LAS VEGAS – Four-time World Champion and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer Tuff Hedeman escorted 28 bull riders onto the dirt in front of the capacity crowd at the South Point Hotel Arena and Equestrian Center where Ruger Piva, a former Intercollegiate Wrestling Champion, was the only athlete to ride three bulls and win the Las Vegas Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour.
“Try hard and never quit,” were Hedeman’s words to Piva before he nodded his head to win the annual bull riding event during the Las Vegas Ultimate Sports Weekend.
It didn’t take long for Ruger Piva of Challis Idaho to get in sync with the Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour. Making his first appearance on the THBRT dirt, Piva grabbed the third title of the 2018 THBRT season.
“I wanted to be here because there is a lot of money to be won and a lot of really, really good bulls to get on and it’s sure an honor to stand in the same arena as Tuff Hedeman,” said Piva after the win.
Sixteen qualified rides and entertainer J.J Harrison kept the enthusiastic crowd on their feet for two hours watching top-ranked bull riders including 7 time World Champion Sage Kimzey, PBR World Champion Mike Lee, NFR qualifiers Cody Rostockyj, Parker Breding, Joe Frost, and Indian National Bull Riding Champions Tustin Daye and Cody Jesus.
Until tonight only the former National Wrestling champion’s 182-12 wrestling record appeared on Google next to his name, but after winning the THBRT title in Las Vegas, no doubt that will change.
Piva began his rodeo career at 9 years old with his Uncle Johnny as his coach, but claims he really never took it seriously until he was in his 20’s and decided he was ready to move on from his wrestling career after a trophy room full of wrestling awards revealed his obviously superior athletic ability.
The 5’7, 155-pound athlete finished in the top 15 his junior year at the National High School Finals Rodeo. He continued to rodeo alongside wrestling in college at Montana Western, qualifying for the College National Final Rodeo in 2015-16 where he placed third in 2016.
“Honestly, I do not focus on what anybody else is doing but myself,” Piva said. “I don’t worry. Those guys do what they’re going to do. I’m cheering for everybody here said Piva after accepting the $19,750.00 jumbo check from Tuff Hedeman.
With 11 qualified rides from 28 riders, the Navajo Nation was well represented with Cody Jesus winning the round with 89.5 points on Mike Rawson’s Louisville Slugger. Travis Briscoe, last year’s winner at the South Point posted the second highest round score of 89 on 12- Holy Mullah from GT Bucking Bulls. Making the most of his THBRT debut was 2014 Texas High School Rodeo Champion Brody Yeary who placed third in the round with 89 points on 277 Dirty Little Secret (Rafter B/Rockin C/Harris).
Koby Radley, Parker Breding, and Tyler Bingham turned in 88 point rides to advance followed by Tustin Daye, Matt Palmer, Eli Vastbinder, Demond Haynes who made the whistle and advanced. Rounding out the final position on the day sheet was Ruger Piva with 84.5 points.
“Never seeing any of the bulls tonight, my first bull went the opposite way from what the stock contractor said, but I try to just react,” said Piva of his first matchup which set him up to advance to round two.
“I have been on a hot streak and riding well, I just tried not to think about it and just react,” added Piva.
In the second round, the Bulls shut down the celebrations from the cowboys allowing only 4 qualified rides in the Semifinal Round action. Fresh off his victory in El Paso, Tyler Bingham scored 90.5 on Roll the Dice (Barrett/Willis) in front of the capacity crowd at the South Point Arena to win the Semifinal Round and advance to the four-man Shoot Out with an average score of 178.5 on two bulls. Cody Jesus was 87.5 on Cadillac Jack (Danley) and 177 on two and now headed into the finals with fellow Navajo Champion rider Tustin Daye who was 86 points on 101 Grafitti (Rawson). Piva got the job done on a young bull named Lone Shark (JQH) and gathered 86.5 points that advanced him to the final position of the Shoot Out round with 171 on two.
“Being the last guy out in the first round, I was in a hurry to get my rope on him and the bulls really progress round by round at these three round events, I was happy just to hear the whistle and get the score,” continued Piva.
Shoot Out Round
Piva may have had no choice in the final matchup but he did not let that deter his desire to win. As the first rider up in the Shoot Out he was evenly matched with 463 Red Rocker (Whisnant/Shaw) where Piva stayed loose and posted the first score of 89.5 riding the big red bull into his hand.
Tustin Daye was up next and received a re-ride option from Hedeman which he selected but bucked off both draws.
Cody Jesus was matched with 67B Bumble Bee (Whisnant/Shaw). The bull known as “stinger” in the back pens, went left and as he made the corner Cody got tilted over the front of the bull - too far to recover and bucked off.
Bingham with a chance to win his second consecutive THBRT event selected 487 Jake Brake from Jeff Harris’s pen of buckers. 487 went two jumps then made a hard left and Bingham lost the battle at 4 seconds with the bull that was bucking away from his riding hand.
Piva, the only rider to survive Hedeman’s Shoot Out Round wins the sudden death format and the check for $19,750, a Resistol hat, and a custom engraved trophy buckle with the pioneer of the sport of bull riding’s name engraved next to his which he says is the most exciting part.
“I used to worry and over think it and you either get bucked off or you ride, you either make money or you don’t,” said Piva as he thanked the Las Vegas fans who cheered him on and finally got Tuff Hedeman’s autograph – on a check.
Invitational Bull Team Competition
Mike Rawson Bucking Bulls finished first in the 12 team, 100 percent payback invitational THBRT bull team competition. Rawson collected his check with 285 points and three qualified rides. Bucking two veteran bulls and one newbie in Las Vegas, Rawson accepted the $24,000 from Hedeman and was proud of his team.
“I was really impressed with my older bull 9100 Kojack,” said Rawson who watched the 9-year-old storied bucking bull assist Radley to 88 points in round one. 9100 Kojack, sired by Carrillo Cartel is a staple on the day sheet for Rawson’s team bulls.
“He is one that the bull riders want to see their name by every time, he is a bull riders’ bull and you can be 86 to 90 on him every time,” said Rawson.
Cody Jesus won round one on Rawson’s Louisville Slugger with an impressive 90.5 points. Bucking in the third position for Rawson was a new bull 101 Graffiti making his bull team THBRT debut with an 88 point ride from Tustin Daye in the Semifinals.
Second place was last week’s winner Jeff Harris who earned $18,000 with one qualified ride and two rank scores for his Rafter B – Rockin C Team. Harris bucked 277 Dirty Little Secret (B. Yeary, 88 pts), 201 Speckled Bird, and 31 Rising Sun. Third place was Danley Bucking Bulls, $12,000, followed by GT Bucking bulls in fourth place earning $4,000.
Las Vegas THBRT Results
1, Ruger Piva, Challis, Idaho, 260.5 points on 3 bulls, $19,750. 2, Tyler Bingham, Honeyville, Utah, 178 pts, $2,250. 3, Cody Jesus, Sawmill, Arizona, 177 pts, $2,250. 4, Tustin Daye, Lupton, Arizona, 173.5, $2,250.
Las Vegas THBRT Bull Team Results
1, Mike Rawson, Martinsville, Texas, 284 points, $24,000. 2, Rafter B/Rocking C/Harris, Palestine, Texas, 283.51, $18,000.3, Danley Bucking Bulls, Roswell, NM, 281.0 pts, $12,000. 4, GT (Garrett/Thompson) Bucking Bulls, Oklahoma, 280.47, $6,000.
Tuff Hedeman returned to the South Point with his signature event, newly titled the “Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour.” Top-ranked bull riders and bulls competed for one night only as four-time World Champion and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer, Tuff Hedeman, lined up the roster of World Champions and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo athletes to compete for the championship title.
“I have either been competing or producing bull riding events for Las Vegas and rodeo fans for over 25 years, and I look forward every year to providing the community with a top-rated bull riding competition and some great entertainment,” said Tuff Hedeman. “It is amazing to see Las Vegas being recognized as the sports destination that we have always seen it to be, and it was an honor to be here and bring our event back alongside NASCAR, USA Sevens Rugby, Vegas Golden Knights and UFC. It was an amazing sport filled weekend.”
Las Vegas was the third stop on the Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding Tour in 2018. The competition in Las Vegas followed previous events held in Hobbs, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas where bull riders earned points towards a World Finals bonus and World title.
Next stop on the THBRT is Bossier City, Louisiana on March 17 at the CenturyLink Center Arena. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the competition will get underway at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are available at www.tuffhedemanbullriding.com. Follow Tuff Hedeman on Facebook and Instagram @TuffHedemanOfficial. Schedule, roster of competitors and appearances will be released at a later date.