In two nights of exciting bull riding action, a pair of up-and-coming stars of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) dominated the headlines. Scottie Knapp took top honors in the Division II Xtreme Bulls on March 21, 2014; twenty-four hours later, Jordan Spears rode two bulls in the Division I event to take the Championship.
The two-night stop on the PRCA's Xtreme Bulls Tour was hosted by the Avi Resort and Casino; the small town of Fort Mohave, Arizona is just down the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada.
On Friday night, it was all Knapp. The 23 year old rider from Albuquerque, New Mexico was the ninth of 40 cowboys to compete. He tangled with Stink Eye, a veteran bull from Four Star Rodeo Company who carried four-time PRCA World Champ J.W. Harris to a round win at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in Las Vegas.
"I'd been on him once before and the clock showed 7.9 seconds," laughed Knapp. "So this was a rematch and I had it out for him; thankfully it worked out."
Knapp handled the bull with ease, earning 90 points from the judges. He needed every inch of it--in what was likely one of the best events of the season thus far, Knapp won by just half a point over Paul Coppini with Tustin Daye and Brady Portenier just another half behind that at 89 points.
"I enjoyed every minute of it," said Knapp of watching rider after rider come oh-so-close to beating him. "I'm blessed just to be a part of this."
Knapp began riding sheep at three years of age, the same time his father started riding bulls at the age of 36.
"I fell in love with it right away and there's no turning back now," he laughs. "I like them to blow and spin, maybe give me a chance to stick my chest out and let loose and spur them a little."
"But you've got to ride them all."
The crowd was entertained when Arizona riders Daye and Craig Begay were paired with spectators in a bounty bonus program. By making the eight-seconds aboard Smokin' Ace from the Honeycutt Rodeo Company, Daye earned $500 cash for the spectator who had been paired with him through a drawing.
Knapp earned $3,948 for the win while Coppini banked $3,027. The win kick started 2014 for Knapp, who finished 19th in the PRCA World standings last season.
Ironically, Knapp was slated to ride Stink Eye again on Saturday night (the weekend is considered two separate events, allowing for a rider to draw the same bull twice) but the bull injured himself on Friday night and was unable to compete.
"He's got a lot more rhythm and style; he's easier to get along with," said Knapp of Stink Eye in comparison with his Saturday bull, Cattin' Around also from Four Star Rodeo. He was bucked off prior to eight seconds on the latter.
Saturday night was all about Spears. The Northern Californian finished sixth in a tough field of rookies in 2013, which included two who qualified for the WNFR.
Spears spurred his way to the first round win with 88 points on Mystro, another bull from the Four Star string.
Although the bull shares Spears' current hometown of Cottonwood, California, he had never been on him before.
"I've seen him several times but never had the chance to get on him before," said Spears. "I'm glad I got the chance at him here, for the big money and where it counted."
"I grew up getting on Jeff's [Davis, owner of Four Star Rodeo] bulls and it felt good to come to a PRCA event and get on one of his."
Casey Huckabee was second, a distance behind Spears with 85 points, while former WNFR qualifier Bobby Welsh finished third with 83.5 points.
In the Championship Round, it appeared that Welsh might take the early lead as the Wyoming cowboy was still aboard Top Gun at the eight second whistle. However, the judges ruled that Welsh had slapped his bull with the free hand just after beginning his ride, disqualifying him from the competition.
Cody Samora covered Haunted Mesa from 4L & Diamond S Rodeo for 86 points to lead the event with only Spears left to ride in the finals.
Spears had drawn another good bull from 4L & Diamond S, Smashing Success. The California cowboy went after the bull right out of the chutes, spurring aggressively through the eight seconds. He earned 87 points.
"It felt really good and I had to really hustle; it felt like he bucked hard and I had to try harder than my long round bull," said Spears. "I hadn't seen him before last night but I heard from a lot of the guys that he's a good bull to have."
"That's how I try to go after each bull," he said of his aggressive style, spurring early in the ride. "I try to be aggressive. If you sit back and let the bull take the fight to you, it doesn't work out very well."
"But if you take the fight to them, you're better off . . . not getting hurt and having more success,"
With a two-ride total of 175 points, Spears outpaced Samora by 12 points and set a new record for the Fort Mohave Classic event.
"I drew good and did what I'm supposed to do which is stay on my bulls," he said. "Everything worked out."
"To win anywhere is great but to do it closer to home and right before you start on the spring rodeos . . . it feels great."
Spears earned $11,146 for the win and with another $658 tossed in for finishing sixth on Friday night, Spears hauled nearly $12,000 in earnings out of Arizona. He vaulted up the standings better than 40 positions to land 15th. He has won $17,282 this season thus far.
In the Xtreme Bulls season standings, Spears is seventh while Knapp is 22nd. Four-time and reigning World Champ J.W. Harris leads the pack.
The next stop on the Xtreme Bulls Division I Tour is the Reno-Tahoe Xtreme Bulls, which kicks off the Reno Rodeo on June 19. All Xtreme Bulls events are televised on MAV-TV.