And Then There Was One..Sage Kimzey

 By Lindsay Whelchel

 It had already been a dynamite year for newly turned 20-year-old rookie bull rider, Sage Kimzey by the time he arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for the CBR World Finals, but things were about to get even bigger.

Though he was leading in the standings for both CBR and PRCA headed into the finals, Kimzey was in a close race for the world championship with Trey Benton.

With the title and $100,000 on the line, it could’ve been enough to rattle even a seasoned veteran, but Kimzey just took it eight seconds at a time.

“I don’t know if there are any tricks really, I always just take it one bull at a time and try my hardest every time. It’s just a lot of effort in bull riding, that’s the main ingredient,” Kimzey said and added, “it’s just a lot of try, and if you’re better than the bull you can get it done.”

With his final ride in Cheyenne, a 91-point performance on Barrett and Craig Bucking Bulls’ Ragin’ JT, Kimzey secured himself a spot in history as the 2014 CBR World Champion. It was a victorious moment in the arena following Kimzey’s win with his dad, NFR Barrelman, Ted Kimzey, rushing out to hug his son and the crowd going wild.

Given his young age, the rodeo world has been buzzing over the young man from Strong City, Oklahoma, all season, but Kimzey has been steadily preparing for this career since childhood.

Kimzey learned a lot about the sport from his father Ted, who, as a life-long cowboy protector, emphasized safety in Kimzey’s riding technique.

Now, more often than not, Kimzey makes his rides look easy and his dismounts even easier. In Cheyenne he seemed to land on his feet after every ride.

But even when things don’t go his way in the arena, Kimzey explained that it’s important to ‘land on his feet’ mentally.

“I always kind of go with Rocky Balboa’s attitude in the movie. It’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep going. Every time something happens, like an injury or anything like that, you’ve just got to look at it as a learning experience and take something positive from it,” he said.

In addition to Ted’s influence, Kimzey has had a lot of career, and life, advice from accomplished bull riders while growing up. For skill and practice, Kimzey credits Gary Leffew and Leffew’s bull riding schools for helping to advance his career.

NFR bull rider Cody Custer is another big influence on the kind of professional athlete, and man, Kimzey is becoming. “He’s a great Christian model for me that’s also a great bull rider,” Kimzey said of Custer, who is known, not just for his bull riding accomplishments, but also for closely intertwining his faith into his relationship with rodeo.

Custer cites Kimzey’s ability to ride with precision and confidence to helping him excel. He also cites that same confidence for helping Kimzey succeed outside of the arena, in the business side of the sport and in life.

“If you talk to him for very long, you know he’s really confident in who he is. That kid has dreamed about this, he’s been to every one of those rodeos with his dad, and he’s been thinking about this his whole life. Now that he’s got the opportunity and things are going the way they are, he’s not going to let it slip by,” Custer said and added that the most important thing is that Kimzey is just himself. 

Having grown up around rodeo in the spotlight of his father’s career, Kimzey has also connected with other rodeo legends like Clyde and Elsie Frost, parents of the late bull rider Lane Frost, who were on hand in Cheyenne to present Kimzey with his world championship. The Frosts watched Kimzey grow up riding in Oklahoma, explained Elsie from the arena in Cheyenne as she helped present Kimzey his prize.

And then there’s Tuff Hedeman, who has known Kimzey since he was a kid and has offered encouragement before Kimzey’s rides at CBR events.

“Tuff came up to me before one of my bull rides, and he was just like ‘you’re the best, go do what you do,’ and anytime a legend like Tuff Hedeman comes up and gives you a pep talk when you’re only 19 years old, that spoke volumes to me,” Kimzey said.

It’s this familial connection involved with rodeo and especially the CBR that stands out for Kimzey.

“The CBR organization as a whole is a big family, and I really like the atmosphere, because everybody is friends with everybody. Tuff and the CBR organization have made it set up to where it’s a good deal for everybody involved, bull riders and fans. It’s just a great organization to be a part of,” Kimzey said and emphasized, “bull riding, and rodeo too, is a huge family, and you won’t see a tighter knit group of people than your rodeo family. Anytime somebody needs help they always know they have their rodeo family to depend on.”

This sentiment was illustrated particularly well this past spring when CBR and many others in the rodeo world came together in a benefit for CBR Gateman and former PRCA Bull Fighter, James Pierce, who is battling cancer.  At the 2014 Tuff Hedeman Championship Challenge in Ft. Worth, Kimzey put on the famous green chaps worn by World Champion Don Gay and competed at the event to raise awareness of the item, which was donated by Gay, to be auctioned off the following day to benefit Pierce. 

“I can’t explain how nostalgic it was putting on that set of chaps that Don had won his world title in. Words can’t explain what that means, one of the greatest bull riders of all time, and I got to wear his chaps- that’s legendary,” Kimzey said of the experience.

But the chaps weren’t the only item up for auction. Along with several other meaningful items and relics, Kimzey stepped up to the plate himself and donated his first CBR championship buckle, won in El Paso, to be bid on. The event raised almost $70,000 for Pierce.

All while climbing the ranks on the Road to Cheyenne to finish first for CBR and maintaining his lead in the PRCA standings for most of the season, Kimzey also competed for Southwestern Oklahoma State University on the college rodeo team and finished as Reserve Champion at the College National Finals.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy year.

In July, under the big Wyoming skies at the CBR finals, Kimzey held tight to his bull rope, riding all of his draws on both nights of competition, with the exception of his shot at the Mahindra Bounty Bull, Penny Lover, which Kimzey came closer than ever before to covering with a 7.54 second attempt.

Kimzey’s scores in his regular-round rides for Monday and Tuesday nights only dipped below a 90 once, with an 89.5.

He spoke of the privilege it was to compete on hallowed ground, both at the Frontier Days rodeo during the afternoons and the CBR finals at night.

“It’s great to be here at Cheyenne Frontier Days, and having the CBR Finals here. It’s an awesome venue to ride in and all the prestige that’s come out of here,” Kimzey said.

His final ride on Ragin’ JT was full of tension, under the heat of pyrotechnics and in front of a packed crowd, but Kimzey prevailed.

He left the historic arena in Cheyenne as a world champion, one that other up-and-coming bull riders will now look up to, but ultimately, it’s still just about getting on the backs of the bulls and having fun to Kimzey.

“I can’t even put that into words, you know being only 19 myself, I’m still just a kid. To have kids looking up to me, and wanting to ride like me, I don’t know that I’ve really got a grasp on that. It’s definitely a lot different than anything I’ve ever experienced. I don’t consider myself [an idol], but it’s pretty neat being considered as one, that’s for sure,” Kimzey said and added for good measure.  “I’m just out having fun riding bulls.” 

One person who can grasp the idea of Kimzey being a role model to other young bull riders is Custer, who said that he’s proud of Kimzey.

“To me, I wish there were more young guys with the same work ethic and the same discipline that I see in Sage. Our sport would be that much better all around. If somebody is desiring to be a professional bull rider and they’re wanting to do something with their career, that would be a good kid to watch,” Custer said.

For Kimzey’s part, he’ll just continue his pursuit of the PRCA National Finals Rodeo and world championship title, as well as embark on his next season with CBR and another Road to Cheyenne tour as champ, just like he’s been doing all along; eight seconds at a time. 

Career Highlights

2014 Highlights

CBR 2014 World Champion 

• Won the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show & Rodeo

• Won the San Antonio (Texas) Xtreme Bulls

• Won the All American ProRodeo Finals (Waco, Texas)

• Won the New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo (Albuquerque)

• Won the Central Wyoming Fair & PRCA Rodeo (Casper)

• Won the Woodward (Okla.) Elks Rodeo

• Co-champion at the Xtreme Bulls Tour Finale (Ellensburg, Wash.)

• Co-champion at the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo

• Co-champion at the Rapid City (S.D.) Wrangler Champions Challenge

• Won the Tulsa (Okla.) State Fair PRCA Rodeo

• Won the Chisholm Trail Stampede (Duncan, Okla.)

• Won the Will Rogers Stampede (Claremore, Okla.)

• Won the Spokane (Wash.) Interstate Rodeo

• Won the Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo (El Paso, Texas)

• Won the Kitsap Stampede Division 2 Xtreme Bulls (Bremerton, Wash.)

• Won the Division 2 Qualifying Xtreme Bulls Event (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

• Won the Gem State Classic ProRodeo Series (Blackfoot, Idaho)

• Co-champion at the Nacogdoches (Texas) Pro Rodeo & Steer Show

• Finished second at the National Western Stock Show Rodeo (Denver)

• Finished second at the PRCA Championship Rodeo (Lincoln, Neb.)

• Finished in a tie for second at the SandHills Stock Show Rodeo (Odessa, Texas)

Career Highlights

• 2013: Won the Lawton (Okla.) Rangers Rodeo with a 93-point ride on D&H Cattle’s No. 43x; the Chisholm Trail Stampede (Duncan, Okla.); the Hinton (Okla.) Crosstie PRCA Rodeo; the Land Rush Pro Rodeo (Beggs, Okla.); the Kit Carson County Fair & Rodeo (Burlington, Colo.); the Belton (Texas) Area Chamber of Commerce 4th of July Rodeo; the Mesquite (Texas) ProRodeo Series-June 21 & July 5; and the MH Henry Pro Rodeo (Bowie, Texas)-Sept. 14 & Sept. 15; co-champion at the Topeka (Kan.) PRCA Rodeo and the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo (Hill City, Kan.). Set a PRCA record for most money won on a permit in a single season with $47,726 


Qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo as a freshman in 2013 and finished fourth