Rookie’s Rule

“Luck is essential, mental lapses are expensive, mistakes can be fatal, and cowardice is intolerable,” according to the only other man on he planet to win both the PRCA Rookie award and the PRCA World Championship for Bull Riding in the same year.  That year was 1963 and the bull rider was Bill Kornell of Palm Springs, California. 

It took 51 years for talent to come along to capture that elusive combination of titles, but 20-year-old CBR World Champion Sage Steele Kimzey joined that elite party of two last week at the 56th Annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo when he dominated the competition and cinched the 2014 World Championship with a total of $318,631.

An 87.5-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Foolish Man in the eighth round took him to his fourth round win of the rodeo, tying the record shared by Bob Wegner, Denny Flynn, Cody Custer, Blue Stone, B.J. Schumacher and J.W. Harris.  After his third place finish in this round it became mathematically impossible for any other bull rider to surpass him.  

Not content with utterly destroying Steve Woolsey’s rookie earnings records for a single event ($197,646) and overall ($202,128), Kimzey came so close to breaking Matt Austin’s single-season earnings record for any individual event of $320,766.

But as if two titles was not enough excitement, Kimzey also finished first in the RAM Truck Top Gun race to add a third title to his overloaded signature.  The reward was founded in 2010 identifying and rewarding the cowboy or cowgirl who earned the most money at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

The Ram Truck Top Gun Award goes to the one contestant who wins the most money in any single event at the Wrangler NFR; it’s the only title that pits contestants in multiple events against each other.  The winner of the Ram Truck Top Gun Award gets a 3500 Ram Heavy Duty Longhorn Laramie truck, a special Montana Silversmiths custom buckle and a Ram Truck Top Gun-branded gun from Commemorative Firearms.

Kimzey is the first cowboy in the bull riding category to win the Top Gun award since 2006 when B.J. Schumacher earned $142,644 and won both average title and world championship.


                                      Photos Courtesy of the PRCA

This year in front of a sellout crowd of 17,811 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the fans were thrilled by the record setting performance of 20-year-old rookie Sage Kimzey, who won the triple Crown of the rodeo world, the Ram Top Gun award, the PRCA World Championship and the Rookie of the Year title.

“This was a dream come true,” he said. “To be able to set a goal as a little kid and then achieve it is something special. Being here and competing against people I look up to like J.W. Harris, I feel really blessed. To ride to the best of my ability and win tonight makes me ecstatic, and I’m so excited to be here to experience Las Vegas for the first time.”

But at closer look there is more than one comparable trait shared by Bill Kornell and Sage Kimzey.

Described in a 1965 article that appeared in the Tuscaloosa News, Kornell was described as a family man of high standards. “A quiet confident fellow who is immensely proud of his ability.  

“To reach the pinnacle of ProRodeo in my first year is pretty special,” Kimzey said. “It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.” 

Just like Kornell, despite his youth, Kimzey is also referred to as a veteran bull rider at the tender age of 20, and his colleagues say, “a hell of a good one”. In the world of the rodeo cowboy this term is all inclusive and needs no additional explanation.

Kornell also went on to say that bull riding leaves no time for doubts and most of all it takes guts… a trait all too familiar to Sage Steele Kimzey. 

Kimzey heard the whistle in eight out of ten rounds, bucking off in round one and ten; Joe Frost is next with six qualified rides, but Kimzey clinched the average title – something Kornell didn’t do in 1963. 

“There are very few times when you can get in a zone like this,” Kimzey said. “Baseball players always refer to it as seeing a beach ball coming toward you, and it’s slow and you know exactly where it’s going. I feel like there’s nothing that can throw me off.”

Second place finisher in the World Standings and in the NFR average was a fellow rookie.  Joe Frost, the 22-year-old cousin of Lane Frost is from Randlett, Utah, placed in the first two go-rounds, pocketing just shy of $27,000 and in the process moved him up six places to fifth in the world standings. He would go on to make qualified rides in the third, fifth, eighth and ninth rounds to finish 180.5 behind Kimzey.    

That bodes well for Frost, who earlier this year earned the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Bull Riding championship as the only man in the field to have qualified rides in all four rounds of the College National Finals Rodeo. In 2013, he was one of the key members of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University squad to earn the men’s team championship.

Kornell revealed what he thinks is the secret to the sport of bull riding in 1965.  According to Kornell, skill, courage and stamina with a touch of recklessness.  After 51 years of evolution of the sport, the reigning two association World Champion, Sage Steele Kimzey, would agree.


 Editor’s Notes: 

*   Bill Kornell began rodeo career at 16. Was a member of the original Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA), which later became the PRCA. Won the title of 'World Champion Bull Rider' in 1963 at 19.Competed in 7 National Finals Rodeos and in 1980 sustained a career ending injury at Grand Junction, CO.

* In 2010, the inaugural year of the Ram Truck Top Gun Award, money earned in multiple events counted in Top Gun standings. Starting in 2011, the Ram Truck Top Gun Award goes to the contestant who earns the most in a single event. Had that been true in 2010, bull rider J.W. Harris would have collected the Ram Truck Top Gun Award in addition to his bull riding gold buckle and average title, with $158,738.

* The PRCA world championship in each event is awarded after the Wrangler NFR to the contestant who earned the most money in that event at qualified rodeos across the PRCA’s year-long season, including what he or she won at the NFR (which is often the deciding factor)



Rank Name City State Earnings
1 Sage  Kimzey Strong City OK $318,630.94
2 Joe Frost Randlett UT $174,377.80
3 Trey Benton III Rock Island TX $164,470.92
4 Beau Hill West Glacier MT $148,990.61
5 Cody Teel Kountze TX $148,562.47
6 Tyler Smith Fruita CO $131,031.49
7 Tim Bingham Honeyville UT $115,669.79
8 Elliot Jacoby Fredricksburg TX $113,311.14
9 J.W. Harris Mullin TX $109,181.59
10 Aaron Pass Dallas TX $104,550.42
11 Jordan Spears Redding CA $100,029.54
12 Ty Wallace Collbran CO $93,934.71
13 Brennon Eldred Purcell OK $89,169.84
14 Reid Barker Comfort TX $76,227.37
15 Josh Koschel Nunn CO $72,837.45


Average - PRCA Final 2014 World Standings

Sage Kimzey 10 671.0/8 1 1
Joe Frost 10 490.5/6 2 2
Trey Benton III 10 252.5/3 8 3
Beau Hill 10 374.0/5 3 4
Cody Teel 10 322.0/4 5 5
Tyler Smith 10 322.5/4 4 6
Tim Bingham 10 170.0/2 12 7
Elliot Jacoby 10 254.0/3 7 8
J.W. Harris 10 310.5/4 6 9
Aaron Pass 10 173.0/2 10 10
Jordan Spears 10 250.5/3 9 11
Ty Wallace 10 171.5/2 11 12
Brennon Eldred 10 84.5/1 14 13
Reid Barker 10 14
Josh Koschel 10 144.0/2 13 15