Archive for November, 2016

postheadericon Proctor prepared for his 3rd NFR

PRYOR, Okla. – Coleman Proctor takes nothing for granted and appreciates the talents he’s been given and that he’s worked hard to master.

That’s why his third straight qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is treasured. It’s why he’ll cherish every situation that occurs between now and the final night of the 2016 season.

“It’s an accomplishment,” said Proctor, the 15th-ranked header in the world standings from Pryor. “Anytime you can make the finals, you’re doing something right. I’m really excited to go back and enjoy the whole experience, from getting the coat and the back number to riding into the arena for the grand entry.

“It’s just exciting. It’s fun, because of the landmark between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

Coleman Proctor

Coleman Proctor

Only the top 15 contestants in each event at the end of the regular season advance to the NFR, rodeo’s grand finale that takes place over 10 nights in Las Vegas. This year’s championship is Dec. 1-10, and go-round winners will pocket more than $26,000 each night. It’s the most lucrative rodeo in the world, and Proctor knows that as well as anyone.

Last December, he pocketed $120,212 in Las Vegas roping with longtime friend Jake Long. Although the faces have changed, Proctor will have his chance to rope in some big-time cash with his heeling partner, Billie Jack Saebens of Nowata, Okla.

“We started roping in April,” Proctor said of his partnership with Saebens. “We went to California and were on the road for two weeks together before we got to rope together. That month was important to get out there. We went to a lot of (non-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) jackpots and only went to two rodeos together, but we were out there for a month.

“That helped our chemistry come together, so April was a pretty key month for us to come together.”

It worked, but not without a bit of a scramble as the regular season came to a close the end of September. Proctor earned more than $5,000 the final week of the season to slide into the 15th spot on the money list, finishing just $2,200 ahead of the No. 16 man, Billy Bob Brown.

“We were roping good,” Proctor said. “From the first of August, we caught a lot of steers. For the most part, we were catching, and things were good. We were consistent, but we were catching little breaks that were going against us.”

But the breaks came the team’s way when it counted most. Those are pressure-filled weeks to close out the season with hopes of earning enough money to earn a coveted spot at the NFR. He understands those pressures, but he found the silver lining in the late run this season.

“I think it’s less pressure when you’re not in the top 15,” he said. “Last year was almost more stressful when you’re in the top 15 but you’re still falling in the standings. This year I was never in there, so there was never any pressure on me to make it.

“Billie already had made it, but I wanted to be there with him. I want to show my sponsors off on national television. My sponsors want to see me at the finals; that’s where you can make an impact for them.”

Those sponsors – Southern Welding, SpeedRoping.com, Riverbend Arena, Lonestar Ropes, Justin Boots, Wrangler, Coats Saddlery, CSI Saddlepads, Brazos Valley Equine Hospital, DF Quarterhorses and Larry the Cable Guy – are instrumental in Proctor’s run to the NFR for the third straight year. They help pave the way for him to travel across the country and be in the best possible condition to perform at a top level.

But they aren’t the only supporters the lifelong cowboy carries with him; he also has the support of friends and family, including his wife Steph, with whom he married in May.

“She’s my everything,” Proctor said. “She helps keep me focused and centered when everything’s going crazy and also keeps me built up when I need it.

“She’s been behind me all the way the last eight years. From whenever I wanted to heel again or when I wanted to quit and come home and work a job, there are just so many ways that somebody can be supportive.  This summer when I’d have her go with me, we were truly a team from the ground up. Every step of this success is as much about her accomplishment as it is mine.”

He has surrounded himself with a solid team, from his wife to his partner to his strong set of horses. Much of this season he has leaned on Carmine, a 17-year-old sorrel gelding, but he’s also enlisted the assistance of Patriot, Heisman and Switchblade. But those aren’t the only mounts he trusts.

“During that last week when I knew I had to win, I pulled out my roan horse, Booger, and won $5,400,” he said. “He’s 22 years old now, and he’s pulled me out of a lot of binds.

“Horsepower is a key when you’re roping at the NFR.”

So is having a great partner. Though this is Saebens’ first appearance at the NFR, he’s been a successful roper for several years. In fact, Proctor and Saebens roped together during the 2014 RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo and the 2015 RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“I’ve known Billie for a long time,” Proctor said. “When someone ropes good and is from your area, you know about it. We’ve roped together off and on. We roped together at the (Prairie) Circuit finals a few years ago and actually won the average there and got to go to Kissimmee (Fla.) together (for the RNCFR).

“I told Steph on the way home from there that if something ever happened that I’d like to rope with him sometime.”

They made it work in 2016.

“He heels outstanding and understands how to rope two feet a lot,” he said. “Anytime you have a partner that is that solid, it lifts up the whole team. He’s a really good person and has a lot of character. We jive well outside the arena, which is important, especially when you’re making a living off each other’s performance.

“When you spend so many hours behind the steering wheel, it’ll test your limits of a friendship and a partnership, but Billie is easy to go with. It was fun hauling with him, and that sucker is clutch.”

It takes clutch performers to handle all the things thrown at them during the 10-day championship in the Nevada desert. Not only is there big money available each night – more than $84,000 paid out over the top six times – but also it is a nationally televised rodeo with the largest crowds of any with more than 17,000 people packed into the Thomas & Mack Center for each performance.

“You try to keep it light,” Proctor said. “The reality is this is how we make our money and how we pay our bills. All the miles and the hard work culminates in those 10 days. It’s very heavy, but I try to see it as fun and as light as I can. I think that helps when it’s time to perform.”

He proved it last year by averaging more than $12,000 a day, and he’d like to do it again. He’ll have that opportunity for 10 fabulous nights in the City of Lights.

postheadericon Smith living a dream with NFR bid

REXBURG, Idaho – Growing up in a rodeo family, Garrett Smith has had a lifelong dream to play the game at the elite level.

At just 21 years old, he’s there.

Smith finished the 2016 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season 10th in the world standings and has earned his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, set for Dec. 1-10 in Las Vegas.

“This truly is a dream come true,” said Smith, whose father, Lynn, has served as a pickup man, while mom, Valorie, has been a timer and has handled other promotional aspects of the sport. “We’ve been working for this ever since we were little. This is all we’ve thought about.

Garrett Smith

Garrett Smith

“It’s going to be a huge thing for me knowing that I can do it. Hopefully I can thrive off that when we get to Vegas.”

The NFR is the premier event in the sport, and only the top 15 contestants in each event at the conclusion of the regular season earn the right to play for the biggest paychecks in the sport over 10 nights in the Nevada desert.

Smith earned his way there by having the best season of his young career. In a sport where dollars equal points, he earned $94,429 over the rigors of the 2016 campaign. But that’s not the most impressive aspect of his race to Vegas.

“The start of the year wasn’t much to talk about,” he said. “I had a horrible start and only had $5,000 won coming into June. From June on, I got on a roll, and everything worked pretty good.”

That’s almost $90,000 in just four months. Those are some serious wages, and he has an outstanding chance to add to that over 10 December nights. The NFR boasts of a purse of $8.8 million, and Smith has an opportunity to earn more than $200,000 in a week and a half. Go-round winners will earn $26,231, and average champions will pocket more than $67,000 for having the best cumulative score over the 10-round finale.

He will carry the hefty momentum from the regular season into the championship, having earned nine titles through the regular season. His biggest came in St. Paul, Ore., over the Fourth of July. Smith posted an 86.5-point ride to share the title with fellow first-time NFR qualifier Garrett Tribble; both men earned just shy of $8,000 in the historic arena.

“St. Paul boosted me a lot,” Smith said. “After that, I knew I there was time I could catch up and qualify for the NFR. That was a huge win for me.”

The timing couldn’t have been better. He had been struggling to stay atop bulls, so getting one ridden to win provided the cowboy with the confidence he needed to continue his run. Consistency quickly followed, and the money started rolling in.

As children growing up around rodeo, Smith and his brothers, Wyatt and Payson, were involved in the game from an early age. They played around the chutes and had first-hand instruction from folks who knew the sport best. He transitioned through the ranks, from sheep to calves to steers.

“They let me get on my first bull when I was 13,” he said. “After that, I was just hooked.”

And he has had a great support system along the way.

“My family has been a huge part of where I am now,” Smith said. “I also had a lot of help from Allen Teller with Truth Bucking Stock. Not only is he one of my sponsors, but he took my bull riding to the next level.

“I’ve been going there since I was 14. The relationship we’ve built and the way he’s taught me has been a huge key to this whole success.”

He also has financial backing from Project Filter, Resistol, Cache Valley Cryotherapy and Streamline Chiropractic. It’s that type of sponsorship commitment that helps him make the right business decisions for this career.

But on the road, he also enlisted the assistance from traveling partners Rylan Wright and Tag Elliott, the latter of whom qualified for the NFR in 2012. Not only do they make their way along the ProRodeo trail together to split the costs associated with, Wright and Elliott have served as mentors to the young Smith.

“The experience that they brought into it was a lot of how they helped,” Smith said. “I’ve looked up to Tag for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to be like him. He showed me how not to get worked up and not worry about just one ride.

“I followed him like a puppy, and I guess it worked. Rylan’s been around the game a long time, and he taught me a whole bunch about the mental side. We’ve known how to ride bulls, but the mental stuff is what gets a lot of people in bull riding.”

It all aids in the maturity of a young athlete. That will help him greatly as he competes inside those famous yellow bucking chutes just a few blocks from the Las Vegas Strip, but he’s got a trump card up his sleeve: Older brother Wyatt was a 2014 NFR qualifier in steer wrestling and, more importantly, Wyatt enlisted Garrett’s help as his hazer for the final five go-rounds.

At just 19 years old, Garrett Smith was involved in the biggest rodeo of the year trying to be in the right place at the right time for his big brother.

“The whole time, I just wanted to puke,” he said. “I’ve never felt anything like that. I’ve hazed for him at a lot of big rodeos, but that was as big of a deal with the biggest crowd I’d ever experienced.”

Now he’ll experience it all for himself as he rides for the gold buckle.

“When I hazed for Wyatt, I was so nervous because I didn’t want to screw anything up for him,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a whole lot easier to deal with because I should be more in control of things.”

The pressure of the NFR is intense, and Smith has experienced it first-hand as the primary assistant for his bulldogging brother. Now the compression changes as the focus is strictly on him and his bull riding talents.

That’s just the way he wants it.

postheadericon Earning their right to fight

Daryl Thiessen competes during an event earlier this year. Thiessen will be one of 12 men competing at the Dec. 2-3 qualifier that will send four to the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Daryl Thiessen competes during an event earlier this year. Thiessen will be one of 12 men competing at the Dec. 2-3 qualifier that will send four to the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Bullfighters Only qualifying event opens the door for the sport’s rising stars

 

LAS VEGAS – There’s something special that happens when athletes reach toward their championship dreams.

That’s the case for 12 men who will be part of the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship qualifier round, set for 3:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, and Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“It still seems surreal,” said Daryl Thiessen of Elm Creek, Manitoba. “We’re going to Las Vegas with $50,000 up for grabs. If you would’ve told me that it was possible two years ago, I would’ve probably laughed at you.”

The bullfighters will battle for four remaining spots in the BFO Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets for that are on sale now at AXS.com.

Thiessen will be joined in the qualifier by Ross Johnson, Dakota Knight, Erick Schwindt, Aaron Reemer, Jon Roberts, Travis Gidley, Tate Rhoads, Kyle Lippincott, Blake Miller, Bryce Redo and Judd Napier. Four bullfighters will advance and be part of the mix that features the top 12 men in the BFO, all of whom received a bye into the second weekend.

The opportunities in Las Vegas are as grand as the city itself. The BFO Las Vegas Championship will be the richest event in freestyle bullfighting history.

“It’s the biggest bullfight ever as far as payout, and I’m just happy to tag along. It’s setting the stage for a whole new level,” said Johnson of Merit, Texas. “It’s going to be a really good deal.”

Bullfighters Only has changed the face of freestyle bullfighting and brought it back into the mainstream. It’s a man-vs.-beast battle filled with danger as the bullfighters test their athleticism against aggressive and equally athletic bulls.

“There is no better extreme sport than freestyle bullfighting,” said Knight of Lebo, Kan. “I’ve always been an adrenaline junky. There is incredible adrenaline when that 1,200-pound animal comes at you and wants to kill you, and I’m able to control him and make him do what I want him to do. It’s action-packed.”

These men have earned the right to be part of the mix. They will have to further prove themselves inside the Convention Center in order to advance to the BFO Las Vegas Championship.

“It was unexpected, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to get to fight bulls in Vegas,” Knight said. “I’m still a young guy trying to get my career going. By being invited in there, I get the chance to fight bulls right next to my idols.”

That’s just part of the honor for the men in the qualifier. The opportunity is grand, but so is the talent in the mix. It’s what will make for amazing competition.

“I love the whole stage of freestyle bullfighting,” Johnson said. “It’s 60 seconds with you and one bull, and it’s the fact that by the end of the fight, one of you is going to know who won.”

Though it’s only a minute, freestyle is intense and magnificent. Done well, it’s like a dance in the dirt; if things go wrong, the chances of a big wreck increase mightily. It takes stamina, guts and pure will to come out victorious.

Every man in the field has been preparing for this opportunity, whether through regular workouts or through added cardio exercises. For Thiessen, he’s working out twice a day to get his mind and body ready for the fights ahead, training in Montana with fellow BFO bullfighter Nate Jestes, who will make his first WNFR appearance in the Thomas & Mack Arena this December.

“I need to understand that I’m here because of what I’ve done,”Thiessen said. “For the first time in my life, I believe in myself.”

That confidence is a major factor in any man’s success, and it takes great inner strength to tangle with the beast. It’s just another reason why freestyle bullfighting is a true spectator’s sport.

QUALIFIER CONTESTANTS
DAY 1
Ross Johnson
Tate Rhoads
Dakota Knight

Blake Miller
Kyle Lippincott
Bryce Redo

DAY 2
Erick Schwindt
Jon Roberts
Daryl Thiessen

Travis Gidley
Judd Napier
Aaron Reemer

postheadericon BFO’s best ready for Vegas

Schell Apple makes a round with a fighting bull during a Bullfighters Only session earlier this year. Apple is one of the 12 bullfighters that will be part of the Roughy Cup, set for Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Those same 12 will receive a bye into the Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Schell Apple makes a round with a fighting bull during a Bullfighters Only session earlier this year. Apple is one of the 12 bullfighters that will be part of the Roughy Cup, set for Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Those same 12 will receive a bye into the Las Vegas Championship, set for Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

The top bullfighters in the sport will be part of seven days of world-class action

LAS VEGAS – Last December, the inaugural Bullfighters Only competition in Las Vegas was a skyrocketing success. Now the world’s best bullfighters are upping the ante Vegas style with seven days of world-class action.

Bullfighters Only recently announced the 12-man BFO Roughy Cup roster, all of whom will receive an automatic bye to the BFO Las Vegas Championship at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Weston Rutkowski, Ross Hill, Chuck Swisher, Nathan Harp, Schell Apple, Cody Greer, Beau Schueth, Toby Inman, Zach Call, Cody Emerson, Tanner Zarnetski, Wayne Ratley comprise the all-star cast of athletes.

roughycup-graphic-1“When we had crowds packed in at 9 in the morning, it showed us that we had something special last year,” said Weston Rutkowski, the third-ranked man in the Bullfighters Only standings from Haskell, Texas. “Now that this is our second year in Vegas, the hype and anticipation is even bigger.”

The competition kicks off at 2 p.m. Dec. 1-3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center with the BFO Roughy Cup, a 12-man invitational bullfight. Then on Dec. 2-3, up-and-coming bullfighters will battle to qualify for the BFO Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The 12 qualifier contestants will be announced later this week.

“This is another huge milestone for Bullfighters Only and freestyle bullfighting,” said Chuck Swisher, the 10th-ranked bullfighter in the world standings from Dover, Okla. “It’s is going to be the richest freestyle bullfight ever. This is huge.”

The opening weekend at the Convention Center is free as a part of Las Vegas Events’ Cowboy Christmas. The final four days of action will be in a new climate-controlled tent on the west side of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets are on sale now at AXS.com.

“This is our chance to really put a stamp on who we are as the BFO,” said Ross Hill, the No. 4 man in the standings from. “This is our opportunity to show what Bullfighters Only is all about. We are putting freestyle bullfighting on a higher platform again.”

It takes a strong work ethic mixed with amazing talent and true grit to tangle with bulls that possess such speed, power and agility. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to “dance” across the arena floor with a partner that is bred to be in attack mode. When the bull is “hot” and on target, the danger is greater, but so are the opportunities to showcase some magnificent skills

“It’s not just the top guys that are doing things in the BFO,” Hill said. “The fun thing is whether it’s the top five or the bottom five, anybody can come out and win this on any day. It’s about having to do bigger tricks. It’s fun knowing that every person on that roster can beat you any given day.”

In the year since that inaugural Roughy Cup, Bullfighters Only has experienced rapid growth and is in the midst of its first full season of more than 30 events from coast to coast. It’s been a year-long battle that will culminate in the crowning the first freestyle bullfighting world champion in nearly two decades.

Dollars equal points, and all that is gathered in Las Vegas will go toward that championship –another major reason that Vegas is a big stop on the BFO tour.

“The money is huge for us, but people really want to see freestyle bullfighting,” said Swisher, who has been working diligently to return to competition after suffering a torn ACL this past summer. “It’s one of the most underrated sports, and since Bullfighters Only brought freestyle bullfighting back, people realize that.

“The bulls are going to be the best going down the road,” Swisher said. “You’re going to have the 90-point bullfights, you’ll have the near misses and also the hookings. It’s a game of inches.”

Those inches are the difference between agony and ecstasy, but they’re exactly what the best bullfighters in the world crave.

ROUGHY CUP CONTESTANTS
Weston Rutknowski
Ross Hill
Chuck Swisher
Nathan Harp
Schell Apple
Cody Greer
Beau Schueth
Toby Inman
Zach Call
Cody Emerson
Tanner Zarnetski
Wayne Ratley

postheadericon BFO stepping it up in Vegas

Weston Rutkowski competes during the 2015 Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Rutkowski will be one of the top bullfighters in the BFO that will be part of the seven-day competition that takes place in Las Vegas on Dec. 1-3 and 7-10. The first three days will again be at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and the final four days of the world-class freestyle bullfight will take place at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Weston Rutkowski competes during the 2015 Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Rutkowski will be one of the top bullfighters in the BFO that will be part of the seven-day competition that takes place in Las Vegas on Dec. 1-3 and 7-10. The first three days will again be at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and the final four days of the world-class freestyle bullfight will take place at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Bullfighters Only adds four-day Las Vegas Championship to its schedule

LAS VEGAS – Professional freestyle bullfighting is going under the big top this December.

Bullfighters Only will present the world’s top freestyle bullfighters at two sites in Las Vegas, highlighted by the Las Vegas Championship inside a climate-controlled tent at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Tickets go on sale at noon Central (10 a.m. Pacific) on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at HardRockHotel.com and AXS.com.

This year’s Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship will be the highest payout in freestyle bullfighting history with more than $50,000 up for grabs. There will be seven days of the top bullfighters in the world going head-to-head against the most aggressive fighting bulls in the country.

The festivities kick off at 2 p.m. Dec. 1-3 at the Las Vegas Convention Center with the BFO Roughy Cup, a 12-man invitational bullfight. Then on Dec. 2-3, up-and-coming bullfighters will battle to qualify for the BFO Las Vegas Championship, which takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The top 12 men selected for the BFO Roughy Cup have earned a bye into the final weekend, where only four men will advance out of the qualifying rounds.

“The Cowboy Christmas event really blew up last year,” said Aaron Ferguson, founder and CEO of the BFO. “Las Vegas Events does an amazing job bringing the NFR Experience to life, and we’re thrilled to be involved once again in 2016.”

“We’re doing it up bigger and better than ever. Plus the new set-up at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will allow us to produce a live show that is second to none.”

Performances for the BFO Las Vegas Championship are set for Wednesday, Dec.7-Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

The opening two days will feature eight head-to-head, tournament-style matches, with the winners advancing to the final rounds, set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. The others will advance to the Wild Card round, which takes place at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Only one bullfighter from the Wild Card round will move into the finale.

At 1:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, BFO will pilot a first of its kind live-show experience.

“Fans have really taken to our Bullfighters Only ‘Sessions’ videos, so we decided to turn it into a live show,” Ferguson said. “The Sessions are all about progression and one-upping each other. Fans will get to see the world’s top bullfighters re-invent the sport one bull at a time. It’s going to be high-energy, interactive and educational with a very different vibe then your typical rodeo or bull riding.”

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