness.

The 22-year-old steer wrestler finished his final year of rodeo at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva in the biggest way possible for a collegiate cowboy: He won the bulldogging championship at the College National Finals Rodeo.

Now the Appleton, Minn., cowboy is leading the way in the race 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.

J.D. Struxness

J.D. Struxness

Struxness has earned more than $8,000 in the region so far this season, and a big run of rodeos awaits him and other circuit stars next week at Kansas stops in Hill City, Dodge City, Abilene and Phillipsburg.

Though he is from western Minnesota, Struxness has chosen the Prairie Circuit as his home primarily because if his temporary residence in Alva. He hopes to be one of the top bulldoggers in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region to earn a spot at the circuit finale – only the top 12 contestants in each event at the conclusion of the regular season earn the right to compete in Duncan.

Struxness struck early this season, just as he had done through the college ranks. Of his eight grand in earnings, nearly half was earned in early May at the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo; he not only placed in two rounds but also finished second in the average.

He is making his way across the rodeo trail with fellow Northwestern cowboy Jacob Edler of States Center, Iowa. Edler won the Central Plains Region, and Struxness was the runner-up; they switched positions at the CNFR, with Edler coming in as the reserve national champion.

That’s also how they sit in the Prairie Circuit’s standings, with Edler sitting No. 2. They’re following in the footsteps of their college rodeo coach, Stockton Graves, a six-time circuit steer wrestling champion who won the last three titles.

Mary Burger

Mary Burger

That’s just one of many outstanding races for the regional title this year. Take barrel racing, for example. Emily Miller of Weatherford, Okla., leads the standings with $14,568; she owns a $4,000 lead over the runner-up, Mary Burger of Pauls Valley, Okla., who won the circuit finals average title on her young gelding, Mo.

But Burger is the No. 1 cowgirl in the WPRA standings with more than $175,000 in earnings. There’s a good chance she can make up that ground in a hurry. She recently earned $122,000 at the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.

Former Kansas high school star Blaine Kaufman of Pretty Prairie leads the bareback riding regional standings, with a $600 lead over Australian Anthony Thomas. Five-time circuit champ Caine Riddle of Vernon, Texas, is less than $800 behind Kaufman.

Trevor Kastner

Trevor Kastner

Header Jesse Stipes of Salina, Okla., and Buddy Hawkins of Columbus, Kan., lead their respective divisions. Both are secured to return to Duncan for the circuit finale in team roping. Dalton Davis of Holcomb, Kan., has about a $600 lead over Roper Kiesner of Ripley, Okla., in the bronc riding money list, while Hardy Braden of Welch, Okla., is in a close third.

Cody Quaney of Cheney, Kan., would like a chance to repeat as the tie-down roping standings. He holds a slim lead, just ahead of Caddo Lewallen of Morrison, Okla.; Tyler Milligan of Pawhuska, Okla.; and Bryson Sechrist of Apache, Okla.

Trevor Kastner, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Ardmore, Okla., leads the bull riding standings by less than $400 over the No. 2 man, Jeston Mead of Ashland, Kan. Meanwhile three-time world champion Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., has a solid lead of $4,000 over J.P. Wickett of Sallisaw, Okla.

With big money available next week in the circuit, many things can change, but that’s the nature of the sport.

postheadericon Roundup is ready for next week

DODGE CITY, Kan. – The table is set for a six nights of world-class competition during the 40th year of Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

The festivities begin at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, with a day full of steer roping and an evening of A Whole Lotta Bull: It will feature the top bull riders in ProRodeo during an Xtreme Bulls Tour stop and the greatest freestyle bullfighters in the game during the Bullfighters Only contest.

Cody Teel, the 2012 world champion bull rider, competes during last year's Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. He is one of many world champions who are part of the annual rodeo.

Cody Teel, the 2012 world champion bull rider, competes during last year’s Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. He is one of many world champions who are part of the annual rodeo.

That showcase will be followed by five nights of championship rodeo that everyone in southwest Kansas knows as Roundup Rodeo, Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3-Sunday, Aug. 7, at Roundup Arena.

“What I love about our rodeo is that we are putting on a show for our family, our friends and everybody who wants to see a good rodeo in Dodge City,” said Joel Redman, vice president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “Of course, we want to have great competition for the cowboys; by having that, we’re putting on a better rodeo.”

The cowboys and cowgirls understand. Hundreds of ProRodeo contestants – including the greatest in the game – make their way to Ford County every summer to be part of the field.

“We have amazing sponsors that really support this rodeo,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, president of the committee. “They allow us to produce a great event and provide an outstanding purse for the contestants. That helps us draw the world champions and the NFR qualifiers – the best rodeo has to offer.”

Dodge City is a gateway to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which features only the top 15 contestants in each event. It’s where millions of dollars are paid out over 10 nights in Las Vegas and where the annual world champions are crowned.

Because of its status in the rodeo world, Roundup is home to the sport’s greatest stars each year. That includes the amazing livestock. Frontier Rodeo’s Medicine Woman – which has been named the Saddle Bronc of the Year in 2011, ’14 and ’15 – has guided cowboys to the highest mark rides each of the past two seasons, both times inside Roundup Arena.

That’s not the only award-winning aspect of this year’s Roundup Rodeo, which has been named Rodeo of the Year nine times; also in the mix is rodeo clown/entertainer Keith Isley, one of the most decorated men in the business. He has been awarded Clown of the Year and Coors Man in the Can six times each, and has been a specialty act of the year 11 times.

“Having an outstanding entertainer is an important aspect of a great rodeo,” Trotter said. “We want to have the best possible event we can have year after year.”

It shows not only in the quality of Roundup Rodeo but also in its legacy. Four years ago, the rodeo was enshrined into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. It’s an accomplishment that most ProRodeos can only dream about, but Dodge City’s rodeo will be encased in the Colorado Springs, Colo., museum for many years to come.

“We have 40 years of putting on a great rodeo, and we want to be doing this for another 40,” Trotter said. “This is personal to many of us, and it’s personal to our fans. We like it that way.”

postheadericon Feeling the Sidney experience

Beau Schueth will be one of nine men who will be part of the Bullfighters Only event that takes place next week in conjunction with Iowa's Championship Rodeo in Sidney. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Beau Schueth will be one of nine men who will be part of the Bullfighters Only event that takes place next week in conjunction with Iowa’s Championship Rodeo in Sidney. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

SIDNEY, Iowa – Fans in this southwest Iowa community got a taste of freestyle bullfighting a year ago.

Everything steps up even more this year with Bullfighters Only, which will showcase nine of the elite men in the game during a five-night battle at Iowa’s Championship Rodeo, set for Tuesday, Aug. 2-Saturday, Aug. 6.

Cody Webster, left, and Evan Allard discuss a Bullfighters Only competition recently. Not only will the two men be part of Sidney's contest, they will work in protection during the rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Cody Webster, left, and Evan Allard discuss a Bullfighters Only competition recently. Not only will the two men be part of Sidney’s contest, they will work in protection during the rodeo. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

“The committee told me last year that it was the greatest thing they had there” since the early 2000s, said Evan Allard of Vinita, Okla., who not only will be one of the combatants but also will serve as one of the protection bullfighters during the rodeo and will be providing the fighting bulls. “They were definitely glad to have it back.”

Sidney marks the 19th stop on the Bullfighters Only inaugural tour. Bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls, which are bred specifically for this type of fight.

“I think it’s a good thing we’ve all done to bring the bullfights back to where they belong,” Allard said. “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.

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 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.”

Iowa’s Championship Rodeo has a storied history. Dating back more than 90 years, Sidney’s rodeo has been a staple for many of the greatest cowboys and cowgirls in the sport. In fact, the event was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame last August.

“It’ll be cool stepping out in front of those people that have made Sidney such a great event,” Swisher said. “It’s a true blessing.”

So is the talent these men possess. It takes a special personality to not only dance with the bulls, but do it up close. Bullfighters not only engage with the stomping, aggressive and quick animals, but they do so in a series of maneuvers that showcases undeniable athleticism.

“The bulls drive me,” said Allard, who has been fighting bulls for 11 years. “Just knowing that you’re able to go head to head with one of the fiercest creatures alive and know that if everything goes right, you’re able to control him.

“It’s the art itself that drives me.”

When done well, it’s as if Picasso was painting an elaborate image on a dirt arena. There is a fury of movement, and it seems orchestrated; it isn’t. It fact, every movement is done based on instinct and an understanding of what the animal does.

It’s a display of man vs. beast, and Bullfighters Only has created a public demand for the sport.

“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.”

That name is well recognized in rodeo, and it’s why Bullfighters Only is part of many of the most prestigious events in the sport. That’s why the best in the business will be in Sidney for five magical nights.

SIDNEY CONTESTANTS
Evan Allard
Cody Webster
Justin Josey
Cody Greer
Ross Hill
Chuck Swisher
Bryce Redo
Beau Schueth
Travis James

postheadericon Bull riding fans love Xtreme

Bull riders line up during the introductions at a recent Lea County Xtreme Bulls.

Bull riders line up during the introductions at a recent Lea County Xtreme Bulls.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – Bull riding only events have been part of the landscape for decades, a way to showcase the most extreme discipline in rodeo.

That concept will celebrate its fifth year as part of the Lea County Fair and Rodeos with Lea County Xtreme Bulls, set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9, at Jake McClure Arena in Lovington. It will be the perfect place for the greatest bull riders in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, all battling for their share of the big money available in this southeastern New Mexico community.

Brennon Eldred

Brennon Eldred

“Singling out bull riding and making it a certain event has been good, because people love it,” said Kenyon Burns, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board’s rodeo committee. “Bull riding is exciting, and that’s why it’s always the last event in rodeo.

“People love to watch danger. They want to watch excitement.”

They get it with Xtreme Bulls. The Lovington stop is part of the tour’s premier series, which offers the largest purses in the game. That means the top 30 bull riders in the world standings are expected to be part of the field.

“Sometimes that’s all people talk about,” said Corey Helton, the fair board’s chairman. “There are some people that want to see just the Xtreme Bulls. That’s a big deal. It’s televised, and we have a chance to showcase Lea County for the world to see.

“I couldn’t imagine our fair and rodeo without Xtreme Bulls.”

The bull riders couldn’t imagine their tour without Lovington in the mix.

“It’s one of the greatest bull ridings of the year,” said Brennon Eldred, the reigning champion. “Everybody looks forward to it, and everybody comes here ready to ride.”

The Sulphur, Okla., cowboy rode two bulls to earn the 2015 title, pocketing more than $10,100 in the process. That helped propel Eldred to his second straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification. It was also his first victory in the Xtreme Bulls Division I, the premier division.

“The committee’s great, and they work their tails off to take care of us,” Eldred said. “It always makes it fun to come to New Mexico for an event, and to get my first DI event win here is awesome.”

From great community support in Lea County to a wide fan base, Xtreme Bulls has found a home in Lovington.

“People around here are geared toward rodeo and bull riding,” Burns said. “This is the Wild West. Xtreme Bulls is the perfect fit for Lea County and the overflow from West Texas.”

postheadericon A bullfighting Roundup

Bullfighters Only tour will be featured during legendary Dodge City rodeo

DODGE CITY, Kan. – The face of danger can change in an instant.

Freestyle bullfighters live that reality on a daily basis. They stand toe to toe with agile and aggressive bulls, then use their own incredible athleticism to escape danger. The excitement and intrigue is all part of the Bullfighters Only tour stop at Dodge City Roundup Rodeo.

Nate Jestes

Nate Jestes

The freestyle bullfight will take place Tuesday, Aug. 2, in conjunction with Roundup’s Xtreme Bulls. It is the 18th stop on the BFO’s inaugural tour and will feature four of the elite bullfighters in the game: Dusty Tuckness, Nate Jestes, Zach Flatt and Weston Rutkowski.

“We’re fighting bulls that are good and fun to fight and let us show our abilities as well,” said Jestes of Douglas, Wyo. “I think that’s what sets Bullfighters Only apart from other freestyle events.”

Freestyle bullfighting is not new to Roundup. For years, the rodeo was part of the Wrangler Bullfight Tour, which disbanded in 2001. But Bullfighters Only has created public demand for the sport. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls, which are bred specifically for this type of fight.

Dusty Tuckness

Dusty Tuckness

“This is an event that hasn’t had a true world champion since 2000,” said Tuckness, the reigning six-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bullfighter of the Year from Meeteetse, Wyo. “Bullfighters Only is going to bring that back.

“We’re bringing the best against the best. The main stage is where it belongs. People say it’s exciting. It’s at a level that is second to none.”

Tuckness and Jestes have been to Dodge City before. Both men served as protection bullfighters during the Xtreme Bulls event last year. They will do that again, then they will try to claim their own Roundup championship.

“I’ve been freestyling for the last five years,” Jestes said. “In the last five years, we’ve wanted to be on a stage like this.

“We’re back at our roots. Our roots started in the PRCA; our names have been built here. To essentially come back to our roots where we started, then to carry it on and make it better, is awesome.”

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

Roundup Rodeo’s roots were planted 40 years ago, and it has been recognized as one of the best. Having been developed a little more than a year ago, Bullfighters Only is already moving into a similar category. By conducting events at some of the most prestigious rodeos in the country, the demand is being filled.

“It’s definitely been a great whirlwind,” Jestes said. “It’s taken off way quicker than any of us expected. It’s so exciting that it’s almost overwhelming. We’ve wanted to be at places like this and have the sport where it’s at. To be involved in it and have some ownership in it is just amazing.

“In less than one year, we have gotten our sport and our type of bullfighting known worldwide. That’s just incredible.”

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 makes for a great evening of entertainment for fans who love something a little extreme.

“This is an exciting time to see freestyle bullfighting,” said Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas. “We, as Bullfighters Only, have brought back the extreme aspect of what us bullfighters do day in and day out.”

 

postheadericon There’s a new man on top

Weston Rutkowski jumps a bull during a recent Bullfigthers Only competition. Rutkowski jumped into the lead in the BFO's tour standings after a runner-up finish this past week at California Rodeo Salinas (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Weston Rutkowski jumps a bull during a recent Bullfigthers Only competition. Rutkowski jumped into the lead in the BFO’s tour standings after a runner-up finish this past week at California Rodeo Salinas (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Rutkowski slides past Jestes to take lead in Bullfighters Only tour standings

The competitive fire that burns inside Weston Rutkowski has only been stirred.

This week he moved into the No. 1 spot in the Bullfighters Only tour standings, having earned $17,625 so far this season. But he’s not content.

“For a guy as competitive as I am, it’s difficult to finish second as often as I have,” said Rutkowski, 27, of Haskell. “This is a humbling sport.”

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

Freestyle bullfighting is exactly that. It’s man vs. beast, 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.

Rutkowski finished runner-up in a four-night Bullfighters Only event this past week in conjunction with California Rodeo Salinas, and those earnings shot him past season leader Nathan Jestes of Douglas, Wyo., by $550. He also finished in at least a tie for second in Arlington, Texas; Phoenix; Cedar Park, Texas; and Cody, Wyo.

“I’m fed up with being the bridesmaid,” Rutkowski said. “Second place isn’t good enough for me. Of course, if all of us were out for second, we wouldn’t be on board for this kind of competition. We all want to win.”

He has been in the winner’s circle, earning a key victory at the BFO that was part of the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo. He also posted the highest-marked fight last week in Salinas, an 88.5 to win the second go-round.

“Salinas definitely takes care of a lot of it,” he said. “It’s one of the richest bullfightings in the country. As legendary as that rodeo is, and as much as they care about bullfights, it goes a long way. The money you can win there sure helps a guy out.”

Of course, natural ability helps considerably, and that’s what fans see during a Bullfighters Only event; it features the top 15 bullfighters in the sport. More than anything, though, the men who are part of Bullfighters Only put in considerable work to maintain their status.

“It’s as much physical as it is mental,” Rutkowski said. “You’re not showing up at rodeos just reading the bulls and reacting; sometimes you have to take that fight to the animal.

“I’m huge on physical fitness. I work out every single day. I don’t have to question if I’m going to have the legs to get through it. I know I can go out there and do what I need to do from 40 to 60 seconds.”

It’s vital in a sport where the opponent is much bigger, stronger and faster to have the right attitude and the right talent. Fans see it, and so do the rodeos with which Bullfighters Only has associated itself.

“The general consensus we’re getting from the committees and the fans is that they’re loving it,” he said. “It’s a relatively old sport with a new twist, and with the social media that we’re putting out there, we’re able to share that with so many more people. Those that were around during the golden age of bullfighting are glad to have it back, and a lot of that has to do with the new twist and the new flair that the BFO brings.”

Rutkowski won’t rest too much on being the No. 1 man on tour. He will be back in action next week during the Bullfighters Only event at the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo, then will return to the competition stage for the BFO event in conjunction with the Sikeston (Mo.) Jaycee Boothill Rodeo on Aug. 10-11.

“Every stop is huge, especially for a guy like me who finally grew into the lead,” Rutkowski said. “I’m not someone who wants to give that up, and I’m going to do all I can to stay on top. My goal is to win the first year tour and be crowned the first true world champion in freestyle bullfighting in 16 years.”

BULLFIGHTERS ONLY TOUR STANDINGS
(As of July 25, 2016)

  1. Weston Rutkowski Haskell, Texas, $17,625
  2. Nate Jestes Douglas, Wyo., $17,075
  3. Cody Webster Wayne, Okla., $15,000
  4. Ross Hill Muscle Shoals, Ala., $13,310
  5. Beau Schueth Norfolk, Neb., $9,250
  6. Nathan Harp Tuttle, Okla., $8,340
  7. Evan Allard Vinita, Okla., $8,250
  8. Schell Apple Fay, Okla., $7,100
  9. Chuck Swisher Dover, Okla., $5,300
  10. Dusty Tuckness Meeteetse, Wyo., $5,250

postheadericon Werries wins the Guymon PBR title; Wing doubles up at own event

GUYMON, Okla. – Stormy Wing doubled his chances at his own event this past Saturday night, but Matt Werries walked away with the top prize.

Matt Werries

Matt Werries

Wing entered the competition multiple times to give him as many opportunities to cash in as possible, and it paid off with second- and fifth-place finishes at the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational PBR Touring Pro event.

In all, Wing, of Dalhart, Texas, pocketed $3,252 to help his season progress. Werries, 33, of Jacksonville, Ill., won the event as the only cowboy in the field to ride two bulls. The Illinois cowboy cashed in for $4,854 inside Henry C. Hitch Arena.

Stormy Wing

Stormy Wing

Wing’s double entry earned him two shots at the money. He won the opening round with an event-best 89-piont ride, earning $676. He also posted an 83 in the first round to finish fifth, just out of the round money.

While the opening round paid just the top four spots, Wing did considerably better in the aggregate; he earned $2,037 for placing second overall and $539 for his fifth-place finish.

An estimated crowd of 3,500 fans crowded into Hitch Arena for the event, which not only featured Wing and Hayes but also some of the other top cowboys in the PBR. The field included a number of the top bull riders in the association, including world champion Mike Lee of Decatur, Texas, and Brazilians Kaique Pacheco, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Valdiron de Oliveira and Robson Polermo.

Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational
PBR Touring Pro
July 23, 2016
Guymon, Okla.

First round: 1. Stormy Wing, 89 points, $676; 2. Brady Sims, 87, $507; 3. Matt Werries, 85, $338; 4. Douglas Duncan, 84, $169. Final round: 1. Matt Werries, 87.5 points, $1,690. Average: 1. Matt Werries, 172.5 points, $2,826; 2. Stormy Wing, 89, $2,037; 3. Brady Sims, 87, $1,249; 4. Douglas Duncan, 84, $854; 5. Stormy Wing, 83, $539; 6. Venn Johns, 71, $381.

postheadericon Showing animals key to kids’ growth

LOVINGTON, N.M. – The conveniences of modern technology are amazing.

Many can take better photos with their cell phones than they can with expensive cameras. Phones are used for social media and video games. Oftentimes there’s a disconnect from the “real world” that only time away from electronics can repair, especially for youngsters.

Lea County Fair LogoThat’s why so many people take time out of their daily lives to help prepare young people for the real world by engaging with them on a personal level. Programs are in place to help children mature. In southeastern New Mexico, there may be no better opportunity for kids than being part of the livestock shows at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.

The nine-day exposition will run Friday, Aug. 5-Saturday, Aug. 13, at the fairgrounds in Lovington and will feature hundreds of children showing more than animals – they also will showcase their hard work, independence and passion for all to see.

“I believe the livestock shows are what the fair’s all about,” said Corey Helton, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board.

Children work all year with their animals, from acquiring it to raising it to grooming it and preparing it for the trip to town in August. For many on the family farm or ranch, it’s just another extension of the lives they lead. For youth that live in town, preparing animals for the shows might be the perfect way to understand what generations have done before them.

Oftentimes, the boys and girls that are part of the livestock shows are just the next generation of family members that have done it. There’s a special bond that occurs.

Possibly the most celebrated aspect of the shows is the Junior Livestock Auction, where sponsors and donors bid to purchase the animals. It’s the children’s reward for the labor and time they’ve put in to raising their animals.

“I think we’re going to see a good representation from sponsors and buyers at the sale,” Helton said. “The sale is a big thing about the fair. Yes, we’ve had the concerts and the carnival and all the other activities. But without the kids showing animals, do you really even have a fair?”

That theory is why the Lea County Fair and Rodeo’s livestock shows continue to be a vital part of the annual expo.

“I think we all know that fairs were actually started for the kids and showcasing the kids’ hard work throughout the year,” Helton said. “We can’t lose sight of that.

“The goal of every fair should be the kids.”

postheadericon Harp wins Salinas battle

SALINAS, Calif. – Since he first strapped on a pair of cleats and decided that bullfighting was his career of choice, Nathan Harp has wanted to win California Rodeo Salinas.

Nathan Harp

Nathan Harp

He accomplished that goal over the past few nights of Bullfighters Only competition, winning the championship with a four-fight cumulative total of 325.5 points. He won the first and third rounds, was runner-up in the second round and finished off the week with a third-place finish Sunday.

“I went first (in the final round), so I had to sweat it out and wait for everybody else to go,” said Harp, 26, of Tuttle, Okla. “It’s an honor to be in an elite group of bullfighters that’s won a buckle from here.”

Harp held a one-point lead over Weston Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas, heading into the final day. The Oklahoman posted a 78-point fight to kick-start the afternoon’s competition, and Rutkowski followed two fights later with a 76.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

The Texan finished second overall with 322.5 points, followed by Ross Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala., a point behind Rutkowski. Hill, a 10-year veteran of the Salinas fights, won the final round with an 85-point bout Sunday afternoon.

“I thought Weston or Ross could’ve won it this year,” Harp said. “Both of them were drawing good and putting on great bullfights.”

Salinas has been one of the freestyle bullfighting leaders for years, this year teamed with Bullfighters Only, the top 15 bullfighters in the game who are all battling for the first world championship in the BFO’s inaugural season.

Ross Hill

Ross Hill

“There’s a lot of history here,” Harp said. “As you’re coming up through the ranks, everybody hears about the top freestyle bullfights, which have been Ardmore (Okla.) and Salinas. Those were the top two bullfights you could go to. Now there are a lot more bullfights, especially with the BFO. That’s great for bullfighting.”

It helps, too, that the men were matched with great bulls that were bred to be part of this kind of fight.

“We only get to see these bulls once a year,” Harp said of the herd in Salinas. “This is the only place they get any outs, so even the older bulls are a lot like fresh bulls. It’s a lot of fun coming out to Salinas. It has beautiful weather, great bulls and a great rodeo.”

And the competition – featuring six of the greatest bullfighters in the game – makes for a true challenge.

“You’re mentally exhausted from the stress of getting ready to freestyle bullfight for four days,” he said. “Winning this title is amazing. To beat some of these guys, it’s definitely a blessing to come out on top.”

Nobody knows better than Harp.

SALINAS RESULTS
1. Nathan Harp, 325.5 points on four fights
2. Weston Rutkowski, 322.5
3. Ross Hill, 321.5