By Andrew Brethauer
Griffin Smeltzer at 16 years old is the young bull rider in the field heading into the Bull Riders Canada Inc. finals on Friday and Saturday in Lloydminster.
The Bull Riders Canada Inc. tour will be in Lloydminster this weekend for the finals to their fourth season, with $20,000 up for grabs and an addition $5,000 in the Canadian Globe Grudge Match.
And one of the riders looking to take home not just a big piece of the purse, but also a BRC finals buckle, is still in high school, as 16-year-old Griffin Smeltzer enters in fourth place in the BRC standings, with more than $14,000 in winnings this season.
The Claresholm, Alta, native has only been riding bulls for the past two years but is already in the mix with only top bull riders, such as current BRC leader Will Purcell and bull riding regulars in this area, Josh Birks and Cody Coverchuk.
With high expectations for himself, Smeltzer is thinking buckle this weekend to cap off what has been an already impressive season.
“I’m the young guy going,” said Smeltzer. “I’m pretty excited. I’ve worked all year to get here. It’s just having fun now. (A championship) would totally complete my goals for this year. I set my goals in the spring to win the BRC finals and now that I have a shot, I’m just super excited.”
Unable to compete on any professional tours due to his age, Smeltzer enters his first rodeo final with very little nerves, despite the fact he is the youngest rider in the group and is up against riders with plenty of years of experience.
But for Smeltzer, the focus isn’t on what other riders are doing as he can’t control any of their rides and their bulls. Instead, he’s just focused on his own rides, something that has done him well this season by helping him earn 2280 points in the standings.
“I’m not thinking about that, I’m just having fun bull riding,” said Smeltzer. “All you can do is ride your bulls and the judges handle it from there. You can’t do anything other than focus on what you can do.”
It’s a long way removed from the steer riding he did when he was eight years old, but for Smeltzer, a BRC championship would be the perfect end to the season for him, and a great kickstart to a career on the back of a few hundred pounds of power.
Thirty rider will start out on Friday in the first long round ride of the weekend. They will ride again on Saturday before the field is cut down to eight riders for the short round.
The top five riders after Friday’s long ride will compete on Friday night in the grudge match against the top five voted on bulls. It’s a ride against the bulls, as each successful ride is worth $1,000 to the rider, and with Smeltzer being in fourth place with a 315 point lead on Italo Aguilar, who’s in sixth, there is a good possibility he will get an extra ride for some more money.
The BRC finals will be held at the Lloydminster Exhibition on Friday and Saturday night starting at 7 p.m.