The Boys of Summer

Skender, Taylor, and Leather win bull riding’s top Youth World Championship titles

by LeighAnn Schroeder

The sport of bull riding is full of impressive young athletes and as soon as the last school bell rings they hit the road qualifying and competing in three of the industry’s largest national youth finals events for rodeo competitors.  These three organizations are the gatekeepers of the sport and in their hands is developing the future field of cowboy athletes.

"First let me say congratulations to all the youth winners, winning at the highest level is never easy and something to be very proud of. It gives you confidence which I believe always helps you be competitive...Being able to ride and win when it means something is the first step to climbing the ladder in a sport which has no guarantees," 4-time World Champion and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer, Tuff Hedeman.  

The boys of summer have faced talented opponents on both sides of the chutes and we pause to salute these young athletes and recognize their outstanding seasons and what they have accomplished…buckles and titles engraved with two sacred words…World Champion.

National high School Finals Bull Riding Champion


The newly crowned National High School Champion Bull Rider is Cole Skender of Crossett, Arkansas.

The 18-year-old completed two qualified rides to earn 157 points to win his first national title. Skender also left Wyoming knowing his 86 point ride in round two was the highest scored ride of the event. In the championship round, Skender earned 71 points and was one of two bull riders to hear the whistle out of the 22 finalists.

WEB THT El Paso '18 483 Cole Skender-277 Dirty Little Secret(HAR).jpg

Skender is a familiar name on the Tuff Hedeman Bull Riding tour where he debuted as a professional in February in El Paso making a 90 point ride to place second in the first round and finish in the top 10 at his first top-level event. 

“Riding on Tuff’s tour has really helped me, I know what I have to do and can stay focused better after being on such a big stage already, I can just zone in better now and know that you ride them all the same, one at a time – it’s just the same everywhere – crowds only thing different,” said Skender.

The entire 2018 National High School Finals Rodeo Bull Riding Results can be found at

2018 International Finals Youth Rodeo Bull Riding World Champion

IFYR 2018 Champions.jpg

Boasting 1,411 entries, the world’s richest youth rodeo, IFYR, held in Shawnee, Oklahoma, awarded more than $250,000 in prize money, championship saddles, and buckles[G2] . After two long rounds and 10 performances, the bull rider that emerged as the 2018 Champion was Mason Taylor of Maypearl, Texas.

Before he was crowned the 2018 IFYR Champ, Taylor honed his skills in May at the Tuff Hedeman Breakout Series Baytown bull riding.

In Shawnee, Mason edged out five additional bull riders in the final round to win the average. Taylor followed his 81.5 first ride with an 81.5 in the championship round for a 163.0 average that placed his total earnings at $2558.80 over the six-day rodeo.

Mason Taylor #977 Bulls 7-9-18.JPG

 “We rode six out of the 15 in the finals and behind the bucking chutes, I was so nervous I couldn’t hardly spit,” Taylor said. “My heart was pumping. When the gate opened, my nerves went away, and I did my business like I was supposed to,” said Taylor to the Waxahachie Daily Light newspaper.

Recalling his championship ride, Taylor said the bull bucked early and jerked him to his fingertips. Taylor said he has learned the finer points of bull riding from his father, Chris, who rode bulls for 20 years. He recalled his father putting him on a sheep at the ripe age of two and Taylor has “been riding ever since.”


The International Finals Youth Rodeo, held annually since 1993, is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that presents top high school athletes with a professional rodeo. The internationally-recognized IFYR is held annually at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  Full Results available on


Thirty bull riding only associations feed contestants to the YBR which holds their world final competition annually in Abilene, Texas.  2018 was the historic 11th year of the world's largest youth bull riding finals with over 400 riders, their friends and family in attendance over the four-day event held in Abilene, Texas. 

The new 2018 WorldYBR  Champion is Macaulie Leather from Calliope, Australia

The new 2018 WorldYBR  Champion is Macaulie Leather from Calliope, Australia

Since its inception in 2008, the YBR World Finals was founded on the belief that every child’s dream can come true if only given something to believe in.  


This year’s dream catcher was Macaulie Leather who traveled from Queensland, Australia to earn the title with 319 points and the average check for $1,654.00.


Leather, one of 12 children in what is described as a “rodeo mad” family, is from Calliope and is well known in his native Australia.

Photo credit: The "rodeo mad" Leather family of Australia

Photo credit: The "rodeo mad" Leather family of Australia

The captain of the YBR is Mike Vergari, chairman, and founder who has 20 plus years’ experience in high school rodeo and youth bull riding events.   

Youth Bull Riders World Finals (YBRWF) has been structured under the Texas Youth Bull Riders, Inc., a non-profit 501 c3 organization based in Fort Worth, Texas.