Eaton bullfighter making a name — and some money — for himself at the Greeley Stampede
Ryder Rich has found himself one heckuva summer job.
So far, it pays good, too.
On June 26, the Eaton 16-year-old was so good at his job — as an American Bullfighter — that his first check will be in the neighborhood of $3,500.
Beats working for Ace Hardware or the local Taco Bell.
Rich, a second-generation rodeo performer, won the American Bullfighter competition at the Greeley Stampede Rodeo at Island Grove Arena with a finals score of 89. He was two points better than runner-up Chase Wright of Huster, Texas, and three points better than his Eaton neighbor, Dustin Konig, and Grandview, Texas, bullfighter Travis Gidley, each with an 86.
By coincidence, Rich’s father, Kevin, provides the bulls.
“Yeah,” the baby-faced Rich said, “I’ve fought probably about 11 of these bulls at one time or another. With my dad putting these (competitions) on, I’ve been around this my entire life.”
An unfair advantage?
“No, not really,” Rich said. “You still have to perform and hope the good Lord is there to help you out.”
In the finals, consisting of seven bullfighters, Rich was the last to perform, knowing the number he had to beat.
“I really didn’t think about it when I was in the arena,” Rich said. “When I was sitting on the chutes, I was watching … then you go out, have a good time and fight like you know you can.”
Rich and Konig displayed a variety of spin moves, often changing directions to avoid absorbing the horns of their bulls and conceded that the competition comes from the bulls and not the other bullfighters.
In the preliminary round, Rich threw in his hat after the first 30 seconds of the 60-second limit on his way to a score of 86. Konig was closer to using all 60 seconds to record a score of 84, advancing him past Connor Johnson of Grandview, Texas, who received just 77 points from the judges.
“I didn’t really perform to the best of my ability,” said Konig, who also grew up fighting bulls from the Rich corrals. “I’m a little sore this weekend. I’ve been at rodeos the past few weeks.”
Konig, 27, played football and wrestled at Highland High School, and kept a keen eye on Rich, who was learning the business from the ground floor up.
“He’s like a little brother to me,” Konig said of Rich. “I rode bulls at one of his dad’s rodeos and it was his dad who took me under his wing and taught me the ins and outs. I’ve watched (Ryder) since he as a kid. Now, he has to be really proud of his own talents.”
Rich said he plans to play football for the Reds this fall, then continue playing baseball while finding time to fight bulls in between.
He is a member of Eaton’s Legion A baseball team and said that playing baseball is currently a priority.
“Right now, baseball is first and bullfighting is second,” Rich said.
With a few thousand in the checking account, Rich plans to use his discipline to leave it lay instead of going out and doing what most teenagers might do — like buying a new stereo for a truck.
“I think right now, it’s best that I stay off that money,” Rich said. “My better judgment tells me to just save the money and maybe buy something nice down the road.”
Rich isn’t even sure where his next stop is.
“Haven’t decided yet,” he said. “I’ll figure it out. Right now, I just want to have some fun at the (Greeley) Stampede.”
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Obviously, Rich’s performance was good enough to take home first place, but there were other performances that were extremely crowd pleasing.
Tyler Dye absorbed a good stooping by his bull early on but eventually hurdled over the horns to finish his preliminary round with a 74.
Eaton’s Justin Kruetzer was able to even grab the bull by the horns with a preliminary round score of 81, and Montana’s Ty Simenson was twice flipped by the bull, but still managed a score of 76.
The stage was set early on in the final round when Gidley was pinned against the metal fence with about 15 seconds left, and he received an 86. Wright then recorded an 87, setting the stage for Rich to finish with an 89.
WHAT IT MEANS
What a way to start the summer for Rich, who is considered an up-and-coming star in the business.
The Greeley Stampede
Ryder Rich, Eaton, 86; Dustin Konig, Eaton, 84; Travis Gidley, Grandview, Texas, 83; Wayne Ratley, Floresville, Texas, 82; Jon Roberts, Friendship, Tenn., 81; Chase Wright, Hustger, Texas, 78; Austin Rutherford, St. Morristown, Tenn., 78; James Turner, Denver, 78; Connor Johnson, Grandview, Texas, 77; Shawn Weber, Kersey, 76; Colton Keyworth, Denver, Neb., 74; Tyler Dye, Montezuma, Kan., 74; Ty Simenson, Chinook, Mont., 71.
Rich, 89; Wright, 87; Konig, 86; Gidley, 86; Weber, 85; Ratley, 83; Rutherford, 78.