Sage Kimzey earned his third straight world championship, clinching it with a ride in Saturday’s 10th go-round. The wild night is complete with fantastic races in what might have been the best Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in many years.
Make that two times in 11 years for Mary Burger. The Pauls Valley, Okla., grandmother parlayed big payouts in Houston and Calgary, Alberta, into her second world championship.
Tyson Durfey, who was raised in Savannah, Mo., and now lives in Weatherford, Texas, finished atop the tie-down roping world standings, taking home the gold buckle for the first time in his career.
Team ropers Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler were the first Canadians to ever win titles in their respective divisions, but they weren’t the only ones to claim the world title.
They are joined by Zeke Thurston, who won the bronc riding title.
Oh, and that all-around world champ? That’s Brazilian Junior Nogueira.
1. J.D. Struxness, 3.9 seconds, $26,231, 2. Matt Reeves, 4.00, $20,731, 3. (tie) Trevor Knowles, Josh Peek, Riley Duvall and Dakota Eldridge, 4.2, $9,413 each.
Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler won the average and world titles
1. R.C. Landingham, on Pickett Rodeo’s Top Flight, 88.5 points, $26,231, 2. Wyatt Denny, 88, $20,731, 3. Evan Jayne, 87, $15,654, 4. (tie) Tim O’Connell and Orin Larsen, 85, $8,885 each, 6. Jake Vold, 84.5, $4,231.
Texas man wins BFO Las Vegas Championship, pockets $21,500 in Sin City
LAS VEGAS – For Weston Rutkowski, Saturday was more than redemption.
It was a mission accomplished.
Rutkowski is a 27-year-old freestyle bullfighter who is chasing the first true world championship in nearly two decades, and he made a big move toward that by winning the Bullfighters Only Las Vegas Championship, pocketing $15,000 and grabbing the title belt.
“This is those earning mornings you get up to put in the work is paying off,” he said. “It’s a satisfying feeling to know you are reaping what you sow when you get here.”
He put the finishing touches to a marvelous run in the City of Lights with a 90,5-point fight with 12x and Costa Fighting Bulls’ Bad Intentions on Saturday morning at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. He finished his stay in Las Vegas by earning $21,500 – he won his second straight Roughy Cup last week, worth $6,000, and also collected $500 for winning his first-round set this past Wednesday.
That pushes his season earnings to $41,825 and gives him a commanding lead in the race toward the inaugural Bullfighters Only world title.
“This is the next step,” Rutkowski said. “Every day is a new goal. I’m going to celebrate this one, because I came here with the mindset to win both of them.
“Tomorrow we get ready to fight the next bull and finish out the season as the first BFO world champ. I have put myself in position to do that, but it’s not over yet.”
The Las Vegas Championship was a tournament-style competition. Nine men qualified for Saturday’s final day, which featured three three-man bouts. The winners of each set advanced to the short round.
Rutkowski posted the highest score of the opening round with an 87-point fight to advance.
“I knew he was a good bull, but that dude was hot,” he said, explaining that the animal was aggressive and remained in close contact with Rutkowski throughout the one-minute bout. “You can’t let that wig out your mind out. You have to focus on those moments of chaos.”
It worked, and he was matched in the championship round with Nebraskans Beau Schueth and Zach Call. That’s when Rutkowski stepped up his game with Bad Intentions, starting the fight with his back facing the bull, jumping up and allowing the animal to run between his legs.
“It’s called the Ol Swoosh,” he said of the move. “Chuck Swisher and Dusty Tuckness came up with it a few years ago. I haven’t done that move since 2014.
“I had two of the best guys in the world that were part of the short round. I had to ante up. There’s no way you’re going to become the champ in any event if you’re not willing to sacrifice.”
Those sacrifices are paying off in a big way.
LAS VEGAS – For three straight nights, J.D. Struxness was the hottest cowboy at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He won at least a share of the title in Rounds 3-5 and pocketed just shy of $76,000 for doing so. But his hot streak turned cold in Round 6. Like his run earlier in the week, the cold front stuck around for three straight nights.
He turned the heater back on with a 4.5-second run on Friday night to finish fourth in on Night 9 of ProRodeo’s grand finale. He added $11,000 to his NFR earnings, which have exceeded $100,000.
“When I missed that steer right after my hot streak, that threw a loop into things,” said Struxness, 22, of Appleton, Minn. “We came back and had a fluke thing happen in Round 7. That steer didn’t leave like he was supposed to, and I broke the barrier.”
The barrier line provides the animals a head start in the timed events. When he broke that line, he was saddled with a 10-second penalty. Without that, he would have finished third that night. Instead, he failed to earn any NFR cash.
“That happens, and we bulldogged good that round,” said Struxness, who attended Missouri Valley College and is a senior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he won the college championship this past June. “(Friday) night I got a pretty good start and was able to make a good run and get some money out of it.”
Nobody should complain about earning six figures in nine days, but the young Minnesota cowboy was in the middle of a world championship race at the midway point of the NFR. He has pocketed $186,406 this season and sits third on the money list, but he is mathematically eliminated from grabbing the gold buckle.
Still, he has a chance to pad his pocketbook even more during Saturday’s final round, the last night of the 2016 season.
“We’ve got $26,000 more to run at, so we’ll try to get a start and see what we can do,” he said.
He’s done it before, so there’s no reason for him to believe anything else.
LAS VEGAS – Ty Breuer has ridden pretty well at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, though the statistics may not show it.
Through nine rounds of ProRodeo’s premier event, the Mandan, N.D., bareback rider has placed four times. He hasn’t had that big-hitter that contestants dream of when they arrive in the Nevada desert, but he’s earned money.
He has nickeled-and-dimed his way to $43,212 and has one night remaining in his season. That’s one more chance to reach for that $26,231 payout to the top finisher.
“It feels like it’s coming around, and it feels like I’m riding like I like to,” said Breuer, who entered the finale 12th in the world standings and has moved up one spot with $114,330 in earnings. “It’s starting to feel better.
“For the first couple of rounds, I don’t know if I was nervous or what. I wasn’t on top of my game, that’s for sure.”
The bright lights of Las Vegas can be blinding at times. The NFR is the sport’s super bowl, and the pressures that come with playing in the biggest game of the year – for 10 straight nights – can be great.
This marks Breuer’s second trip to the NFR – he earned the right to compete in 2013. At that championship, he placed in just one round as he battled an injury. He’s fared considerably better. He showed that with an 83.5-point ride on Wayne Vold Rodeo’s True Grit to finish sixth on Friday night.
“I’ve seen that horse in Canada a couple of times, and he was outstanding,” he said. “I was excited to get on that horse.”
He finishes his season Saturday night and has been matched with Flying U Rodeo’s Lil Red Hawk, the same horse Canadian Jake Vold won the fourth round on this past Sunday. He’d like to follow in Vold’s footsteps and walk away from the 10th night with a go-round buckle.
“I want one of those bad,” Breuer said. “We’ll see what happens, but that’s the plan.”
It would be the perfect way to close out another strong campaign.