Rodeo Grand Island News Roundup

Xtreme Bulls Tour


Grand Island, Neb., March 4


Bull riding: 1. Bart Miller, 86.5 points on Summit Pro Rodeo's Red Image, $3,948; 2. Sage Kimzey, 85.5, $3,027; 3. Kyle Zeigler, 84.5, $2,237; 4. Jeston Mead, 84, $1,448; 5. Garrett Smith, 83.5, $921; 6. Dustin Boquet, 83, $658; 7. Corey Atwell, 82.5, $526; 8. (tie) Cole Melancon and Boudreaux Campbell, 81.5, $197 each. 


Total payoff: $13,160. Stock contractors: Brookman Rodeo, Summit Pro Rodeo, Bailey Pro Rodeo, New Frontier Rodeo, Sutton Rodeos and Stace Smith Pro Rodeos. Rodeo secretary: Jackie Higlin. Officials: Steve Knowles, Skip Emmett and Darin Boots. Timers: Kim Sutton and Amy Muller. Announcer: Wayne Brooks. Specialty acts: Loop Rawlins Hong and Keith Isley. Bullfighters: Daryl Thiessen, Nathan Jestes and Cooper Waln. Clown/barrelman: Keith Isley. Flankmen: Kenny Barringer, Shane Gunderson, Brice Sutton and Jesse Hill. Pickup men: Brent Sutton and Mike Greenleaf. Photographer: Roseanna Sales. Music director: Joshua Hilton. 

Click here for a directory of PRCA Photographers

Wrangler Champions Challenge


Grand Island, Neb., March 3


All-around cowboy: Clayton Hass, $928, steer wrestling and team roping.


Bareback riding: 1. Orin Larsen, 88 points on J Bar J's Blessed Assurance, $3,944; 2. Tanner Aus, 86.5, $3,016; 3. Steven Dent, 85, $2,204; 4. Caleb Bennett, 84.5, $1,508; 5. R.C. Landingham, 84, $928. 


Steer wrestling: 1. Dakota Eldridge, 4.1 seconds, $3,944; 2. Jason Thomas, 4.3, $3,016; 3. Luke Branquinho, 4.4, $2,204; 4. Baylor Roche, 4.7, $1,508; 5. Clayton Hass, 6.3, $928. 


Team roping: 1. Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza, 4.8 seconds, $3,944 each; 2. Levi Simpson/Jeremy Buhler, 5.4, $3,016; 3. Dustin Egusquiza/Kory Koontz, 6.0, $2,204; 4. Luke Brown/Jake Long, 6.3, $1,508; 5. Travis Tryan/Chase Tryan, 7.2, $928. 


Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jake Wright, 88.5 points on Brookman Rodeo's Drinking Again, $3,944; 2. Jacobs Crawley, 84, $3,016; 3. Cody Wright, 83.5, $2,204; 4. Jesse Wright, 82, $1,508; 5. Audy Reed, 81.5, $928. 


Tie-down roping: 1. Tuf Cooper, 7.3 seconds, $3,944; 2. Tyson Durfey, 7.9, $3,016; 3. Caleb Smidt, 8.4, $2,204; 4. J.C. Malone, 8.7, $1,508; 5. Bryson Sechrist, 10.7, $928. 


Barrel racing: 1. Tiany Schuster, 13.76 seconds, $3,944; 2. Kathy Grimes, 13.82, $3,016; 3. Pamela Capper, 13.91, $2,204; 4. Ivy Conrado, 14.00, $1,508; 5. Kimmie Wall, 14.02, $928. 


Bull riding: 1. Cole Melancon, 88 points on Summit Pro Rodeo's Red Image, $3,944; 2. (tie) Trey Benton III and Sage Kimzey, 85.5, $2,610 each; 4. Garrett Smith, 82.5, $1,508; 5. Dustin Bowen, 80.5, $928. 


Total payoff: $92,800. Stock contractor: Sutton Rodeos. Sub-contractors: Bailey Pro Rodeo, New Frontier Rodeo, Brookman Rodeo, Dakota Rodeo, J Bar J and Summit Pro Rodeo. Rodeo secretary: Jackie Higlin. Officials: Steve Knowles, Darin Boots and Skip Emmett. Timers: Amy Muller and Kim Sutton. Announcer: Wayne Brooks. Specialty acts: Keith Isley and Loop Rawlins Hong. Bullfighters: Cooper Waln, Nathan Jestes and Daryl Thiessen. Clown/barrelman: Keith Isley. Flankmen: Sparky Dreesen, Shane Gunderson, Kenny Barringer and Eric Jensen. Pickup men: Brent Sutton and Mike Greenleaf. Photographer: Roseanna Sales. Music director: Joshua Hilton.

Cowboys hold on for a wild ride at Rodeo Grand Island

Broncs, bulls and brawn were in full force Friday at the Rodeo Grand Island at the Heartland Events Center.

Rodeo Grand Island hosted professional bull riders, bareback bronc riders and more for the 2017 Wrangler Champions Challenge.

Chairs were nearly full as many awaited the rodeo stars. Steve and Kristin Fay of Cody, Neb. brought their two sons, Hesston and Cooper, and their sons’ friend, Carson Lancaster.

The family celebrated Cooper’s 11th birthday by getting rodeo tickets. Hesston, 9, Carson, 10, and Cooper all sat in their seats, equipped with soft pretzels and cheese, before the rodeo began.

Hesston and Cooper, who were clad in button-up shirts and sleek cowboy hats, were especially excited to see a few of their favorite rodeo stars. The pair lit up with excitement when talking about how much they love the rodeo.

“My favorite is the saddle bronc,” Cooper said.

Lancaster and Hesston said they liked the bull riding the best. Cooper would get to see his favorite event first, while the other two boys waited until the very end to see the bull riders.

Steve Fay competed in the Rodeo Grand Island Ranch Rodeo held Thursday night. He competed with the Valentine Livestock team, who placed second. Ranching and rodeo could be in Hesston and Cooper’s blood, but Steve said he’d let them make their own path.

“Whatever they want to do,” Steve said of his sons’ futures.

The boys said they love rodeo and admire many of the world-champion rodeo stars they’d soon see.

Orin Larsen, 25, of Inglis, Manitoba, was just one of many talented riders present on Friday night. Larsen is twice a college champion and a young, but accomplished rider. He is a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. Larsen, who now lives in Gering, Neb., said he was happy to be competing in Grand Island.

Though he’s originally from Canada, Larsen said competing in Central Nebraska is “pretty special.”

“It’s kind of like a hometown rodeo,” Larsen, who recently competed in Arlington, Texas, said.

Larsen’s dad used to ride bulls in the 1970s and 1980s. Larsen has two brothers that also compete in rodeo. He said he started out as a kid riding sheep, then steers before he worked his way up to bareback broncs. He’s been riding bareback broncs for about 10 years, he said.

Physically, Larsen said he prepares for bareback bronc riding by stretching well. He said his event is considered a younger man’s sport and is the most physically demanding sport compared to other rodeo events.

“It’s harder on your body than everything else,” Larsen said.

He said staying healthy is important for those who compete in rodeo. He tries not to get jerked by the horse, but he said “it’s just kind of part of it.”

“If we get injured and go home, we don’t get a paycheck. So it’s vital to stay healthy,” Larsen said.

The secret to mentally prepare? Larsen said he tries to keep a clear mind when riding the bucking horse.

”As far as your mindset goes, it’s pretty blank honestly,” Larsen said. “You don’t want to think too much, because then you’ll think on the horse and you’ll already be two steps behind.”

If he doesn’t keep a clear mind, “I usually get drilled on the ground pretty hard.”

Larsen was probably once a lot like Hesston, Cooper and Carson, looking up to rodeo competitors. Larsen was the second rider of the night, as bareback broncs went first. He shifted forward and backward along with the bucking horse. His white cowboy hat flew off his head and landed in the dirt. He ended up winning the event with an 87-point ride. Larsen said he loves getting to work in front of a crowd.

“As soon as you hear the roar of the crowd, there’s nothing like it,” Larsen said. “I’m very fortunate to do what I do for the sheer fact that I get up in the morning and I love what I do.”

Nation’s best bull riders bring 8 seconds of ultimate excitement to G.I.


  • Some of the world’s top professional rodeo bull riders were at the Heartland Events Center on Saturday night for the first-time PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour.

The PRCA Xtreme Bulls event was part of the three-day Tom Dinsdale Rodeo Grand Island extravaganza. Saturday’s Xtreme Bulls event was sponsored by First National Bank.

In a touching tribute prior to the beginning of the bull riding event, the evening prayer was a recording by the late Hadley Barrett, the voice of rodeos across Nebraska and the country. The North Platte native recently passed away at age 87.

Steve and Kim Sutton of the South Dakota-based Sutton Rodeo are the rodeo’s promoters.

Steve Sutton said Saturday night’s event featured 40 of the best bull riders in the nation, competing for $18,000 in prize money. The bull riders advance to the national finals according to money earned by September. The top 15 bull riders advance the to the national finals in Las Vegas, Nev.

Sutton said 90 bull riders entered the event, but it was sorted down to 40 based on those who, to date, have won the most money on the bull riding circuit.

The object of bull riding is to stay on the bull for a full eight seconds. Sutton said there are two judges who determine the best riders based on both the rider’s and the bull’s performances. He said scores between 78 to 90 are common and most winners usually score in the upper 80s. Each of the bull riders has only one ride.

Sutton said when it comes to bull riding, “anything can happen on a given night.”

The 50 bulls that Sutton brought to Grand Island had been rested from more than a week.

“They got to town quick enough to rest,” Sutton said. “There are a lot of what I call ‘jockeys’ instead of cowboys, and some of them ride different than the others and they don’t fit the style of the animal.”

Usually the biggest indicator of an animal’s behavior, he said, is how the bull rider rides the animal. “There are a lot of variables but the animal, a lot of times, get the blame,” Sutton said.

A lot of the riders were wearing helmets. Sutton said riders are required to wear a helmet when they rode in high school rodeo events and continued to do so when they became professionals. He said it is not mandatory, however.

“If the bull has a habit throwing you down on your head, they’ll wear a helmet,” he said. “It is like playing defense. If the bull makes a move, you have to go out and either match the move or beat it or whatever, or you’ll hit the ground.”

Bull riding has rightfully been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.” Riders generally weigh around 150 to 165 pounds and they are matching their skills with 2,000-pound bulls.

With many of riders traveling to rodeos across the country, it is not unusual for them to compete between 100 to 130 times during the season.

“They have to be in good shape and they work out every day,” Sutton said. “It is just like basketball or football. If you are in shape and you have a long night, you are going to get up the next day and go again. If things don’t go right, you are going to be sore for a day or two.”

During the event, riders mount a bull and grip a flat, braided rope. When they secure a good grip, they nod to signal they are ready and the bucking chute opens with rider and bull storming out into the arena. The animals test all the skills of the riders as they buck, rear, kick, spin and twist in an effort to throw the rider off.

Sutton said the typical bull rider goes through that routine almost every third day during the year.

“I feel like if you are in the rodeo business at the professional level, you will have 10 to 18 superstar bulls,” he said. “I knew I needed 50 bulls for this rodeo. So I had five different contractors to bring their 10 best bulls so the cowboy has a better chance to make sure the fans get a better show. That is what this Xtreme Bulls is all about.”

One of the top riders at the event Saturday was Rorey Maier of Timber Lake, S.D. He turned professional at age 18 and has now been at for about 11 years. He has always been a bull rider.

“My family was in the rodeo business and bull riding was just the best event that I did,” Maier said.

Last year Maier said he entered 117 rodeos. He estimated that he probably rides 150 to 200 bulls per year.


Prior to coming to Grand Island, he was entered in a rodeo in Texas. After he leaves Grand Island, he’ll return to Texas for another rodeo next week.

“I’m on the road almost all year,” Maier said.

He said a good rider never takes any ride for granted — carelessness can lead to injury.

“You have to bring your A-game every time,” Maier said. “What is great about this sport is there are no days off and it is all-out every day.”

Maier said he works out often to stay in shape, from running to a lot of body weight exercises and high-intensity workouts.

“Each rider has his own approach to the game,” he said. “We don’t have any coach or anything, so we do whatever it takes for us to win.”

Over the years, Maier has had his share of injuries from riding bulls. He now wears a helmet.

“I didn’t used to wear one but I have worn one now for quite a few years,” he said. “It protects you from a lot of small stuff likes stitches and things like that. It is still dangerous, but it something that helps you avoid serious injuries.”

Maier is 29 years old. How much longer does he think he can continue to ride? “I don’t think there is really a set answer for that.”

“It is all about how much you desire it and how much you want to do it,” Maier said. “That is the real factor in it. Obviously, your body can get worn out but realistically, most guys call it quits in their mid- to upper 30s.”

Larsen wins second consecutive Champions Challenge 

Courtesy PRCA (

Courtesy PRCA (

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. – Bareback rider Orin Larsen is two-for-two after winning his second consecutive Wrangler Champions Challenge presented by Justin Boots event. 

“It’s neat to win two of them back-to-back, and definitely a rewarding feeling for me,” Larsen said, following his Grand Island, Neb., victory. “I hope to do it for the next six or so Champions Challenges. It’s a great opportunity to win more money and get to the Finals.”

The 25-year-old Canadian member of Team Coors covered J Bar J’s Blessed Assurance with 87 points, a nearly identical performance to his winning 86-point ride at the Rapid City, S.D., Champions Challenge on Feb. 1

“It (Blessed Assurance) was a wild little horse – circled around and came to the right and was pretty exotic,” Larsen said. “Just a fun horse to get on.”

Competition was tight and the stock was rank, so Larsen had to bring his A-game to come out on top. 

“It was a great group of guys and a great group of horses – it was phenomenal bareback riding,” Larsen said. “The stock was all awesome, you could win on any of them, I thought.” 

Larsen wasn’t exaggerating, as the Top 5 bareback rides were all 84 points or better and the second-place score was a mere point-and-a-half behind him. 

“I try not to be surprised about a win – we are all expected to win and ride at our best, and everyone rode outstanding,” Larsen said. “It’s a relief, but I feel like it wasn’t unexpected.

“It’s always a huge confidence boost to get a win under your belt. It’s like a hometown win, really – me and my fiancée bought a place and have been living in Gering (Neb.) for almost exactly a year.” 

Larsen’s hitting the road for more rodeos, with Arcadia, Fla., Montgomery, Ala., and Austin, Texas, next on his list. 

“I’m going to keep picking away and hopefully enough to make it back to Vegas,” Larsen said. “I haven’t had very good winter runs, so I was hoping for this. It will help going into the spring and the rest of the year.” 

Larsen was No. 3 in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings in 2016, and is confident this year will go just as well. 

“That’s what I’m banking on, nod for 90 or go down swinging,” Larsen said. 

Other winners at the $92,800 rodeo were Team Coors all-around cowboy Clayton Hass ($928 in steer wrestling and team roping), Team Coors bareback rider Orin Larsen (88 points on J Bar J’s Blessed Assurance), Team B&W Trailer Hitches steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge (4.1 seconds), Team Coors team ropers Dustin Bird/Russell Cardoza (4.8 seconds), Team PRCA saddle bronc rider Jake Wright (88.5 points on Brookman Rodeo’s Drinking Again), Team Experience Kissimmee tie-down roper Tuf Cooper (7.3 seconds), Team Justin Boots barrel racer Tiany Schuster (13.76 seconds) and Team RAM bull rider Cole Melancon (88 points on Summit Pro Rodeo’s Red Image). 

For more coverage of the Grand Island WCC, check out the March 17 issue of ProRodeo Sports News. 

Rodeo Grand Island could start a new tradition


Some of the most thrilling, harrowing action in sports is coming to Grand Island today.

Rodeo Grand Island, presented by Tom Dinsdale, opens today at the Heartland Events Center and continues through Saturday.

The event will bring some of rodeo’s top stars and athletes to Grand Island. And a top-flight rodeo such as this has long been sought by Grand Island. The event should draw good crowds and be filled with plenty of action.

The toughest eight seconds in sports will take place Saturday when 40 top bull-riding contestants will jump on the backs of some of the meanest bulls out there in the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour.

This is thrilling, not just for the ride, but for the period after, when the rider gets out of the way of the bull as the animal is distracted by rodeo clowns and others.

On Friday will be the traditional rodeo fare in the PRCA Wrangler Champions Challenge. Bucking broncs, steer wrestling, roping, racing and other events will challenge some of the top cowboys in the country.

What will probably be the most fun of the three-day event will be today in the Ranch Rodeo competition, which is sponsored by The Grand Island Independent. Teams consisting of four cowboys will compete in bronc riding, ranch branding, wild cow milking and other events. Watching these cowboys chase down a wild cow and attempt to milk it should be entertaining.

The major significance in Rodeo Grand Island, besides the entertaining rodeo competition, is what it means to the community. This week could be the beginning of a long-running rodeo tradition for Grand Island. The promoters, Sutton Rodeo out of South Dakota, are quality rodeo promoters. They know how to put on a good show and bring some of the top rodeo stock in the country.


The Suttons see a lot of promise in Grand Island. A good showing this week could lead to many more rodeos to come in the years ahead.

And that would be excellent for Central Nebraska. In this agriculture-based area, rodeo should be an outstanding draw.

It provides good family entertainment to which those from ag and ranch backgrounds can relate. Besides that, it’s exciting.

So hold your breath, hold on to your seat and watch these cowboys tackle some of the toughest, meanest bulls and broncs anywhere in the country. It will be a good time and a great show.