South Point Tuff Hedeman Challenge Bull Riding presented Rock and Roll Denim
FORT WORTH, Texas - With two 90 point plus rides, nineteen-year-old PRCA all-around cowboy Stetson Wright pitched a perfect night going 3 for 3 to edge out Eli Vastbinder and get the win at the legendary Fort Worth Tuff Hedeman Challenge. Wright took home the prize package and a check for $12,325 on Saturday night when he was one of only two cowboy athletes to finish the night riding three bulls.
Standing in the same arena where stand-alone bull riding was founded 27 years ago, the 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo All-Around cowboy and the younger of the multi-talented rodeo Wright tribe had this to say about his night.
“Riding three bulls in a row is hard, especially after the first one steps on your back, but I was 92 points on the second one, and that just fired me up, the third one I hardly remember, I was just riding on pure adrenaline." said the cowboy from Beaver, Utah.
With his eyes set on being the first bull riding World Champion in the family, Stetson Wright, son of Cody Wright, was happy with his decision to stay in Texas when he got the invitation from Hedeman.
“Most guys would not have gotten back on after being stepped on that hard and for him to get back up and that just tells you he is a winner and he proved that tonight, but he comes from a family of cowboys, and they are winners, it's just what they do,” said Hedeman.
Wright vividly remembers meeting Hedeman as a child at the NFR when he was signing autographs and then again last year at the NFR, but was excited to get the call to come to ride at a tour event.
"Anytime Tuff Hedeman is standing by the chute you better show up. It fired me up, and I knew I had to cock my hammer, show up and show out or maybe never be invited back," said Wright.
Stetson first started to rodeo when he was in the 4th grade. He joined the Utah 5 and Under Rodeo Association and competed in the steer riding. Then moved through the ranks of the Utah Junior High Rodeo Association, Utah High School Rodeo Association, Rocky Mountain Pro Rodeo Association, and other local rodeos. Unlike the other members of the Wright family, Stetson's favorite event is the bull riding, and he set his sights on riding both bulls and broncs as a professional. The secret to his success?
“My Dad (Cody Wright) stresses to stay positive, and you can do anything you want," said Wright before the performance.
While the city is called Cowtown because of its history as a center for the cattle and beef-processing industry, it also has been a fortress for pro bull riding. 27 years ago four-time World Champion and Hall of Famer Tuff Hedeman produced the first Tuff Hedeman Challenge at the Cowtown Coliseum in the historic Stockyards of Fort Worth. That western entertainment tradition lives on today in bull riding only events in thousands of cities around the world with its roots the invitation-only South Point Tuff Hedeman Challenge bull riding in Fort Worth, Texas.
32 bull riders including 11 National Finals Rodeo contenders, the reigning National High School Rodeo Champion, and multiple top PRCA ranked bull riders headlined the event where Hedeman celebrated the future of the sport with the past.
Fans were treated to the Stick bull riding contest for 6 and under budding cowboys and cowgirls. Intermission featured the Cripple Creek Jr. Steer Riding Challenge featuring the top bull riding prospect from the industry and with a familiar name to bull riding fans on the junior roster, the competition did not disappoint.
The first section set the pace for the night when the first three out of five riders posted qualified ride scores. Maverick Potter, returning as a professional after winning the Cripple Creek Jr. Challenge as an amateur, was 88.5. Dustin Boquet, Brett Custer, and JT Moore turned in a trio of 88 point scores. But in the end, it was Jeff Askey who earned the highest score of the 15 qualified rides in round one. Askey was 90 points on B7 Nightmare of Richardson Land and Cattle. Matt Palmer was second with 89 points followed by Potter.
Vastbinder, Sellers, Preece, Worden, Wright, McCown, Campbell, and Craigen completed the list of qualified rides from round one.
Wright had this to say about his first score, an 86.5 aboard 320 Sticks owned by Larry Barker.
“He was right there to the left into my hand, not too much kick, but then at the buzzer when I was getting off he switched directions stepped on my back pretty good and really knocked the fight out of me,” said Wright.
The bulls took complete control of the coliseum allowing only four qualified rides in the 16 man semifinal round. Askey, Palmer, and Potter were the top three by average, but after Wright, posted 92 points aboard JQH’s Blame it on the Whiskey, he took control of the coveted average which allows you to pick your bull for the sudden death Shoot Out round. Wright was now 178 on two.
“I didn’t know that one or the second one I got on, and the contractor said he was going to buck and he wasn’t lying,” laughed Wright never complaining about the first round injury.
"That ride was so gutsy if I were judging he would have been 94," laughed Hedeman.
Half a point behind Wright was Matt Palmer who rode Uptown Funk (Knapp) and was a solid 88.5 points and 177.5 on two. Maverick Potter posted 86.5 on 805 Hat Rack (Cunningham) and claimed 175 total points. Mr. Consistency this year, Eli Vastbinder was 86 on Melton’s 524 Lippy and 173 on now two.
“One of those nights I drew well, I drew a bunch anybody here should have ridden, got my first two down and got the one they left me, and it worked out. You just have to take them one at a time,” said Vastbinder.
Shoot Out Round
With four riding two, the stage was set. Wright with a little help from his friends on the chutes selected first and picked a bull former pro bull rider Pistol Robinson was flanking, 42 Lil Willard.
“I had never seen any of these bulls so for my third one, Pistol (Robinson) showed me what he was, and I picked him. It’s nice knowing everyone back here, and everybody was helping me.
Palmer selected next, and he took Hurst's Yellowhair. Potter followed with 804 Wildcard which left Vastbinder with Brad Vogel’s 1102 Good Time Garret.
“I study some bulls, but all three today I knew nothing about, and my body just reacted, and it all worked out,” said Wright.
Wright, a little overwhelmed, thanked the fans and Tuff.
Cripple Creek Junior Steer Riding Championship
Ten-year-old John Crimber, son of famed bull rider Paulo Crimber, began riding livestock at 2 years old and is no stranger to the bucking chutes in Fort Worth. He was one of four riders to make the whistle Saturday night in Cowtown, and it was no surprise to Tuff Hedeman or anyone who knows John that success on bucking stock is his future.
"I started on sheep, my dad taught me how to ride, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps," I practice twice a week, I was not nervous it was just another bull riding, I knew some of the riders,and they helped,” said Crimber.
"One of the bull riders told me to stay to the front and don't get leaned back, and that's what I did. My steer he hopped skipped and turned back to the left, I was waiting on him to turn back to the right, but he went left today."
I need to work on my feet turning out, but I plan on coming back next year.
He did just that on Saturday night turning in a 90 point performance in front of an adoring crowd with his professional bull riding peers on the back of the chutes cheering him on.
TH Bull Team Challenge
Sixteen teams were entered in the Fort Worth Challenge with a local team coming out on top.
Richardson Land and Cattle Company’s Jerry Richardson and partner former Pro Bull Rider Pistol Robinson from Clifton, Texas teamed up for the win.
"We have a pen of bulls, and we sorted to see who was firing and working good, we have about 8 or 10 bulls to choose from,” said Richardson. Richardson who farms, ranches and has a construction company partnered with Robinson for help in keeping and selecting bulls from the multiple bull team competitions they enter..
“Having Pistol part of our team he is really able to pick the bulls he would really like to ride, and that really helps,” said Richardson.
Their team posted the first and second place scored rides in round one. Led by quarterback B7 Nightmare, a son of Houdini and a former futurity calf owned by Robinson, Jeff Askey was 90 points on him, and Potter was a close 88.5 on Flea Flicker setting up the win for Richardson. Warden bucked off De Boss but with an 87.5 bull score and 4.67 ride time it was enough to edge out Hurst and Baker by 1/10 of a point.
“These team bulls need to turn back, buck, and have solid trips with no tricks,” said Robinson who had bucked 132 bulls earlier in a futurity at the Richardson Ranch.
Baker and Hurst were second followed by Carr Pro Rodeo and Billy Jones, Scott Winston and Cory Melton were fourth, and Danny Mason was fifth. Final payout place went to Larry Barker.
Fort Worth Tuff Hedeman Challenge Shoot Out Round Results
1, Stetson Wright, Beaver, Utah, 90.5 points on 462 Lil Willard owned by Richardson L & C Co., 12,325.00. 2, Eli Vastbinder, 87.5, on Good Time Garrett (Vogele) , $7,675.00. 3, Matt Palmer, No score on 3728 Yellowhair (Hurst), $2,250. Maverick Potter, No Score on 804 Wildcard (Burrus), $2,250.
Fort Worth Bull Team Challenge Results
1, Richardson Land and Cattle Co., Clifton, Texas, 283.67 pts, $28,800. 2, Tom Baker/Lyndal Hurst, 283.57 pts, $20,800. 3, Carr Pro Rodeo/Billy Jones, 282.54, $12,800. 4, Scott Winston/Melton Bull Co., 282.50, $8,800. 5, D. Mason/Smith, 281.65,$5,600. 6, Barker Bucking Bulls, 281.49, $3,200.
Cripple Creek Junior Champion
John Crimber, Stephenville, Texas, __points, $1,000