Getting down on five chute-fighting, rank bucking bulls in one day is an enviable feat itself by most anybody’s standards.
Making qualified rides on the last two meanest professional-caliber buckers within just a few minutes becomes even more notable.
When the 16-year-old high school cowboy tops 18 riders, including several professionals, championship cash and trophy undeniably well earned.
Cody Hazelton, Moundridge junior, was all smiles accepting awards for the eighth annual Flint Hills Bull Blowout at Strong City.
“You’re a champion tonight and with your natural ability, we’ll be hearing a lot about you,” assured Kim Reyer.
Ramrod for the evening competition luring a thousand spectators, Reyer was grinning too while presenting $1,057.50, and a custom-designed trophy.
Hazelton marked 78 points on his first bull, setting his championship pace. Frostbite was the young athlete’s draw in the second go-round, with attention peaked as the gates opened.
Cowboy was the winner, scoring 83 points, locking in the title. “We raised and own Frostbite, a product of our Flint Hills Genetics bucking bull breeding program,” Reyer informed. “So, it was especially pleasing for us to have Cody win on him. That was a great cowboy, great bucking bull matchup.”
Only one other bull of the 36 out the chutes was ridden to the eight-second whistle. Coy Pollmeier from Ft. Scott marked 78 points to collect the $705 check for second place of the prestigious event.
Sponsored by Reyer’s Country Store and Flint Hills Genetics, the bull riding competition support comes from many in the Flint Hills.
“We sure couldn’t do this without so much help from so many people,” Reyer acknowledged. “First and foremost is my wife, our children and their families. Then, of course, Jimmy Crowther and New Frontier Rodeo Company; there are so many in Chase County and everywhere.”
Described as a beautiful evening, folks locally and from more than a hundred miles away gathered for the barbecue beef supper.
Action kickoff was the mutton busting with top ewe sheep riding honors going to Lahna and Blaze Passmore of Cottonwood Falls, who were first and second respectively. McKenna Murray of Andover was third.
“Arena was full of kids for the chicken scramble,” an anticipated feature of the bull riding event.
“It really was the best ever,” Reyer said. “Seven chickens were caught during the event, but we finally got all the rest, too.”
Still, right after the bull riding itself, crowd enthusiasm verified highlight entertainment was the Rusty Rierson Country Music Show.
“Everyone loved Rusty,” Reyer said. “He was second to none, even better than going all the way to Nashville.”
A non-advertised feature yet another spectator pleaser with plenty of contestant adrenalin as well was the sheep dressing. “That really was a hit. The crowd loved it,” Reyer said.
Tanner Koch, Wyatt Reyer, and Shea Terrell were the first place sheep-dressing team with second place team composed of Jesse Potter, Cael Budke, and Caleb Stout.
What’s an evening entertainment without good eating, too? “The sophomore class did the concessions and had a very busy night, the food was great,” Reyer insisted.
“It was just a fabulous night from all aspects, fun for everyone. Most importantly, there were no serious injuries,” Reyer said. “We’re already planning to make next year’s ninth annual Flint Hills Bull Blowout bigger and better than ever.”
Hazelton has only been riding bucking bulls for three years. “My family really doesn’t have any background in rodeo, but I wanted to give it a try,” he said. The call was returned between his high school classes.
“It’s really working out quite well,” admitted Hazelton, in a misnomer of sorts, considering his youthful bull riding successes.
Son of Don and Jennifer Hazelton of Moundridge, the champion is presently also in first place in the Kansas High School Rodeo Association standings.
“Well, I really feel good about winning Strong City, because I came off pretty fast at the high school rodeo earlier in the day,” he admitted.
However, before mounting the three competition bulls that day, Hazelton had already been on two practice bulls earlier in the morning.
“I’m starting a bucking bull breeding program of my own,” he informed. “I just have a couple of bucking-bred cows so far, but I do have three bulls I get on for practice.”
The five-foot-ten, 160-pound athlete keeps in shape by playing on the high school football team. “I’m fortunate that Coach understands I’m a cowboy first and football player second,” he noted.
Fifth in state high school rodeo bull riding standings last year, Hazelton has his sights on qualifying for the nationals this year. “I have to keep making qualified rides. That’s the key,” he recognized.
Long term, the inspirational teenager looks to a professional career in the rodeo business. “I just love riding bulls,” Hazelton summarized.