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In front of the bull

Texas man hired as bullfighter for Buffalo Bill Rodeo

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — When there’s a mean bull in the rodeo arena, Weston Rutkowski doesn’t run away from it, he runs towards it.

That’s because the Texas cowboy is a bullfighter, and he’s a new hire for this year’s Buffalo Bill Rodeo.

Rutkowski, who is 32 years old, will step in during the bull riding with fellow bull fighter Zach Call to distract bulls after each ride, to give the bull rider time to scramble to safety.



He grew up with a mother who was the 1976 Miss Rodeo Texas and maternal uncles who rode saddle broncs.

“I didn’t have a chance,” he joked. “I’ve been a rodeo kid my whole life. I’ve been to rodeos since I could walk.”



He competed in junior rodeos, but when he got to high school, his mom wouldn’t let him ride bulls because of high school sports. He excelled at football and attended college to play, but when he realized he didn’t have much chance of playing, he went back to riding bulls.

And, as what happens with a lot of bullfighters, Rutkowski’s bullfighting career began in a practice pen. A friend asked him to step in as bullfighter, and that was it. “I knew right then and there it was what I wanted to do.”

It was the adrenaline rush that did it. “There was a gap for me to step in,” during the first time in the practice pen, “to save my buddy. I stepped in there grabbed the bull, and threw him a fake out of pure reaction. That pure adrenaline rush was awesome. I didn’t get that riding bulls.”

That was 10 years ago, and in 2013, Rutkowski became a PRCA member.

COMPETITIONS

He also does freestyle bullfighting: a competition between bullfighter and bull, where the bullfighter scores points for maneuvers performed during the contest, which usually lasts about a minute. Rutkowski is a three-time freestyle world champion in the Bullfighters Only association (2016-18).

He loves being in front of the bulls of Beutler and Son Rodeo. “It’s always fun to work with (Bennie Beutler and son Rhett Beutler.)” A lot of stock contractors’ bulls are done when the buzzer sounds, and they head for the gate. Not so true for Beutler bulls. “Bennie’s bulls have that high-headed, mean, bucking bull mentality.

“You’re guaranteed to sell tickets one way or another,” Rutkowski said, “whether that’s you getting thrown or the cowboy getting thrown.”

The Buffalo Bill Rodeo will be held June 16-19 at the Wild West Arena in North Platte, Neb. Tickets range in price from $6 to $17 and can be purchased online at NebraskalandDays.com, the ticket office (2801 Charlie Evans Drive, North Platte); and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call the office at 308-532-7939.


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