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postheadericon Smith wins Canadian title

Garrett Smith placed in two rounds at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, including a second-place finish in Round 2 on Pete Carr's Uncle Jerry, and earned more than $77,000. After winning the Canadian bull riding title last week, he heads to the 2017 NFR second in the world standings. (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

Garrett Smith placed in two rounds at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, including a second-place finish in Round 2 on Pete Carr’s Uncle Jerry, and earned more than $77,000. After winning the Canadian bull riding title last week, he heads to the 2017 NFR second in the world standings. (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

Idaho cowboy points his focus to NFR, world championship

REXBURG, Idaho – Garrett Smith has proven a little something to himself in 2017, and he’s doing it in a big way.

The 22-year-old from Rexburg has quickly made himself into one of the best bull riders in rodeo. Not only has he earned more than $204,000 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the second straight year, he earned another coveted championship last week in Edmonton, Alberta.

For the first time in his young career, Smith found a place for him at rodeos that were co-sanctioned by both the PRCA and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association. He entered last week’s Canadian Finals Rodeo No. 1 in the bull riding standings, then placed in four go-rounds. With that, he became the first cowboy from the United States to be crowned the Canadian bull riding champion.

“This was the first year of going to Canada for a whole season of going hard,” said Smith, who earned $24,725 in Edmonton to clinch the title. “I went to just enough rodeos to get qualified for the Canadian Finals. I ended up getting on a lot of good bulls up there.

“I also had a lot of good mentors. It really helped boost my confidence.”

It should. Doing well at the CFR is a huge boost of momentum a little more than three weeks before the NFR, ProRodeo’s grand finale that features the biggest purse in the game. In Las Vegas, go-round winners earn more than $26,000 a night for 10 rounds.

“Doing well up there helps quite a bit, because I was still getting on good bulls close to the NFR,” he said. “That way I don’t go into Vegas rusty. It helps keep you sharp.”

That’s the way he’s ridden all year. He finished his first NFR last December by winning the 10th go-round. He placed in one other and finished fifth in the average. In all, he left Sin City with more than $77,000 in earnings over just 10 nights.

Most importantly, it served as a catapult to Smith’s 2017 season. He recorded 13 victories in ProRodeo, and four of those were co-sanctioned in Canada. That’s why he was able to be part of North America’s top two championships.

“This year’s been awesome,” Smith said. “I’ve been healthy and had a little confidence going in after last year’s finals. It all worked out pretty awesome.

“To think I won over $200,000 is still hard to believe.”

What isn’t added into that is a key victory at RodeoHouston, where he earned more than $53,000. Because the Houston event is not sanctioned by the PRCA, the money doesn’t count for the world standings. Still, it went a long way to support his dreams of a world championship.

“Houston really boosted my confidence,” he said of the March rodeo. “After a win like Houston, it finally sets in that you are supposed to be there and know what you’re doing. It was fun.”

He also had fun at the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede, where he finished second overall and added another $35,000 of non-sanctioned cash to his pocketbook. It was more than dollars, though; it was the confidence he gained in every ride. That’s the most important thing when it comes to trying to ride nearly two tons of bucking beast.

Despite all his earnings, he still trails the leader, three-time world champion Sage Kimzey, by just less than $33,000. But in Las Vegas, that ground can be made up in two nights. An important factor is maintaining consistency over the 10-night championship.

“The key for me was just not overthinking things,” Smith said. “It was just going out there and riding one bull at a time and having fun.”

Yes, the competition can be fun, but it is also business. He knows that as well as anything, and that’s why he understands what it means to have the support of his sponsors: Idaho Project Filter, Resistol, Rodeo Vegas, Rodeo Graphics, Truth Bucking Stock and Streamline Sports Chiropractic & Physical Therapy.

But the biggest part of his business is riding bulls. In order to do that well, he has to understand the importance of being focused on the task at hand eight seconds at a time. He knows he has to trust his muscle memory and ability to react without thinking, allowing his true athleticism come through in each move atop a bucking, kicking, spilling bull.

“Hopefully it’ll be more relaxing than last year, and I’ll know more about what’s going on,” 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. “I just want to settle in and stay on my bulls.”

That’s better said than done in the rough-and-tumble event. Bulls have a distinct advantage, with their size and speed being the primary reasons. Smith weighs in at 165 pounds, so he has to maneuver his body on top of the bull if he hopes to stay centered. In 2017, he rode 63 percent of the bulls he tried.

“It’s extremely important to draw good bulls, but you still have to do your part,” he said. “My confidence is a lot higher now. You always think you’re going to come out of high school, and it’s going to be easy. You get humbled pretty fast in this sport.”

That’s rodeo, and it’s something Smith knows well. He’s been around the game all his life, and he realizes that he must keep pushing forward if he’s going to realize his gold-buckle dreams.

“There are always ways you can improve, and there’s always stuff you’re going to learn,” Smith said. “I just want to keep learning as I go and figuring out how to improve.”

That’s the way champions think, and Garrett Smith has the hardware to prove it.

postheadericon Braden earns 2nd Claremore title

CLAREMORE, Okla. – From many of the best cowboys in the world to the top bucking animals, Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock presented by the Kubota Center of Oklahoma has quickly become a major event.

“It was a really cool idea,” said Hardy Braden of nearby Welch, Okla., who won the saddle bronc riding title and $3,500. “It was a lot of the top guys, ones that I’ve seen all year.”

Hardy Braden

Hardy Braden

Braden has seen plenty and done plenty in 2017. He earned nearly $103,000 riding bucking horses through the end of September and is heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the first time in his career. The victory in Claremore was his second of the season – he also won the Will Rogers Stampede in May.

“I enjoyed this event a lot,” said Braden, who rode United Rodeo’s Rusty for 87.25 points to claim the crown. “Especially this time of year, I think it was really good. It was good to go to and get on good horses before you head to Vegas.”

Braden led a solid group of contenders in saddle bronc riding, including fellow NFR qualifier Audy Reed and Isaac Diaz, who has made the finals five times in his career. To top it off, Claremore cowboy Kade Alberty scored 87.5 points to share the victory with Andrew Alvidrez of Seminole, Texas, in bull riding.

“It was really good, especially considering this was the first year,” said Andy Stewart, the event’s announcer. “We had a very good crowd, and it was a nice setup. It was cool, because they were the bucking chutes from last year’s NFR.”

It was a star-studded event, whether it was bull riding great McKennon Wimberley riding for 85.75 points or NFR veteran Trevor Kastner unable to make the whistle.

“Five of the first nine bulls that were out are all going to the NFR this year,” Stewart said. “That’s the kind of bull power and horse power that we had in Claremore.”

Braden definitely found it to his liking. His mount, Rusty, has been part of the Texas Circuit Finals and was a nice fit.

“She was really nice,” he said of the horse. “Things felt really good, and I was excited to get on her. When I got there, I just wanted to feel good about my ride, and I accomplished that.

“I thought the horses were amazing overall. That was just part of what made it so much fun.”

Saddle bronc riding:
1. Hardy Braden, 87.25 points, $3,500; 2. Isaac Diaz, 85.75, $2,500; 3. Wyatt Casper, 84.5, $1,000; 4. (tie) Colt Gordon and Audy Reed, 83, $250 each

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Andrew Alvidrez and Kade Alberty, 87.5 points, $2,950 each; 3. McKennon Wimberley, 85.75, $950; 4. Lane Nobles, 83, $450.

postheadericon Smith wins tie-down roping in Alva

ALTUS, Okla. – Shane Smith knew he had to have something special if he were to win in the Central Plains Region of college rodeo.

He has it with Duck, a 12-year-old gelding he brought with him from his home in Wimborne, Alberta, to Western Oklahoma State College. The two came together strong this past weekend to win the tie-down roping title the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Alva.

Shane Smith

“I drew a couple of good calves, and that really helps,” said Smith, a sophomore. “My horse worked really good.”

He acquired Duck half a dozen years ago and began training the little sorrel. His work is paying off, and it’s proof that good ropers need to be good horsemen if they are going to find success in rodeo. It also helps that Smith trusts his mount.

“I feel like I can score a lot better on him than most other horses,” he said. “It gives me a good start and a good advantage.”

He won both rounds, stopping the clock in 9.5 seconds to claim the opener. He then blistered an 8.4-second run in the championship round to win the two-run aggregate by more than a second – that’s a big victory in events timed to the 10th of a second.

Just as important, Smith was joined in the short round by teammate Colton Kofoed of Evanston, Wyo., who finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the opening round.

“I think we’ve got a really good men’s team,” he said, noting that they face some of the toughest competition in college rodeo while competing in the Central Plains Region. “The competition is good every weekend, so it’s going to be a challenge every time.”

Shayna VanDerLeest

Shayna VanDerLeest knew that before she arrived in Altus. The freshman from Morrison, Ill., opted to compete at WOSC when she saw the facilities the school had for its rodeo program. She put them to use in Alva by placing in both rounds of goat tying and finishing fourth in the average.

“On my long-round run, I knew it was a good one because it felt really smooth,” said VanDerLeest, who stopped the clock in 6.1 seconds to finish in a tie for third place in the round. “I didn’t expect it to be that good.

“I’ve been looking forward to making it to a couple of short goes, and now I got my first one down.”

She found success again in the final round, tying down her goat in 7.9 seconds to finish sixth in the round. It was a strong note to end the four-rodeo, fall portion of the 2017-18 season. Like Smith, VanDerLeest knew she would get the opportunity to mature as a cowgirl because of the school’s commitment to the program.

“I decided to come to school here because they had a lot of the programs I wanted in an ag school, but their rodeo facilities and practice schedule are amazing,” she said. “Comparing it to the other schools I was considering, this was the best.”

Now she and the others are getting their tutelage from a couple of professional cowboys in head coach Jess Tierney, a six-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier and the reigning Timed Event Championship winner, and Jace Crabb, who has had outstanding success in team roping.

“Jess is doing a fantastic job for us, and that makes me happy that I chose this place,” VanDerLeest said. “In practice, he is very encouraging. He knows all of us have the potential to make the short goes. He also helps us in practice. If we’re not at our full potential, he can help make the change.”

That comes from experience, and the WOSC contestants are getting a big dose of it. Whether it’s practice or just taking other steps necessary, Tierney and Crabb are providing the team with an advantage.

“I think Jess is really good on the mental aspect and helps you learn how to win,” Smith said. “You have to have a good mindset when you go to a rodeo. You can’t win if you’re second-guessing yourself.”

Smith proved that in Alva.

postheadericon Rutkowski finds vengeance

Weston Rutkowski performs a flat-footed jump over Rockin’ B & Magnifica’s Cabeza Dura to begin their bout Saturday night. Rutkowski scored 91.5 points to win BFO-Austin and add to his Pendleton Whisky World Standings lead. (CLICK THOMPSON PHOTO)

Weston Rutkowski performs a flat-footed jump over Rockin’ B & Magnifica’s Cabeza Dura to begin their bout Saturday night. Rutkowski scored 91.5 points to win BFO-Austin and add to his Pendleton Whisky World Standings lead. (CLICK THOMPSON PHOTO)

Texan wins BFO-Austin crown and extends lead in Pendleton Whisky World Standings

AUSTIN, Texas – Weston Rutkowski was out for vengeance Saturday night during Bulltober Fest presented by Rodeo Austin, and he took it out on a couple of Spanish fighting bulls.

The Texan’s weekend started with some bad luck when his gear bag was stolen on Friday night as he prepared for the event.

Rutkowski had to scramble to find replacement equipment. He returned to his College Station, Texas, home to get as much gear as possible. His parents delivered an old pair of cleats, and he borrowed enough other things to have himself properly armored and ready to compete against some of the baddest Spanish fighting bulls in the game.

“It was a big event, and I needed to put my foot down on the gas pedal, but I was running pretty hot.” said Rutkowski, who pushed his season earnings to more than $42,000 and increased his lead in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings.

He won his first-round bout with an 87-point fight to advance to the championship round. That’s where he showcased his dominance, almost hovering across the Rodeo Austin Fairgrounds dirt with Rockin’ B & Magnifica’s Cabeza Dura for 91.5 points to win the championship.

“My first bull came out, and I went to his right horn right off the bat, and I could tell he was going to be good,” he said. “He came to me the whole bullfight. He was a great bull, but a younger bull, so he didn’t know a lot and took the fakes real hard.

“My short-round bull was a little hotter.”

Cabeza Dura burst out of the chute and went directly for Rutkowski, who made a flat-footed jump over the bull. From then on, the two combatants went head-to-head for a controlled-yet-wild 40 seconds.

“I threw a fake, and as soon as he went past, he swapped ends,” Rutkowski said of the bull immediately turning around and re-engaging the bullfighter. “That’s when I knew I had the best bull of the night.

“That’s what we train for all year. When you are matched with a bull like that, you better take advantage of him.”

It was a big night for freestyle bullfighting. Not only were there high scores all evening long, but a large crowd gathered at the arena for the wild action.

“For a first-year event, it was really good,” Rutkowski said. “The crowd was packed in there, and it was a great atmosphere all around.”

Other than having all his gear stolen, it was a fairly successful trip to Texas’ capital city. His frustration eventually turned into the motivating factor he needed to come out on top of a talented field of the BFO’s best. Even though he will have to invest a few thousand dollars to replace his gear, he has found the silver lining.

“After I looked for that stuff for an hour, I realized it was gone,” he said. “It’s not the gear that makes you; it’s who you are as a bullfighter. You have to take the punches and roll with it.”

That’s a solid assessment, in the bullfighting arena and life in general.

Round 1: 1. Toby Inman, 80.5 points; 2. Alex McWilliams, 79.5; 3. Tanner Zarnetski, 77.

Round 2: 1. Dayton Spiel, 87.5 points; 2. Ray Carlson, 86; 3. Beau Schueth, no score.

Round 3: 1. Justin Josey, 86 points; 2. Zach Call, 83; 3. Kris Furr, 82.

Round 4: 1. Weston Rutkowski, 87 points; 2. Schell Apple, 82; 3. Evan Allard, 80.5.

Championship round: 1. Weston Rutkowski, 91.5 points on Rockin’ B & Magnifica’s Cabeza Dura; 2. Justin Josey, 89.5; 3 Toby Inman, 86; 4. Dayton Spiel, 84.5.

Best trick: Schell Apple with the Superman.

postheadericon Rangers dominant at home

ALVA, Okla. – Stockton Graves likes what he sees in the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo team.

“Both the men and the women are doing outstanding,” said Graves, who witnessed the Rangers men dominate their hometown rodeo this past weekend to win the championship and move into first place in the Central Plains Region. “We consistently have had quite a few kids make the short round all season long and have done well across the board.”

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

The men’s team score 805 points, the most it’s earned through four rodeos this season. They were led by Riley Wakefield of O’Neill, Neb., who earned points in all three of his events: team roping heeling, steer wrestling and tie-down roping. He won the all-around title, as did women’s team member Jenny Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, who earned points in goat-tying and breakaway roping.

Of the men’s points, the lion’s share came in steer wrestling – Alva is already being likened to Checotah, Okla., which is the Steer Wrestling Capital of the World. Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas won both rounds and the average to lead the bulldoggers; Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, placed second and Wakefield third.

“Cody has been a big benefit to the team,” Graves said. “His goal is to win the region, and that’s what he’s doing. Everybody else is just following suit.”

Cody Devers

Cody Devers

Also in the mix were Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa, who finished fifth, and Bridger Anderson of Carrington, N.D., placed sixth.

“I didn’t realize we were doing so good until I saw that we had seven out of 10 bulldoggers in the short round,” Graves said. “I’m really proud of them, because they put it all together.”

That seemed to be the theme, but it was vital for both the men and women in their races toward the regional title. The men now own a 113.33-point lead over the second-place team and will have a four-month break before returning to competition in late February.

Wakefield and his header, Jayden Johnson of Casper, Wyo., finished second in team roping, and Wakefield also captured points for finishing in a three-way tie for fifth place in tie-down roping. He was joined in the short round by fellow tie-down ropers Ethan Price of Leedey, Okla., who finished third in the opening round, and Harper, who placed third in the opener and sixth overall.

Jenny Massing

Jenny Massing

“I think the main difference in this year’s team are the multi-event cowboys – Riley, Maverick, Bubba (Allred of Kanarraville, Utah) and Ethan – have done a great job of getting points in multiple events,” Graves said. “That helps so much.”

For the women, Massing earned the bulk of her points in breakaway roping. She placed in both rounds and finished tied for fourth in the average. She also finished in a tie for fifth in the first round of goat-tying.

Cassy Woodward of DuPree, S.D., led the barrel-racing contingent by finishing third in both rounds and the average. Ashlyn Moeder of Oakley, Kan., placed twice and finished fourth, while Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., placed second in the opening round.

“Jenny has really come around this year,” Graves said. “I think she’s improved most in barrel racing, because she’s got a new horse. Goat-tying has been her main event, but she’s roping really well, too. It’s all coming together for her.”

It seems to be coming around for all the Rangers, and they hope to keep the momentum going their way when the spring portion of the season begins in February.

postheadericon Sosebee ready to entertain Claremore

Cody Sosebee will be on hand to entertain the fans at the inaugural Claremore's Extreme Roughstock, which takes place Saturday at the Claremore Expo Center.

Cody Sosebee will be on hand to entertain the fans at the inaugural Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock, which takes place Saturday at the Claremore Expo Center.

CLAREMORE, Okla. – There is one good reason Cody Sosebee has been nominated five times as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Clown of the Year.

He’s funny.

“I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if people don’t buy into you, they’re not going to buy what you’re selling,” said Andy Stewart, a ProRodeo announcer who will be the voice of Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock presented by the Kubota Center of Oklahoma. “That’s where Cody is one of the best; he’s such a likeable guy. What you see in the arena is him all the time. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself.”

That’s a key ingredient that Sosebee brings to the table at the inaugural event, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov 4, at the Claremore Expo Center.

“Maybe someone in the crowd is feeling bad about themselves, maybe their job or their body or their marriage,” Stewart said. “When Cody steps into the arena, people tend to relax and think, ‘I feel comfortable with him; he’s just like us.’ Through making fun of himself, we’re laughing at ourselves. That’s a very unique trait that he has that makes him a really special clown.”

In addition to his clowning nomination, the former competitor also has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year two of the past three seasons. But there’s much more to Sosebee than meets the eye. Over his lifetime, he’s competed in nearly every rodeo event possible and was at the top of his game in bareback riding.

It’s part of the life growing up in a family that was heavily involved in rodeo. His father was a pickup man, so Sosebee has been part of the sport as long as he can remember.

“I got into clowning by accident by filling in for guys,” said Sosebee, from the tiny community of Charleston, Ark., just 25 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark. “I didn’t know where I was going to go with my rodeo career when I quit riding barebacks, and it turned into a good living. I get to see the world.”

A born competitor, the clown has made the adjustments he needed to get the true fix after a lifetime of being part of the contest.

“I’ve always been a competitor in anything I did, from football to basketball to when I was in freestyle bullfighting,” said Sosebee, who has been selected to work as the barrelman at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December. “I miss putting my hand in the riggin’ and nodding my head to be 80 points to win the rodeo, but I’m a realist. I’m 43 years old. While most of the guys I rodeoed with have slowed down and have found jobs, I get to be in the arena and get to make a living in rodeo doing something I love.”

Sosebee also plays to his strengths. Bigger than many in the game, he showcases a true athleticism that is rarely seen among men of his stature. It’s comedy at the purest level.

“Having the ability to laugh at myself is probably my biggest strength,” he said. “I don’t take anything too serious. When I’m watching a comedian, the funniest thing I see is when they’re honestly open and having a good time.”

That’s why Sosebee has excelled as one of the premier rodeo clowns in the game.

postheadericon Bullfights to be part of Claremore event

Ray Carlson will be one of the five men who will be part of the freestyle bullfighting during Claremore's Extreme Roughstock, set for Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Claremore Expo Center. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TEXAS GREASEPAINT TOUR)

Ray Carlson will be one of the five men who will be part of the freestyle bullfighting during Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock, set for Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Claremore Expo Center. (PHOTO COURTESY OF TEXAS GREASEPAINT TOUR)

CLAREMORE, Okla. – It takes a special person to stand toe to toe with a raging bull.

Five men who possess that personality will be part of Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock presented by the Kubota Center of Oklahoma, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov 4, at the Claremore Expo Center.

In addition to the action of bull riding and saddle bronc riding, this event that supports the Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma will also feature freestyle bullfighting through the Texas Greasepaint Tour.

“This is going to feature Mexican fighting bulls and five guys all going head to head,” said Danny Mathews, president of the tour.

Though not new to rodeo, freestyle bullfighting is going through a resurgence. It’s a classic example of man vs. beast, similar to the days of the gladiators. It’s high energy and dangerous, as the athletes try to maneuver around the agile bulls while staying just out of harm’s way.

“Traditionally we’ve see bulls that weigh 700 to 800 pounds, but the ones we will have in Claremore are going to be 1,300 to 1,400 pounds,” said Jerry Don Galloway, the association’s vice president and one of the original men on the Wrangler Bullfight Tour in the early 1980s. “These bulls are bigger, faster and hotter, and this has gotten bullfighting to where it’s like a danger zone.”

The five combatants are all Oklahomans, and they will battle for the title at the inaugural Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock: Ray Carlson, Tanner Brantley, Colton Moler, Dylan Idleman and J.F. Roch.

Each will battle their bulls for the mandatory 40 seconds. A horn will sound at that point, and the bullfighter will then have another 20 seconds to put the finishing touches on his bout. Scores are based on a 100-point scale, with half being for the bullfighter and half for the animal.

“The original bullfighting tour was started in 1981, because the highlight of every rodeo was the last bull out every night would turn out to be a fighting bull,” Galloway said. “We just cut the sheets and went straight to the showcase by having these bullfights.

“It’s 60 seconds of run for your life.”

The action will be extreme, but that’s what drives the bullfighters. They know in order to win events like this, they must get as close to danger as possible. One misstep could prove costly. Wrecks are likely to happen, but that’s the draw for fans who want to see quality bullfights.

“This will be my first trip to Claremore,” Galloway said. “I think it’s going to be a really fun event.”

postheadericon Animals key to roughstock event

Bronc riding is the classic event in rodeo, and it will be a major part of the inaugural Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock on Nov. 4. (RIC ANDERSEN PHOTO)

CLAREMORE, Okla. – It’s the match-ups that oftentimes make up the best story lines for cowboys who ride bucking horses and bulls for a living.

There will be some outstanding ones at Claremore’s Extreme Roughstock presented by the Kubota Center of Oklahoma, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov 4, at the Claremore Expo Center. The event, which benefits the Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma, will feature some of the best athletes in the sport.

Not all of them are the cowboys.

“It’s an honor to be part of the contractors that are coming,” said Cody May, who is with Lightning C Cattle Co., a Claremore bull company who has had several award-winners among its herd. “We will be joining some of these other contractors that have had animals selected to the NFR several times.

“It’s an elite thing. Not everybody gets to take their bulls to this event. I’m expecting some great things out of this event.”

Lightning C will be joined by three other top contractors: Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, Big Rafter Rodeo and bull specialist Scott Burruss. All have had their animals at the National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale.

The mix of those contractors will make each ride a spectacle. With each ride being judged on a 100-point scale, half the score comes from the animal, and the other half comes from the rider. When the two are in sync, it makes for a wild night.

“I like to see our bulls ridden for a lot of points,” May said. “It makes me think I’m doing my job well, especially if the score is 90 points or above. But you also want to test the cowboys, so you’re going to see some big buckoffs, too. That’s just part of the game.

“To me, I want to see guys win rounds, win the world titles on my bulls.”

That’s why organizer David Petty is bringing in so many livestock producers. He knows the more top-quality animals that are in the mix, the better the action is going to be. It’s attractive to the cowboys and to the fans alike.

“We wanted to focus on the bronc riding and bull riding, because they are cornerstone events in rodeo,” Petty said. “These animals that will be in Claremore will be the best of the best, and that’s exciting.”

Yes, it is.

postheadericon Braden closes finale with big win

DUNCAN, Okla. – Hardy Braden had a fairly comfortable lead in the regional saddle bronc riding standings coming into the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

Colt Gordon took Braden out of his comfort zone by winning the first two go-rounds and closing the gap. But Braden put the finishing touches to a terrific campaign on Saturday night at the Stephens County Arena. He matched moves with New Frontier Rodeo’s Toy Box for 84.5 points to win the third go-round.

When Gordon bucked off a ride later, that secured Braden’s second year-end championship and third circuit finals average title.

Hardy Braden

Hardy Braden

“Colt made it a scary race,” said Braden, 28, of Welch, Okla. “I knew he had a good one tonight, and I knew this race was going to be tight. It’s fun and it sure gets your motor running. A guy wants to do his best, but when you have that kind of pressure, you either deal with it or you don’t.

“I like to deal with pressure.”

Braden won $6,531 in Duncan and pushed his 2017 circuit earnings to $25,603.

“My whole goal was to try to make the circuit finals, and things over the summer went great,” he said. “We came in good. I drew one horse this weekend that wasn’t the most desirable, but I tried to make the best of it. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s just going to boost me right into the NFR.”

For the first time in his eight-year career, he has earned the right to compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s world championship that takes place Dec. 7-16 in Las Vegas. For now, though, he’s going to celebrate the circuit title and placing his name alongside some of the greatest bronc riders in the sport’s history.

“Back when my dad was riding at the circuit finals, you had a bunch of guys that were going to the NFR regularly,” said Braden, whose father, Butch, was a circuit finals’ qualifier before he became a pickup man. “I think it seemed like it slacked off there for a little while, but we’re starting to see it coming back. Plus we’ve got some young guys that are coming up that will be at the NFR before too long.”

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

Steer wrestler Stockton Graves is no stranger to the NFR. He’s been there seven times. For now, though, he focuses on competing in the circuit. On Saturday night, he earned his sixth year-end title and seventh average championship. He won the round with a 4.2-second run. That’s not too bad for a 38-year-old cowboy.

“I don’t feel like a kid anymore,” said Graves of Alva, Okla. “I am just glad to be able to bulldog with these guys. I’m blessed to come in and have a good circuit finals. Duncan’s been great to me.”

Yes, it has. He has won four straight year-end titles, and the last four average championships came inside the Stephens County Arena. It’s like a home away from home.

Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
Oct. 19-21
Duncan, Okla.
Bareback riding: First round:
1. Garrett Shadbolt, 79.5 points on Silver Creek Rodeo’s Super Soaker, $1,802; 2. Jared Keylon, 79, $1,351; 3. (tie) Blaine Kaufman and Justin Pollmiller, 78, $676 each. Second round: 1. Steven Dent, 84.5 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s High Motion, $1,802; 2. Garrett Shadbolt, 78.5, $1,351; 3. Blaine Kaufman, 76.5, $901; 4. Nate McFadden, 75, $450. Third round: 1. Steven Dent, 83.5 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Nutrena’s Pebbles, $1,802; 2. Blaine Kaufman, 80, $1,351; 3. (tie) Jared Keylon and Caine Riddle, 79.5, $676 each. Average: 1. Steven Dent, 237 points on three rides, $2,702; 2. Garrett Shadbolt, 235, $2,027; 3. Blaine Kaufman, 234.5, $1,351; 4. Jared Keylon, 231.5, $676. Year-end champion: Steven Dent.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Stockton Graves, 3.9 seconds, $1,802; 2. Jacob Edler, 4.5, $1,351; 3. J.D. Struxness, 4.8, $901; 4. Trell Etbuer, 5.1, $490. Second round: 1. Tanner Bruner, 4.0 seconds, $1,802; 2. Cole Edge, 4.3, $1,351; 3. Jule Hazen, 4.6, $901; 4. Blake Mindemann, 4.8, $450. Third round: 1. Stockton Graves, 4.2 seconds, $1,802; 2. Blake Mindemann, 5.0, $1,351; 3. Jule Hazen, 5.1, $901; 4. Trever Nelson, 5.5, $450. Average: 1. Stockton Graves, 13.6 seconds on three runs, $2,702; 2. Blake Mindemann, 16.0, $2,027; 3. Brady McFarren, 16.1, $1,351; 4. Jule Hazen, 16.2, $676. Year-end champion: Stockton Graves.

Team roping: First round: 1. Bubba Buckaloo/Joseph Harrison, 5.9 seconds, $1,802 each; 2. (tie) Casey Hicks/Braden Harmon and Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 6.4, $1,126 each; 4. Blake Hughes/Brady Norman, 6.5, $450. Second round: 1. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 4.7 seconds, $1,802 each; 2. Dylan Gordon/Hunter Koch, 5.4, $1,351; 3. Zac Small/Buddy Hawkins II, 5.6, $901; 4. (tie) Blake Hughes/Brady Norman and Coleman Proctor/Billie Jack Saebens, $225 each. Third round: 1. Brett Christensen/Dawson McMaster, 5.1 seconds, $1,802; 2. Bubba Buckaloo/Joseph Harrison, 5.7, $1,351; 3. Jesse Stipes/Jake Smith, 5.8, $901; 4. Zac Small/Buddy Hawkins II, 5.9, $450. Average: 1. Jesse Stipes/Jake Smith, 18.4 seconds on three runs, $2,702; 2. Casey Hicks/Braden Harmon, 19.6, $2,027; 3. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 20.2, $1,351; 4. Zac Small/Buddy Hawkins II, 21.9, $676. Year-end champions: Andrew Ward and Reagan Ward

Saddle bronc riding: First round: 1. Colt Gordon, 83 points on Silver Creek Rodeo’s Birthday Suit, $1,802; 2. Hardy Braden, 82.5, $1,351; 3. Jake Finlay, 79, $901; 4. Preston Kafka, 78, $450. Second round: 1. Colt Gordon, 79.5 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Pop a Top, $1,802; 2. Shade Etbauer, 78, $1,351; 3. (tie) Dalton Davis and Hardy Braden, 77.5, $676 each. Third round: 1. Hardy Braden, 84.5 points on New Frontier Rodeo’s Toy Box, $1,802; 2. Tyrel Larsen 84, $1,351; 3. Dalton Davis, 80, $901; 4. Jake Finlay, 79, $450. Average: 1. Hardy Braden, 244.5 points on three rides, $2,702; 2. Tyrel Larsen, 234.5, $2,026; 3. Dalton Davis, 232.5, $1,351; 4. Preston Kafka, 219, $676. Year-end champion: Hardy Braden.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. (tie) Tyler Milligan, Cody Quaney and Ryan Jarrett, 8.1 seconds, $1,351 each; 4. Trent Creager, 8.2, $450. Second round: 1. L.D. Meier, 8.2 seconds, $1,802; 2. Tyler Milligan, 8.5, $1,351; 3. Cody Quaney, 8.8, $901; 4. (tie) Bryson Sechrist and Jerome Schneeberger, 9.7, $225. Third round: 1. Trent Creager, 8.3 seconds, $1,802; 2. Jerome Schneeberger, 8.6, $1,351; 3. L.D. Meier, 8.9, $901; 4. Cody Quaney, 9.4, $450. Average: 1. Cody Quaney, 26.3 seconds on three runs, $2,702; 2. Tyler Milligan, 26.5, $2,027; 3. L.D. Meier, 26.9, $1,351; 4. Bryson Sechrist, 28.5, $676. Year-end champion: Ryan Jarrett.

Barrel racing: First round: 1. Michelle Darling, 16.03 seconds, $1,824; 2. Tracy Nowlin, 16.04, $1,368; 3. Carley Richardson, 16.07, $912; 4. Cayla Small, 16.09, $456. Second round: 1. Carley Richardson, 15.66 seconds, $1,824; 2. Dona Kay Rule, 15.84, $1,368; 3. Korrina Lynn Hughes, 16.03, $912; 4. Tamara Reinhardt, 18.06, $456. Third round: 1. Carley Richardson, 15.94 seconds, $1,824; 2. Cayla Small, 15.89, $1,368; 3. Tamara Reinhardt, 16.03, $912; 4. Cierra Chapman, 16.15, $456. Average: 1. Carley Richardson, 47.67 seconds on three runs, $2,736; 2. Tamara Reinhardt, 48.54, $2,052; 3. Cierra Chapman, 48.85, $1,368; 4. Ivy Hurst, 50.07, $684. Year-end champion: Tracy Nowlin.

Bull riding: First round: 1. Garrett Wickett, 86 points on Beutler & Son Rodeo’s Make My Day, $1,952; 2. Trevor Kastner, 82.5, $1,501; 3. Guthrie Murray, 73, $1,051; no other qualified rides. Second round: 1. Jeston Mead, 85 points on Rafter H Rodeo’s 4K, $2,477; 2. Guthrie Murray, 73.5, $2,027; no other qualified rides. Third round: 1. Trevor Kastner, 82.5 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Poppy, $2,477; 2. Guthrie Murray, 76, $2,027; no other qualified rides. Average: 1. Guthrie Murray, 222.5 points on three rides, $2,702; 2. Trevor Kastner, 165 points on two rides, $2,027; 3. Garrett Wickett, 86 points on one ride, $1,351; 4. Jetson Mead, 85, $676. Year-end champion: Trevor Kastner.

Steer roping: First round: 1. Dee Kyler Jr., 12.9 seconds, $1,692; 2. Mike Chase, 13.1, $1,269; 3. Kelton McMillen, 13.3, $846; 4. Shorty Garten, 14.0, $423. Second round: 1. Brodie Poppino, 11.7 seconds, $1,692; 2. (tie) Mike Chase and Trenton Johnson, 12.1, $1,057; 4. J.P. Wickett, 12.7, $423. Third round: 1. Ralph Williams, 10.5 seconds, $1,692; 2. Kelton McMillen, 11.7, $1,269; 3. Dee Kyler Jr., 12.5, $846; 4. Shorty Garten, 13.3, $423. Average: 1. Dee Kyler Jr., 38.2 seconds on three runs, $2,538; 2. Shorty Garten, 40.7, $1,903; 3. Kelton McMillen, 25.0 seconds on two runs, $1,269; 4. Mike Chase, 25.2, $634. Year-end champion: Chet Herren.

postheadericon An Austin Statement

Beau Schueth will be one of 12 men from Bullfighters Only that will be part of the excitement next Saturday during Bulltober Fest presented by Rodeo Austin. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Beau Schueth will be one of 12 men from Bullfighters Only that will be part of the excitement next Saturday during Bulltober Fest presented by Rodeo Austin. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

The best men from Bullfighters Only will be showcased at Bulltober Fest

AUSTIN, Texas – The chute flies open, and the pounding hooves of a Spanish fighting bull race toward the animal’s intended target.

Those sounds mark the beginning of the bout, and it’s the drawing card for the best in Bullfighters Only to showcase their athleticism. It’s what fans will experience during Bulltober Fest presented by Rodeo Austin, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Rodeo Austin Fairgrounds.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

The stand-alone BFO event will feature 12 of the top bullfighters in the game all vying for their share of the $25,000 purse. This is the greatest showcase of action in all of extreme sports, because it’s a true man-vs.-beast competition.

“You just have to go out and beat your bull,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning BFO world champion who also sits No. 1 in the standings. “Everything else will take care of itself after that.”

Rutkowski is just one of the 12. They will make up four three-man bouts, and the winners will advance to that evening’s championship round where the lion’s share of the money will go to the BFO-Austin champion.

Beau Schueth

Beau Schueth

“I’m very excited about Austin,” said Beau Schueth, the No. 4 man in the standings from O’Neill, Neb. “It will be an awesome event, like all of our stand-alone bullfights. There’s an opportunity to make big moves in the standings.

“Winning Austin could change anybody’s season and move them up into the running for the world championship.”

Before the BFO came on the scene, the rewards for bullfighters were small. Now with the explosion of Bullfighters Only, the athletes are finding great benefits for showcasing their talents.

“You know when you get there that you have to show out just to get in the championship round,” said Justin Josey, the 14th-ranked man from Apache, Okla. “You need to be at your very best at these stand-alone bullfights. You can’t fool around, you have to go out there to win.”

That’s a powerful attitude, but it’s a winning one that every man in the field must have. Going head-to-head with an athletic and agile Spanish fighting bull is dangerous business and bullfighters must utilize every ounce of ability and effort to come out on top.

“Every great guy in the BFO is going to be there,” Schueth said. “It’s not like going up against a few of the best guys; they’re all there. It definitely ups the ante and makes you bring your A game.”

Weston Rutkowski
Toby Inman
Schell Apple
Beau Schueth
Kris Furr
Justin Josey
Zach Call
Tanner Zarnetski
Evan Allard
Dayton Speil
Ray Carlson
Alex McWilliams

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