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Wagner's Joey Koupal competes during the Miller Lite Bull Bash Wednesday night at the Horseman's Sports Arena. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Standalone bull-riding events now one of fastest-growing sports

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sports Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
Standalone bull-riding events now one of fastest-growing sports
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Jack Coleman has been around rodeo all his life.

In 2007, the Springfield native decided to capitalize on the sport's most popular event.


Coleman started his Springfield-based contracting business four years ago. Territorial Professional Bull Riding is one of many stock contractors dedicated solely to bull riding, an event that has broken away from the rest of the rodeo and developed into its own sport over the past 15 years.

"Bull riding is what everybody goes to a rodeo to watch," said Coleman, who lives and runs his business three miles outside of Springfield. "It's kind of taken over, but I really think it has promoted the cowboy way of life and it's good for both rodeo and bull riding events."

Coleman has contracted livestock for a number of bull riding-only events around the state this summer, including Wednesday's 15th annual Miller Lite Bull Bash at Horseman's Sports Arena. Coleman said he brought three bulls to Mitchell's annual bull riding event, which Coleman's 27-year-old son, Shawn, competed in.

"He's been riding our bulls since he was 7 or 8 years old," Jack Coleman said of his son. "We probably have about 30 bulls or so."

Springfield had a bull riding-only event earlier this summer and Coleman has four others upcoming -- Sunday in Yankton, Aug. 27 in Vermillion, Sept. 9 in Miller and Sept. 10 in Wessington Springs. Kimball also held a bull riding-only event earlier this summer, but Coleman did not contract for that event.

Mitchell rodeo committee member Jimmie Nicolaus also mentioned bull riding-only events during the summer months in Armour, Winner, Presho and Highmore. Nicolaus said the Northern Bull Riding Tour, based out of White River, is another local association that has focused on bull riding.

"There are a couple national entities that specialize in just bull riding and there are independently run events like we have in Mitchell," said Mitchell rodeo chairman Jim Miskimins, who also mentioned an annual bull riding event in Sioux Falls and an upcoming event at the state fair in Huron.

"We are not unique in that regard. They are out there."

They sure are.

Where it started

The Professional Bull Riders Inc. was created in 1992 when a group of 20 bull riders broke away from the traditional rodeo scene and sought mainstream attention for the sport of professional bull riding.

As the most popular event at a rodeo, bull riding has since often stood alone and become one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.

The PBR and the Championship Bull Riding organization (CBR) are the nation's two biggest bull ridingspecific organizations nowadays. Ethan McDonald, a stock contractor and bull fighter from Abilene, Kan., said a lot of cowboys are steered toward bull riding because of the money associated with the event.

"Most people don't know a good ride from a bad ride; bull riding is bull riding," McDonald said while watching the Bull Bash on Wednesday. "That's why it's the last event in rodeo. Everybody comes to watch the bull riding."

Logan Beckett, a 17-year-old cowboy from Rapid City, won Wednesday's Bull Bash and earned $1,856. Fourth-place finishers Charles Zoss, of Forestburg, and Travis Pollard, a Mitchell Technical Institute graduate and Gann Valley resident, each earned $736.

At the Burke Rodeo in July, the winner of the bareback riding competition earned $528.

"I do both (rodeos and bull ridingonly events)," Wagner's Joey Koupal said following his preliminary round of competition Wednesday. "I try to go where the most money is, but, at the same time, I can't travel across the country.

"A lot of the reason I do it is the friendship all of us have with each other," Koupal said. "It's a lot of the same guys at all the events around here and it's fun to cheer each other on."

Koupal, 23, has been bull riding for three years.

Hurting rodeo overall

Davie Kimm has been announcing professional, junior and amateur rodeo events since 1999.

Kimm is from Rosemont, Minn., and has announced the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo and the Bull Bash for the past five years.

The 46-year-old announcer said he works about 35 events each summer and has gone as far east as New Jersey and north to Alberta, Canada. The Dakotas are as far west as he travels and he said he has not come across any jealousy toward bull riding from other cowboys and cowgirls.

"You're liable to get more extremesports type people to go to a standalone bull-riding event, but it really depends on the market you're looking at," Kimm said.

"It tends to be your hardcore, western ranch folks that like the rodeo better, but the bull riding has really taken off in the bigger cities. That's what I've been able to tell from my experience, anyway.

"I believe in 2005, Forbes Fortune 500 said it was the second-fastest growing standalone sport, other than NASCAR."

Charles Zoss, a Forestburg native, was the champion of the Miller Lite Bull Bash last summer. Zoss, 31, said he has traveled to about 15 events this year to perform in bull riding competitions and he has only heard positive remarks from all cowboys with regards to bull riding's popularity.

"In rodeo, everybody's for everybody, I think," Zoss said.

Mitchell rodeo committee member Dave Sietsema is one of many in the Mitchell area who is happy Mitchell has room for both a full rodeo and a bull riding-only event each summer.

Sietsema said a good bull riding event highlights a community and Mitchell takes advantage of that.

"I think (bull riding's popularity) has only broadened the fan-base of rodeo as a whole," Sietsema said.

"If you're a rodeo fan and you love the bull riding, it makes people travel to the places to see it. That's been good for communities like Mitchell."

So far this season, Shane Proctor, of Grand Coulee, Wash., leads the National Pro Rodeo tour. Proctor has made a little more than $127,000 this year.

"I think you saw for a while that these contestants saw that there's money all over the place so they wouldn't have to travel as far and do both (a full rodeo and a bull ridingonly event)," Sietsema said.

In comparison, Brittany Pozzi, of Victoria, Texas, leads the barrel racing list with a little more than $111,000 earned.

Jill Moody, a Letcher native, is eighth in the barrel racing with $58,188 in earnings this season.

In the steer roping event, Decatur, Texas, native Trevor Brazile leads the way with a little more than $72,000 in earnings. Brazile also is the all-around earnings leader with about $200,000. He also competes in the tie-down roping and team roping events.

Tuf Cooper, also of Decatur, Texas, has earned $86,477 and is the tops on the tie-down roping list. Cody Wright, of Milford, Utah, has made $104,000 and is the top earner in the saddle bronc riding competition so far this season.

Jade Corkill, of Fallon, Nev., has earned the most money this year among team ropers.

Corkill has made $85,000 this year alone.

"There's a lot of money to be made in team roping, too," said Koupal, who competes in team roping from time to time and was a participant in the Bull Bash on Wednesday.

Luke Branquinho, of Los Alamos, Calif., is the top earner in steer wrestling so far this year. He has earned better than $82,000.

Will Lowe, of Canyon, Texas, has made better than $94,000 in bareback competitions this season to lead the way in the event.

"I think rodeo in general is kind of down from where it once was," said McDonald.

"Bull riding being on its own is getting young kids interested because not every bull rider can go straight to the PBR.

"I don't think it's hurting it as bad as people might think."

Though bull riders make the most money on the pro tour, Kimm still said he would be hard pressed to pass on a full rodeo of competition.

"I'm not going to say I like one over the other," Kimm said. "But if you were going to pin me down, I'd say I like rodeo because of the variety you get out of it.

"It's pretty hard to get past the excitement of a good bull ride, though."