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There’s a New Man on Top

Rutkowski slides past Jestes to take lead in Bullfighters Only tour standings

Weston Rutkowski jumps a bull during a recent Bullfigthers Only competition. Rutkowski jumped into the lead in the BFO’s tour standings after a runner-up finish this past week at California Rodeo Salinas (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Weston Rutkowski jumps a bull during a recent Bullfigthers Only competition. Rutkowski jumped into the lead in the BFO’s tour standings after a runner-up finish this past week at California Rodeo Salinas (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

The competitive fire that burns inside Weston Rutkowski has only been stirred.

This week he moved into the No. 1 spot in the Bullfighters Only tour standings, having earned $17,625 so far this season. But he’s not content.

“For a guy as competitive as I am, it’s difficult to finish second as often as I have,” said Rutkowski, 27, of Haskell. “This is a humbling sport.”

Freestyle bullfighting is exactly that. It’s man vs. beast, 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.

Rutkowski finished runner-up in a four-night Bullfighters Only event this past week in conjunction with California Rodeo Salinas, and those earnings shot him past season leader Nathan Jestes of Douglas, Wyo., by $550. He also finished in at least a tie for second in Arlington, Texas; Phoenix; Cedar Park, Texas; and Cody, Wyo.

“I’m fed up with being the bridesmaid,” Rutkowski said. “Second place isn’t good enough for me. Of course, if all of us were out for second, we wouldn’t be on board for this kind of competition. We all want to win.”

He has been in the winner’s circle, earning a key victory at the BFO that was part of the Reno (Nev.) Rodeo. He also posted the highest-marked fight last week in Salinas, an 88.5 to win the second go-round.

Weston Rutkowski

Weston Rutkowski

“Salinas definitely takes care of a lot of it,” he said. “It’s one of the richest bullfightings in the country. As legendary as that rodeo is, and as much as they care about bullfights, it goes a long way. The money you can win there sure helps a guy out.”

Of course, natural ability helps considerably, and that’s what fans see during a Bullfighters Only event; it features the top 15 bullfighters in the sport. More than anything, though, the men who are part of Bullfighters Only put in considerable work to maintain their status.

“It’s as much physical as it is mental,” Rutkowski said. “You’re not showing up at rodeos just reading the bulls and reacting; sometimes you have to take that fight to the animal.

“I’m huge on physical fitness. I work out every single day. I don’t have to question if I’m going to have the legs to get through it. I know I can go out there and do what I need to do from 40 to 60 seconds.”

It’s vital in a sport where the opponent is much bigger, stronger and faster to have the right attitude and the right talent. Fans see it, and so do the rodeos with which Bullfighters Only has associated itself.

“The general consensus we’re getting from the committees and the fans is that they’re loving it,” he said. “It’s a relatively old sport with a new twist, and with the social media that we’re putting out there, we’re able to share that with so many more people. Those that were around during the golden age of bullfighting are glad to have it back, and a lot of that has to do with the new twist and the new flair that the BFO brings.”

Rutkowski won’t rest too much on being the No. 1 man on tour. He will be back in action next week during the Bullfighters Only event at the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo, then will return to the competition stage for the BFO event in conjunction with the Sikeston (Mo.) Jaycee Boothill Rodeo on Aug. 10-11.

“Every stop is huge, especially for a guy like me who finally grew into the lead,” Rutkowski said. “I’m not someone who wants to give that up, and I’m going to do all I can to stay on top. My goal is to win the first year tour and be crowned the first true world champion in freestyle bullfighting in 16 years.”

BULLFIGHTERS ONLY TOUR STANDINGS
(As of July 25, 2016)

1. Weston Rutkowski Haskell, Texas, $17,625
2. Nate Jestes Douglas, Wyo., $17,075
3. Cody Webster Wayne, Okla., $15,000
4. Ross Hill Muscle Shoals, Ala., $13,310
5. Beau Schueth Norfolk, Neb., $9,250
6. Nathan Harp Tuttle, Okla., $8,340
7. Evan Allard Vinita, Okla., $8,250
8. Schell Apple Fay, Okla., $7,100
9. Chuck Swisher Dover, Okla., $5,300
10. Dusty Tuckness Meeteetse, Wyo., $5,250

Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com