In the Trenches

Kicking off championship week, Championship Bull Riding held their annual Banquet and Presentation of the Riders Gala on Sunday evening at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The event honored several athletes, both bovine and human, who greatly impacted the 2015 Mahindra Road to Cheyenne tour.

As the night’s emcee, Chris Rankin, CBR Production Manager and one of the in-house voices of the CBR tour, alongside Tuff Hedeman, four time World Champion Bull Rider, welcomed attendees and continued the evening discussing each honorees’ impact, which was accompanied by photographs highlighting the 2015 bull riding tour. 

As the CBR prepares to turn the calendar for the new year, the staff and leadership took time to remember one of its very special fans in the wake of a family tragedy of one of the longest serving staff members of Championship Bull Riding. Cole DePriest, nephew of Cicily Cross Blair, was lost in a tragic horseback riding accident in the spring of 2015. Cole was planning his first trip to Cheyenne Frontier Days to the CBR World Finals. In honor of this young cowboy’s life, the CBR honored his family with a special Hyo Silver custom trophy buckle and patches that each of the bull riders wore proudly on their protective vests. Riding for Cole, a non-profit scholarship foundation in memory of Cole DePriest, was formed to honor the 8 year old cowboy that loved the outdoors, rodeo, and his family. His parents, David and Colette Cross DePriest, sister Abi, and Aunt Cicily accepted for the family.

CBR broadcast analyst Clint Craig gave an overview of the season before the year-end awards were acknowledged by Tuff Hedeman.

Stepping to the stage first was Hillsboro, Texas bull Rider Cody Rostockyj who was awarded his $20,000 bonus check and Hyo trophy buckle for winning the Horizon Series title for the 2015 season. Rostockyj who criss crossed the country competing on both tours, won the twelve month battle by less than 3 bull rides (220 points) over Taylor Toves.  Month to month, the battle was fierce with over 200 different bull riders competing for the title, which is accompanied by an invitation from Tuff Hedeman to join the televised tour. It was a ride for ride competition from the beginning and was won in the trenches of CBR competition, the Horizon Series.

Every cowboy who enters the arena on the CBR tour owes his safety and well-being to three very tough, brave, and smart men who are known as the Evan Williams Bourbon Bullfighters for Championship Bull Riding. These men are not clowns they are safety men on site to protect the life of the bull rider before, during, and after the eight second ride. Bullfighter of the Year for the second consecutive year was awarded to Craig Check of Tomah, Wisconsin. The quiet but “always in the right place bullfighter” begins 2016 in his fourth year of service to CBR. Enduring what he described as the hardest event of his life at the last stop of the Mahindra Road to Cheyenne tour, Check engaged as his bull riding brother, Brad Check, was trapped under a bull at the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding. Check not only finished the event, but remained in Del Rio for the second day of competition after his brother was transported by ambulance to San Antonio for treatment to life threatening injuries.

CBR used over 250 different bulls this season on the Mahindra Road to Cheyenne Tour and two bulls were recognized for their outstanding seasons by their peers. 2015 CBR Bucking Bull of the Year was a tie this year with 050 Gold Buckle and CR Corpus Red splitting the honors. Accompanying the honors was a Mahindra eMax Gear 22 tractor, custom Juan Jose Muñoz Andrade saddle and a Hyo Silver custom trophy buckle. The coveted award is highly regarded among bull owners as the nominees are selected personally by Tuff Hedeman and voted on by the bull riders and contractors.

050 Gold Buckle, owned Zach Craig, Brett Barrett and Jeri Harmon carried many of the industry’s best riders to the pay window. Trey Benton, Neil Holmes and Craig Jackson, have all ridden him twice and scored 90 or above, including Jackson’s 92.5 winning numbers in El Paso and Elliot Jacoby’s winning 93 point ride in January at the Jackson, Tennessee CBR.

Gold Buckle is a five year old bull who is consistently marked 23 points on the bull side of the bull riding equation. He was the High Marked Bull once this year, High Marked Ride twice, and finished 3rd among all the bulls used in both the highest average rider score and the number of 90 point plus rides.

Raised by Lyndal Hurst, 050 is sired by Lightening Jack and out of a daughter of M17.

CR Corpus Red, the lovable red bull on Facebook, is owned hauled and loved by JC and Amber Knapp. He made his CBR debut in late-2011 and has been extremely consistent ever since. He was ridden only twice in seven outs at CBR televised events in 2015, with an average ride score is 91.3 points. His average bull score is 45.3 points which is tops among contenders.

Corpus Red was named High Marked Bull of the event in Lufkin, Laughlin, Las Vegas, and Del Rio in 2014 and was the high marked ride (92.5 – Cody Rostockyj) in Fort Worth in 2015. He had seven outs with two qualified rides this year, but while CBR can vouch for his talent you will have to talk to JC Knapp if you want to know his breeding.

The second most anticipated award of the season is Stock Contractor of the Year, the man who brings the best bucking bulls to the televised tour. The award nominees are selected by Tuff Hedeman and then given to the Mahindra Road to Cheyenne CBR bull riders and stock contractors for their votes. Rawson, who two days later won the World Champion Bull Team competition, is from Martinsville, Texas and this is the second time he has been bestowed the elite award. His first trip to the podium was in 2013. This title comes with a Mahindra Mahindra eMax Gear 22 tractor, a Neckover livestock trailer, a Juan Jose Muñoz Andrade saddle, Hyo Silver buckle and tears in Mike Rawson’s eyes.

Rawson provided over 100 outs this season and believes consistency is the key to providing successful bulls to the CBR organization. A favorite among bull riders, Rawson a former bull rider himself, understands and is known for his great friendship and “help everyone” attitude on the back of the bucking chutes. He is fiercely competitive, but never too busy to help a friend.  

Sports Medicine director, Doc Spoon  honors an individual staff award each year for outstanding contribution to the CBR. This year Doc honored: Chief Executive Officer, Benny Cude; Chief Operations Manager, Chelsee Murphy; CBR Ambassador, Tuff Hedeman; Production Manager, Chris Rankin; Event Coordinator, Kay-Lee Pearson; CBR Event Promoter, Cheryl Hedeman; Rider Administrator, Cicily Cross-Blair; and Bull Team Secretary and Horizon Rider Administrator, Linsey Ray.

The evening ends with the presentation of the qualifying CBR Bull Team Challenge contractors and bull riding contestants to the crowd as they pick up their World Finals back numbers and Hyo Silver buckles, with a handshake from bull riding mentor and chute boss, Tuff Hedeman.