Nicky Wheeler Memorial Bull Riding
Twenty-nine-year-old Cody Rostockyj of Waco, Texas was one of three bull riders to earn a qualified score on two bulls to win the inaugural Nicky Wheeler Memorial Bull Riding, a Tuff Hedeman Breakout Series held in Jacksonville, Texas celebrating the life of a cowboy, a hero and a legend of the bull riding industry.
Thirty bull riders joined Tuff Hedeman at the Jacksonville Rodeo Arena to pay tribute to Nicky Wheeler, a champion bull rider who rode nine out of ten bulls at the 1977 PRCA National Finals Rodeo. Wheeler was a pioneer in the bred to buck bloodlines of today’s premier bucking bull athletes as well as a proud father, businessman, and rancher from Flint, Texas. Wheeler passed away last spring.
Riding in a style that would make Wheeler proud, Rostockyj never let up receiving the highest marked score in both rounds to claim his first Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding event title.
Rostockyj quickly took control of the event winning round one with 88 points on Mike Rawson’s Louisville Slugger.
“I have seen that bull about 15 times and was excited to draw him, he usually is out on the left, and they switched him to the right, but he bucked good – maybe a little better on the right, he was into my hand and made me hustle, but I got past him, and it started a good night," said a fit and healthy Rostockyj.
With nine qualified rides in the long round including scores from veteran riders US Army Veteran Juan Alonzo (82.5), Lane Toon (83) and Tyler Taylor (82.5), the next generation was also getting warmed up for an upset against the band of bull riding veterans that included World Champs and NFR cowboys.
Defending Jacksonville event champion Austin Patterson and Trey Kimzey, the recently set the record for the PRCA’s “most money earned on a permit bull rider”, turned in a pair of 86 point scores. THBRT rookies Jaron Hughes and Cole Miller were 84.5 and 87 points respectively, followed by Midwest Swing Champion Matt Palmer who was 87.5 to round out the long round.
With only 9 qualified rides, four riders were drawn back to compete in the final round based on time ridden. Matt Halbert, Adam McConnel, Cody Hodges, and Chandler Bownds got a second chance to earn a score and a check in the Championship round.
After a heartfelt tribute to the Wheeler family from friend Terry Holland and a presentation from the Harris and Beasley families, event co-producers, the bulls were once again locked and loaded.
The final round began with the first five bucking off until Lane Toon brought the crowd back to life striking first with an 88.5 ride on 435 Big Show (Harris), Toon took the lead with 171.5 total points. The next three would fall short until Tyler Taylor tapped off 4733 Fat Boy (Harris) for 87.5 and 170 total points.
Rostocky patiently watched the 11 riders attempt to win, but with a rematch brewing underneath him, Rostockyj dominated the scoreboard in the Championship Round with an 89 point victory on Jeff Harris’s Dirty Little Secret, a bull he was anxious to ride after losing to him earlier in the season.“
"I was excited to have this bull again, he bucked me off once before when I lost my bull rope at 7.8 seconds, but he was the one to win on tonight, and I was glad to get some redemption - he felt great, and I got my rope really stick – you might have noticed when I hung up a little trying to get off, said Rostockyj following the win.
Rostockyj, a fan favorite, celebrated the win adding that he was proud to wear and would cherish the first Nicky Wheeler Memorial bull riding buckle.
Rostockyj who can currently be seen on the Cowboy Channel as a color television broadcaster for the Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour has dominated before on bull riding tours winning multiple televised top-level tour competitions and is a past NFR qualifier and round winner.
Multiple injuries have sidelined Rostockyj periodically in 2017 and 2018, dropping him out of the PRCA’s top 50, but after winning two events in one weekend, it looks like he is heading in the right direction to be back on the road as one of the industry’s top contenders.
Average NWM Bull Riding Results
1., Cody Rostockyj, Waco, Tex., 177, $5608.96. 2, Lane Toon, Lane, Okla., 3280.32, $1,640.16.3, Tyler Taylor, Stephenville, Tex., 170 pts, $1028.16.
Round by round scoring available on Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding.com.