postheadericon Bullfighting heads home

Bullfighters Only renews event’s history by bringing the action back to Ada

ADA, Okla. – There’s nothing like coming home.

Whether they’ve laced up their cleats inside the Pontotoc County Agriplex or not, the 15 men who will be part of the Bullfighters Only understand the history freestyle bullfighting in that building.

Champions have been crowned, and legends have been formed.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

Now, thanks to the BFO, the greatest young talent in the game – mixed with some bullfighting veterans and icons – will put their talents on display during the Bullfighters Only stand-alone event, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Agriplex in Ada.

This is freestyle bullfighting at its best, and many fans in southeast Oklahoma know the sport well. For those that don’t know the sport, they might just be in for the ride of their lives. Men put their lives on the line for this coveted championship; that’s what bullfighting is all about.

“It’s a two-hour, action-packed event where you have 15 of the best bullfighters of the world,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning BFO world champion. “These televised, stand-alone events make bullfighting so much bigger.”

Beau Schueth

Beau Schueth

What makes it a big deal is the man-vs.-beast factor. A big part of Bullfighters Only’s success lies within the heart-stopping action that comes with the extreme danger in freestyle bullfighting. Men will try to stay within inches of the bulls, which are bred to be part of this type of fight. The most successful will keep the animal engaged closely while showcasing true athleticism to stay out of harm’s way.

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 so much fun to fight against guys you’ve watched and learned from,” said Beau Schueth of O’Neill, Neb. “Now to compete with them and be on their level is an awesome feeling.”

Bullfighters Only is all about innovation, and that’s been the driving force behind it’s incredible growth. Two years ago, the BFO was showcasing the sport via sessions that were posted on social media. Now it’s in the midst of its second full season of battling toward a world championship.

“In bullfighting, you’re basically the underdog every match you go into,” said Zach Call of Mullen, Neb. “It’s cool that you can stay focused enough that even though you’re going up against something that’s bigger, strong and faster than you, you can come out unscathed.

“The only way to beat the bull is with your head. You don’t outrun them. You have to outsmart them.”

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at Boom-A-Rang Diner in Ada or online at www.bullfightersonly.com.

CONTESTANTS
Weston Rutkowski
Beau Schueth
Bryce Redo
Zach Call
Schell Apple
Cody Greer
Toby Inman
Lance Brittan
Evan Allard
Tate Rhoads
Daryl Thiessen
Zach Arthur
Jon Roberts
Travis Gidley
Jimmy Essary

postheadericon Action is heading to Moose Jaw

PBR and Bullfighters Only bringing a big show to Saskatchewan

MOOSE JAW, Saskatchewan – This city of 33,000 people has quickly learned how exciting things get with the bull riding event comes to town.

The action explodes even more for this year’s Professional Bull Riders Moose Jaw Powered by Young’s Equipment, set for 7 p.m. Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw.

In addition to the raw power that comes with the PBR, Alpha Bull is adding even more to the two-day show with the inclusion of Bullfighters Only, the premier freestyle bullfighting association in North America.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

“We’re excited to bring Bullfighters Only to Moose Jaw,” said Chad Besplug, a two-time Canadian champion bull rider that owns Alpha Bull, which is producing the event. “These guys are crazy athletic and can do some amazing things with these fighting bulls. They can be a show all by themselves, but they are just part of what we’re producing in Moose Jaw.”

Similar to Spanish bullfighting, the animals are bred to be aggressive and will pressure the bullfighter, who uses only his athleticism and his experience as his weapons and his tools to remain out of harm’s way.

Like bull riding where scores are based on a 100-point scale, half the score comes from the bull, which can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter; men can earn up to 50 points per fight on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over the animal.

“Freestyle bullfighting is still pretty new in Canada, but it’s a whole different avenue for fans,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning Bullfighters Only world champion who is scheduled to be part of the bouts in Moose Jaw. “It brings a whole different excitement to the events.

“Chad puts on great events, and they’re very entertaining from the get-go.”

Rutkowski saw it first-hand earlier this year when he competed at a similar event in Claresholm, Alberta.

“The crowd didn’t know what they were watching at first, but after Daryl got hooked down, they knew how exciting it was going to be,” Rutkowski said of Daryl Thiessen, a Canadian-bred bullfighter from Elm Creek, Manitoba. “They realized it was the game, and they really seemed to be part of the game from that point on.”

Fans in Moose Jaw should expect the same type of excitement, if not more. The event will feature many of the top bull riders in the game, including Wesley Silcox, the 2007 world champion in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

“This is really going to be some of the best Canadian bull riders we have and a few of the best Americans,” Besplug said. “I expect it to be a really tight competition.”

He should. The excitement of both bull riding and freestyle bullfighting is the unknown and the danger of dealing with the wild animals. Bull riders will try to remain on the animal for a qualifying eight seconds while exhibiting control. It takes a true athlete to make the whistle while riding nearly a ton of bucking, spinning and kicking muscle.

It’s the perfect mix of action-packed drama and pure athleticism.

“There’s always a chance to see some big-time wrecks,” Rutkowski said. “That’s the good thing about events like this, because you get the top-quality guys. You’re going to have to step up out there and risk it all in order to win.”

 

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postheadericon Guymon partners with Days of ’47

GUYMON, Okla. – Pioneer Days Rodeo is taking a step in a new direction, but it will still be the same kind of show fans have come to expect over the years.

It was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, and annually it will feature nearly 1,000 contestants all vying for this prestigious title. But this year’s event will have another carrot to dangle in front of the cowboys and cowgirls, thanks to its partnership as an official trial event for the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo, which takes place July 19-24 in Salt Lake City.

“We think this will be a good way to not only promote Pioneer Days but also promote ProRodeo in general,” said Earl Helm, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual event, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“When we were approached about this partnership, we looked at all the possibilities that came with it. It looks like it’s a win-win for us and for the cowboys and cowgirls.”

Pioneer Days Rodeo is one of several trial events where contestants can earn points to qualify for the Days of ’47. Contestants finishing among the top five in each discipline  – top four in barrel racing  – through the trial series and being in the top 35 of the world standings will qualify.

“This exciting, new format will bring a fresh approach to the sport and greater financial prospects to the rodeo athletes,” Dan Shaw, CEO of the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo, said in a release. “Through the trial-event process, competitors from smaller rodeos across the nation are afforded a unique chance to be a part of history.

“The Cowboy Games will give the fans an opportunity to be more engaged and will bring widespread national exposure to the sport.”

That exposure will begin with events like Pioneer Days Rodeo. In addition to chasing points in order to qualify for Salt Lake City, cowboys and cowgirls will ride, rope and race for the money available in Guymon. But there are plenty of rewards that come by advancing to the Cowboy Games.

Points will be gathered through how the contestants finish in the overall race in each event. Bareback riders, saddle bronc riders and bull riders will all be based on a one-ride format, with the highest scores winning the money and gathering points. Those that earn points in the timed events will do so based on their cumulative finish through multiple runs.

Points earned in Guymon will be matched with those earned at other trial events. Once they earn the right to compete in Salt Lake City, athletes will battle for their share of the purse, valued at $1 million in cash and prizes.

“We’re all about the cowboys in Guymon, and we think this gives them another chance to make money this season,” Helm said. “When you make a living in rodeo, all you want is an opportunity.”

postheadericon Gunnison is part of rodeo history

Gunnison, Colo., is home to Cattlemen's Days, the oldest rodeo in Colorado and the longest continuous running rodeo in America. (ALLEN IVY PHOTO)

Gunnison, Colo., is home to Cattlemen’s Days, the oldest rodeo in Colorado and the longest continuous running rodeo in America. (ALLEN IVY PHOTO)

GUNNISON, Colo. – There is so much involved in the annual Cattlemen’s Days in this picturesque community that it takes months to plan and just a few days to pull off.

“It is Colorado’s oldest rodeo and the longest continuous running rodeo in America,” said Andy Stewart, the event’s rodeo announcer. “It’s part of history in a great ranching town. The people are wonderful, and the scenery is beautiful.

“It’s one of my favorite rodeos.”

And it’s all set for July 7-16 in Gunnison, and there are many reasons why it’s so personal for Stewart, nominated eight times for Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Announcer of the Year.

“The livestock’s always great there, and Stace Smith does a great job of producing that rodeo,” Stewart said. “He incorporates other stock contractors into that rodeo to make it the best show he can.

“It’s also got the largest Tough Enough To Wear Pink campaign in the country by far. They raise more money than anybody, and they have a great Songwriter Concert and Auction in Crested Butte (Colo.) just a couple of days before the rodeo. They’ve set the standard in ProRodeo.”

The Tough Enough To Wear Pink campaigns began in 2004 and have encompassed many PRCA events across the country. Over the years, no other campaign has raised more money than Cattlemen’s Days, which raises in excess of $200,000 annually.

And that money stays local.

“One of our goals is to make Gunnison Valley Health the No. 1 rural hospital for breast cancer care in the U.S.,” said Heidi Sherratt Bogart, executive director of the local TETWP campaign. “Thanks to the vision and dedication of award-winning singer/songwriter Dean Dillon – as well as donors, sponsors and volunteers – TETWP has raised over $1 million to be used exclusively in this community.”

In fact, that number is nearing the $2 million mark.

“They just brought in a couple of the best surgeons for women and the equipment to the Gunnison Valley,” Stewart said, also pointing out some of the money has been used for a patient transportation RAM pickup to ensure patients reach their appointments safely and comfortably.

That includes the rodeo. Smith is an 11-time PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year, and much of that is attributed to the tremendous animal athletes mixed with amazing production. Mixed with world-class specialty acts, it’s the perfect fit for outstanding family-friendly entertainment.

Those acts include Keith Isley, six-time PRCA Clown of the Year and 10-time Act of the Year, and the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, who have been nominated three times for Dress Act of the Year.

“I love Keith Isley and look forward to working with him in Gunnison,” Stewart said. “He is just very talented and very professional. The Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls is high-powered and a very entertaining group of young ladies.

“It’s just an awesome event overall that does so much for all of Gunnison Valley.”

postheadericon Focused Allen takes bulldogging title

ALVA, Okla. – Joby Allen chooses to look straight ahead when it comes to competing for the steer wrestling title in the Central Plains Region.

“I don’t keep tabs on them,” he said of the standings, where he sits third with two events left on the region season. “I take every rodeo one rodeo at a time.”

It may be cliché, but that approach has allowed the Alva cowboy to focus on the tasks at hand. He has accumulated 440 points this season and is behind two Northwestern Oklahoma State University teammates: Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, leads the race to the title with 490, while Colten Madison of Whiting, Iowa, is second, just 10 points behind.

Joby Allen

Joby Allen

Only the top three individuals in each discipline advance to the College National Finals Rodeo in June. Allen is right where he wants to be, but he hopes to be among those top-tier cowboys when the season concludes the end of this month.

Allen jumped into position for the season championship with a key victory this past weekend at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Weatherford. He won the first round with a 5.3-second run, the same time he used to finish in a tie for second place in the championship round. His 10.6-second cumulative time earned him the championship by eight-tenths of a second.

“I ended up drawing two good steers,” he said. “I’d been working on my scoring, making sure I got out. At Garden City (Kan.), I didn’t do that.”

Scoring is allowing the steer an appropriate head start while still being in good position. A barrier line crosses the timed-event chute and is released when the steer reaches the appropriate distance. The barrier, which is tied together by a thin string, will break if the animal is not provided an adequate lead. The result is a 10-second penalty, which typically takes contestants out of the running.

“I was just trying to get out of the barrier,” said Allen, who suffered the penalty the weekend before in western Kansas. “In the first round, I drew one of the better steers and made a good run.”

By winning the opening round, he was the last to go in the championship. Was there any pressure by being in that position?

“I felt a little bit,” he said. “There were a few good runs in the short go, so I knew I had to be fast. I knew I had a good steer, and I knew I had to take the barrier and go catch him.”

He had a little help from his mount, Boomer, a 12-year-old bay gelding owned by professional steer wrestler Ryan Swayze of Freedom, Okla.

“I got him the first part of June (2016), and I’ve had him since then,” Allen said. “He’s been working good.”

Devers moved into the region lead by finishing fourth in Weatherford, placing in a tie for sixth in the first round and tying Allen for second in the short round. In team roping, Tearnee and Wylee Nelson, a brother-sister tandem from Faith, S.D., finished fifth, while Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, and Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla., placed sixth.

Katy Miller of Faith placed in both rounds of goat tying and finished third overall. She sits third in the regional standings. Andrea Dufrane of Dawson, Minn., placed in the first round and held on fir sixth in the average. Barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., placed second in the championship round and jumped to sixth in the average, while breakaway roper Taylor Munsell of Arnett, Okla., placed in both rounds and finished third overall.

With two rodeos remaining – Hays, Kan., April 21-23 and Guymon, Okla., April 27-29 – three other Rangers sit in position to advance to the college finals based on their regional standings: Mason Bowen of Bullard, Texas, leads tie-down roping; Dylan Schulenberg of Coal Valley, Ill., is atop the heading standings; and Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., sits third in barrel racing.

But there are plenty of points available in the final two weekends for others to make their move.

postheadericon Champ seeks repeat in ’17

Rutkowski eager to compete at Bullfighters Only event in storied Ada arena

ADA, Okla. – The freestyle bullfighting history inside the Pontotoc County Agriplex is long, and some of the greatest men in the sport have earned prestigious titles in that building.

Weston Rutkowski hopes to add his name to the list when Bullfighters Only conducts a stand-alone bullfight at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 22. Tickets are on sale now at www.bullfightersonly.com.

The Haskell, Texas, man helped set a new standard in 2016, winning the BFO season championship and becoming the first freestyle bullfighting tour world champion in 17 years. After more than 30 events, Rutkowski staked claim to the most prestigious title in the sport since the 2000 season.

Weston Rutkowski holds the Las Vegas Championship belt he earned this past December. It was a key victory en route to his Bullfighters Only world championship. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Weston Rutkowski holds the Las Vegas Championship belt he earned this past December. It was a key victory en route to his Bullfighters Only world championship. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

“Weston is always a contender, and you know he’s going to show up in good shape with the right mindset to win,” said Dusty Tuckness, a founding member of Bullfighters Only and one of the top freestyle bullfighters in the game. “He’s self-disciplined, which is the biggest thing I like about him.”

That work ethic is one reason why Rutkowski is the reigning BFO champion and will be part of the mix during the competition inside the Agriplex.

“That’s where everybody went to make a name for themselves, like Andy Burelle, Wacey Munsell, Dusty Tuckness, Cody Webster … all those great guys,” Rutkowski said. “I am super excited about going to Ada, because I never got to go there before. When I first cracked out, Ardmore (Okla.) was where you went to measure your talent.

“Before Ardmore was Ada. That was the one prestigious event that everybody went to. With the BFO bringing the bullfights back home to Ada, it’s one I’m glad to cross off my list.”

The event will feature 15 men at the top of the game, consisting of five three-man bouts, with the top scores from each session will advance to the championship round. The Ada champion will be crowned from those five bullfighters.

As history has shown, the Agriplex will be a showcase for freestyle bullfighting’s best: 1999 Wrangler Bullfight Tour world champion Lance Brittan, Toby Inman, Evan Allard, Beau Schueth, Zach Call, Schell Apple and several others will join Rutkowski in the ring.

“I’ve seen a lot of Lance’s videos, and he was one of the key guys that changed freestyle bullfighting back in the day,” Rutkowski said. “The first time I get to meet Lance will be when I go head-to-head with him. There’s not a better way to go against a legend like Lance.”

With 15 of the most athletic bullfighters in the game, the Ada competition should be a perfect fit for fans in southeast Oklahoma.

“What’s great about this is that it’s just freestyle bullfighting,” he said. “It’s a two-hour, action-packed event where you have 15 of the best bullfighters of the world. These televised stand-alone events make bullfighting so much bigger. You can go in there and make good money.”

Rutkowski should know. The 2016 BFO champion won more money than any other bullfighter in the a season ago with $41,325.

Rutkowski would like to repeat, and doing well inside the Pontotoc County Agriplex would go a long way toward that. He also knows it takes a great level of work to perform at the top of his game.

“If you want to stay on top, you have to stay motivated,” he said. “I recently hosted a BFO Development Camp and we had a guy that was 38 years old. A year ago he was over 350 pounds; he watched a BFO event last January, and it changed his life. He was inspired to get in shape to fight bulls again. He lost 110 pounds and got to fight at the D-Camp.

“That is very motivating to me. You never know who’s watching. They see the work you put in beforehand, and then they get to see you go out and compete. Knowing the talent in the young guys that are coming up is part of it, too. I have to keep working harder because of the talent that is underneath me.”

And they’re all pointing to the target on Rutkowski’s back. He’s the king of the mountain, and they want his spot.

“That’s the great thing about the BFO,” he said. “You’re going to go up against the best guys every time.”

postheadericon Rangers women win in Kansas

ALVA, Okla. – The little indoor arena in Garden City, Kan., was the perfect fit for some members of the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.

The Rangers won the women’s team title with 420 points, 120 better than the runner-up, Southeastern Oklahoma State University. For the men, Mason Bowen of Bullard, Texas, raced to the tie-down roping championship, winning the first round, placing second in the short round and tying two calves in a cumulative time of 19.1 seconds to claim the average.

Colten Madison

Colten Madison

He also leads the Central Plains Region standings in his event. The same can be said for Colten Madison of Whiting, Iowa, who capitalized on his third-place finish in southwest Kansas to take the top spot in steer wrestling. He had a simple plan of attack as he approached the seventh event of the 10-rodeo season.

“Just make two runs and just place, if anything, and move in the standings,” said Madison, a freshman majoring in agriculture business.

He did that by gathering 90 points in Garden City to push his season total to 480 points. He is 70 points ahead of teammate Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas. That’s important, because only the top three individuals in each discipline advance to the College National Finals Rodeo.

“I’ve been lifting and practicing every day,” said Madison, who began using weights a year ago after suffering an injured rotator cuff in his right shoulder while competing in his home state of Iowa. “I made a friend in town who was a body builder, and he told me he could get me stronger than I was.”

It’s working. He is taking his approach to the final three rodeos of the season with hopes it continues to pay off. They key is to continue grappling the steers to the ground and make as many final rounds as possible. Of course, it helps to have support from his rodeo coach, Stockton Graves, and teammate J.D. Struxness – Graves is a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier, and Struxness is the reigning college champ who qualified for the NFR for the first time last year.

“Stockton and J.D. help a lot,” Madison said. “Back home I don’t have anybody to practice with. Having guys like Stockton and J.D. helping out has made a huge difference.”

Katy Miller

Katy Miller

The women’s title marked just the second time this season the Rangers have claimed a championship. The women won their home rodeo in October, and this past weekend. Goat tier Katy Miller of Faith, S.D., and barrel racer Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., utilized strong second-place finishes to guide Northwestern to the crown.

Miller finished second in the first round, short round and average to earn 145 points. She also made the final round in breakaway roping but didn’t garner any points in that discipline.

“I knew going in it was a little indoor barn,” said Miller, who is third in the goat-tying standings. “For goat tying, they’re short runs, so you really have to think about that. If you get off (the horse) late, it could really mess up your run.

“I try to rope on one or two horses every day. I tie goats with a couple of other girls; I try to tie goats every day.”

That hard work is paying off. Miller was one of four Northwestern goat tiers who earned points in Garden City. She was joined by Tearnee Nelson, also of Faith, who placed in both rounds and finished fourth in the average; Jennifer Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, who was fourth in the opening round; and Melissa Courture of Springdale, Ark., who placed third in the first round.

Moeder won the first round and finished in a tie for third in the short round in barrel racing. Her two-run cumulative time of 26.30 seconds propelled her to second overall. She sits second in the region standings. Brandi Hollenbeck of Hutchinson, Kan., roped in heading points while competing with men’s team member Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah. They finished fourth in the short round and fifth in the team roping average.

Another Northwestern tandem – Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, and Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla. – finished fifth in the long round to gather points.

While Bowen won the tie-down roping title, Cole Patterson of Patterson of Pratt, Kan., finished third. His 10.7-second first-round run was good enough for second, then he finished with a two-run cumulative time of 22.5 seconds. Devers earned a spot in the steer wrestling short round, then placed sixth overall.

The women’s team sits second in the standings and will need a strong finish over the final month of the season if it hopes to return to the college finals in June. The Rangers next stop is this coming weekend in Weatherford, Okla.

postheadericon Brittan back in the fight

Lance Brittan, the 1999 Wrangler Bullfights world champion, is returning to the action to compete in the Bullfighters Only. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LANCE BRITTAN)

Lance Brittan, the 1999 Wrangler Bullfights world champion, is returning to the action to compete in the Bullfighters Only. (PHOTO COURTESY OF LANCE BRITTAN)

1999 world champion joins the ranks of Bullfighters Only

DENVER – Lance Brittan is known as one of the greatest freestyle bullfighters to ever play the game.

Now the 42-year-old legend hopes to regain his championship form as he returns to the sport he loves. It’s been about a decade since Brittan last took on a fighting bull in competition, but he’s ready to step into the Bullfighters Only arena April 22 in in Ada, Okla.

“What’s so attractive to me is the whole man-vs.-beast mentality that comes with it,” said Brittan, who retired from professional bullfighting three years ago and has focused on running his business, Brittan Construction, in Windsor, Colo. “If something goes wrong, there’s no one to blame but myself. I like showing off, I guess.”

He’s damn good at it, too. Brittan will be the only man on the Bullfighters Only tour that was part of the Wrangler Bullfight Tour, which was associated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association through 2000. He earned the world championship in 1999 when he was just 25 years old.

“I was fortunate to win one of the last world titles they gave in the Wrangler Bullfights,” he said. “Competing against Mike Matt, Greg Rumohr, Loyd Ketcham, Rob Smets and Jerry Norton was amazing. To compete against 14 gold buckles and go in there and win is really special to me.

Because of his expertise in the field, Brittan was one of the instructors at the Bullfighters Only Development Camp from March 11-12 in San Bernadino, Calif. That experience opened a new door for the veteran bullfighter to walk through.

“After instructing that D-Camp in San Bernadino, I got the bug again,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of BFO videos, and I think they’re great events. I’d like to see what I could get done there.”

His first opportunity will come during the Bullfighters Only stand-alone bullfight at the Pontotoc County Agriplex in Ada. The last time he stepped in front of a bull was while he served as a protection bullfighter during the rodeo in Elk City, Okla., in September 2014.

“What I’m looking forward to is showing the old style of what it was like to fight bulls and make rounds,” Brittan said.

The basics of freestyle bullfighting haven’t changed over the decades. The foundation is staying as close to the animal as possible while also trying to remain out of harm’s way. It’s not an easy task, especially given the bulls, which are bred to be part of the fight. The more aggressive the bull is, the better the opportunity for the bullfighter to gain points.

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.

“I’ve thought that Lance retired at the top of his game, that he went out when he was one of the best guys going down the road,” said Chuck Swisher, one of the top-rated bullfighters in the BFO. “It’ll be great to go up against somebody like Lance.

“Lance is one of my heroes, a true legend. His style is a lot different than a lot of us younger bullfighters, but I have no doubt he’ll still be as solid as ever.”

Bullfighters Only regenerated the buzz about freestyle bullfighting a couple of years ago and is producing events all across the country. While much has changed in the years since he competed in the Wrangler Bullfights, Brittan sees a bright future for the sport thanks to the BFO.

“I think the BFO is great,” he said. “It primarily focuses on the bullfighter and his talents. The entertainment value is priceless. People want to see wrecks, and I guarantee you there will be some wrecks.”

It’s all part of the action-packed shows that are produced by Bullfighters Only, and Brittan is ready to be back in the mix.

postheadericon Rumford is an all-around entertainer

Justin Rumford has competed in Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena many times over his rodeo career, but now he returns to the storied complex as the entertainer and funnyman for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo.

Justin Rumford has competed in Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena many times over his rodeo career, but now he returns to the storied complex as the entertainer and funnyman for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo.

GUYMON, Okla. – The last time Justin Rumford was in town for Pioneer Days Rodeo, he was wrestling steers and making people around him laugh at his antics and naturally comedic ways.

He returns to do the same thing but on a much grander scale. As the reigning five-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Clown of the Year, Rumford will be one of the featured pieces of the rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“I competed in the ProRodeo at Guymon seven times in steer wrestling and a few other times when I was in college,” said Rumford, a third-generation cowboy originally now living in Ponca City, Okla. “I always liked Guymon, because it seems to be the main takeoff for rodeo for the spring and summer run.”

He started competing as a youngster growing up in Abbyville, Kan. His grandfather, Floyd, founded Rumford Rodeo Co. His dad, Bronc, was an all-around cowboy who took over the stock contracting firm, and Justin joined in the family business.

In his lifetime, he’s done just about everything possible in the sport, but he’s found his calling dressed in baggy clothes and wearing greasepaint. It’s the perfect combination of a witty personality raided on rodeo.

“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” Rumford said. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”

It shows in and out of the arena, a place he knows like the back of his hand. He’s roped and wrestled, ridden bucking horses and fought bulls. He’s been a flankman and a truck driver, and he’s loved every minute of it.

“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I really worked hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.”

He did. In just his second year as a full-time rodeo clown, he won the PRCA’s top award. He’s followed that the four years since, and he continues to be one of the most sought-after rodeo clowns in the game. But there are many reasons behind it.

“I have seven acts,” Rumford said. “At a lot of rodeos I work, there are lots of performances, so I like to change it up. I’m not a specialty act; I’m a clown act.

“I’m constantly trying to think of new stuff.”

Whether it’s “Fat Elvis” on a mini bike or the Rumford rendition of Spiderman, the acts are a big part of the entertainment value. But he’s the perfect all-around entertainer, a man who understands the timing that comes with rodeo.

It’s all part of making the production come across as seamless as possible. If there is any downtime in the competition, Rumford is on hand to engage the crowd. It’s a vital piece of the keeping the family-friendly entertainment part of each performance.

“I think my specialty is walking and talking and being in the arena,” he said. “I feel like I can connect with the crowd pretty good. Even when my microphone isn’t on, I’m still talking to fans. You can do a lot without saying a word.”

That’s an integral part of being a clown; sharing a particular move or a flashing glance in the right direction. As a clown with a bit of a bigger build, it is primary target of comedy is himself.

“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning. It’s just me being me.”

He looks forward to returning to the Oklahoma Panhandle to entertain, this time in front of some of the most knowledgeable rodeo fans in the country. It will be a different type of experience, but it will still be all Rumford comedy.

“I totally adjust everything,” he said. “You don’t want to push somebody on what they want to hear. When you’re in die-hard rodeo country, you have to feel it out and see what happens.

“In Guymon, they’re rodeo-savvy, but they like to party. They are my kind of people.”

postheadericon Bullfighting returns to Ada

Toby Inman competes this past December during the Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. Inman has been one of the best freestyle bullfighters for years and he's excited to be part of the sport's return to Ada, Okla., on April 22. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Toby Inman competes this past December during the Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. Inman has been one of the best freestyle bullfighters for years and he’s excited to be part of the sport’s return to Ada, Okla., on April 22. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Bullfighters Only brings the sport back to its roots with event in a storied arena

ADA, Okla. – Eighteen years ago, Andy Burelle was a rising star in freestyle bullfighting.

He earned dozens of victories over his valiant career of battling fighting bulls. He competed in his first bullfight at the Pontotoc County Agriplex in 1999, also the first time the sport was showcased inside the Ada building.

“I had just went to Rex Dunn’s school that spring, and that bullfight was in the fall of 1999,” said Burelle, who will return to announce at the Agriplex on Saturday, April 22, for the first Bullfighters Only event in the storied complex. “It was the first bullfight I ever entered, and I ended up winning it.

“Fourteen years later, that was the last bullfight I entered. I won it and dropped the mic. That was the last time I ever freestyled a bull, and that was the last time the bullfights were in Ada.”

Burelle will pick up that microphone for the BFO event, serving as one of the announcers who will call the action. He provides color commentary while bringing world championship experience to the show. Most importantly, he brings a passion to his craft.

Now that he’s retired, Burelle has been witness to the sport’s resurgence because of Bullfighters Only.

“We used to have the world championships in Ada,” he said of a single event that eventually moved to Ardmore, Okla. “Now that we’ve got Bullfighters Only, we’ve got a year-long battle with standings. It’s not just one event that can crown a world champion; we’ve got world standings, and when we do these title fights and matches, you’ve got to be ranked.

“To be ranked at the BFO means a lot. It means you’re elite.”

Elite is just what bullfighting fans in Ada expect, and it’s why having Bullfighters Only bringing the show back to town is such a big deal.

“When we were in Vegas, we had seven performances where the guys would just go out and try to one-up one another,” Burelle said. “It was the rankest bullfight I’ve ever seen. Bullfighters Only has elevated the sport to a level that I never expected or have ever seen.”

“When I fought bulls, I tried to innovate the sport,” he said. “I brought the backflip, a lot like Travis Pastrana did with motorsports. Now they make my backflips look like nothing. What these guys are doing now makes what I was doing look more like taking a skateboard and jumping a ramp over a soda can.”

Bullfighters Only is also about innovation, and that’s been the driving force behind it’s incredible growth. Two years ago, the BFO was showcasing the sport via sessions that were posted on social media. Now it’s in the midst of its second full season of battling toward a world championship.

“Ada was one of the first big bullfights that I was ever in,” said Toby Inman, a Davis Junction, Ill., bullfighter who will be part of the one-day championship bullfight. “I was thrown to the wolves in Ada.”

Now he’ll be one of the wolves battling against some of the best Spanish fighting bulls around. Much like it was when Dunn, the legendary bullfighter, was providing the bulls in Ada, there will be some excellent bovine athleticism on display.

“Rex’s bulls were man-eaters,” Inman said. “As long as they’ve got four legs and are hot, I’m excited. You want those man-eaters, those that are coming out to rip you up. The same as what we face now with the BFO.”

He will get them, and so will the other top bullfighters that will be part of the bout. It’s a fascinating event. A big part of Bullfighters Only’s success lies within the heart-stopping action that comes with the extreme danger in freestyle bullfighting. Men will try to stay within inches of the bulls, which are bred to be part of this type of fight. The most successful will keep the animal engaged closely while showcasing true athleticism to stay out of harm’s way.

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.

“That arena was always jam-packed, and they couldn’t fit any more people into it,” Inman said. “I suspect it’ll be the same with this, because the BFO definitely brings a great show.”

Tickets go on sale Monday, March 27, www.bullfightersonly.com.