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A Pioneering Spirit

Bullfighters Only brings the best men in the game to Lewiston for the Roundup

LEWISTON, Idaho – Like the men and women who settled the Old West, Erick Schwindt sees the men of Bullfighters Only as explorers and trend-setters.

“It’s fun being part of the pioneer group of Bullfighters Only,” said Schwindt, 24, of Lyons, Ore. “I do it, and I think we all do it, because we love to fight bulls.”

He and five other men will have their opportunity to showcase their talents and the pioneering efforts of Bullfighters Only during a two-night championship set for Friday and Saturday in conjunction with the Lewiston Roundup.

Erick Schwindt

Erick Schwindt

“It’s going to be fun,” Schwindt said of competing at Lewiston, which has long been considered one of the biggest and best events in ProRodeo. “It’s a big rodeo, and you get to go out in front of a big crowd and show them what you can do. Just being invited it a big deal to me.”

It’s a big deal for the BFO, which has created public demand for the sport. The bullfighters utilize their tremendous athleticism to try to outwit and outmaneuver equally athletic bulls, which are bred specifically for this type of fight.

That’s exactly what drives Schwindt, who began fighting bulls more than a decade ago.

“I rode steers for a couple of years, but it just wasn’t for me,” he said. “I didn’t like being on the back of them. One of my brother’s good buddies fought bulls; by watching him, I thought it would be fun to do.

“I went to my first bullfighting school when I was 13 years old, and I have loved it ever since.”

He sits 15th in the BFO standings and would love the opportunity to step up a few rungs on the ladder. He will get it this weekend, but it will be a big test. Not only will he be up against some amazing animal athletes, he will be in a competition that features three of the top four men in the standings – No. 2 Nate Jestes of Douglas, Wyo.; third-ranked Weston Rutkowski of Haskell, Texas; and Ross Hill, the fourth-ranked bullfighter from Muscle Shoals, Ala.

“We’re all brothers, and we stick together,” Schwindt said. “If somebody goes down, a bunch of us are going to jump in and help. We’re all there for each other. It comes down to the fact that you’ve got to beat your bull. That’s all you can control.”

With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

Lewiston is the 26th stop on the Bullfighters Only inaugural tour. The BFO conducted its first event last December in Las Vegas, and the 30-event tour began in January. Its growth has been phenomenal.

“It’s been pretty amazing that it’s grown so fast,” he said. “From going to our first sessions to going straight to Vegas last December; there aren’t very many things that can go to Vegas when they’re just starting.

“We have these events all over the country. It’s just been incredible.”

That movement includes a series of stops in the Northwest – from Washington to Oregon to Idaho, Bullfighters Only has made its home in the region.

“I think being part of prestigious rodeos is a big deal for us,” Schwindt said. “A lot of these rodeos may have had bullfights back in the day. In the Northwest, bullfighting hasn’t been here in many years. People love it. Yes, it’s an adrenaline rush. It’s not only for us but also for the fans, too.

“I think it’s going to be a great deal for a lot of these rodeos.”

CONTESTANTS
Nate Jestes
Weston Rutkowski
Ross Hill
Ross Johnson
Erick Schwindt
Cade Burns

Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com