For Waylon Bourgeois, it’s all about being young and in his sophomore campaign in ProRodeo. For Richmond Champion, it’s about an injury forcing him to the sidelines for the better part of 2023.
No matter their reasons, both men looked starved for the biggest prizes in the sport during Friday’s third performance of Rooftop Rodeo. Both men scored 85.5 points to move into a tie for the bareback riding lead with three nights remaining at Estes Park’s rodeo.
“This is something I’ve dreamed about to be riding against guys like Richie, and hopefully I can go to the NFR with the,” said Bourgeois, 24, of Church Point, Louisiana.
He rode Cervi Brothers’ Rodeos Bazinga, while Champion rode Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Hitman. Both knew they had a chance to make some serious cash in the Colorado Rockies by making their way to Estes Park this weekend.
“That horse is usually a (saddle) bronc, and he’s been around a long time,” said Champion, 30, of Stevensville, Montana. “I’d seen Cole Reiner do good on him last year, so I knew he was a solid chance. He came out a little more wild and bucky than I thought he was going to be, but it was a lot of fun.”
Champion has been to the National Finals Rodeo seven times in his career, first qualifying in 2014. He missed the finals in 2015 and watched from the sidelines. That built a fire in him that burned until a neck injury forced him out of competition for several months in 2022. When doctors recommended surgery, he was well on his way to an eighth trip to ProRodeo’s grand finale.
“Obviously I was on track to make it back to the NFR, but God had other plans,” said Champion, whose wife, Paige, is expected to give birth to the couple’s first child in September. “I got to be home. I guided fly fishing. I went to Las Vegas to watch a couple rounds last December and ended up getting the TV deal.”
Champion served as an expert commentator during the NFR’s pregame show on The Cowboy Channel, so it was in the Nevada desert for all 10 go-rounds.
“It made me love rodeo even more, getting to see it from all aspects and not just focusing on bareback riding,” he said. “It’s all a piece of the puzzle for this year.”
He’s 25th in the world standings as of this week, but he’s got a great chance to keep moving up the money list.
Bourgeois is 36th in the standings, but he’s building. Rides like the one he put on Friday night give him the confidence that he hopes builds momentum.
“I’m going to try my hardest to get to the NFR,” said Bourgeois, who finished his inaugural campaign 29th in the world standings and second in the rookie race. “If it happens, it happens. If not, God’s got other plans. Whatever He’s got in store for me is how it’s going to go, and I’m just going to accept it.”
While sitting out much of the 2022 season helped motivate Champion, he looks toward Bourgeois and others new to the game for more inspiration.
“The crop of young guys this year is insane,” he said. “For me, coming back from injury and having to sit out last year, seeing these guys starting to come on and the way they came out this winter has really lit a fire under me.”
Bareback riding: 1. (tie) Waylon Bourgeois, on The Cervi Brothers’ Bazinga, and Richmond Champion, on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Hitman, 85.5 points each; 3. Jacob Raine, 85; 4. Strawbs Jones, 78; 5. Kade Sonnier, 76.5; 6. Tim Murphy, 74.
Steer wrestling: 1. Aaron Vosler, 3.6 seconds; 2. Jace Joos, 4.5; 3. Colt Honey, 4.6; 4. Gus Franzen, 4.8; 5. Will Lummus, 5.0; 6. Charles Johnston, 5.2.
Team roping: 1. Korbin Rice/Jake South, 4.4 seconds; 2. Tyler Wade/Wesley Thorp, 4.5; 3. (tie) Cam Jensen/Tanner Whetham and Kreece Thompson/Landen Glenn, 4.7 each; 5. (tie) Pedro Egurrola/JC Flake and Kellan Johnson/Carson Johnson, 5.0 each.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Stu Wright, 87.5 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Ricky Bobby; 2. Stetson Wright, 87; 3. Sam Martin, 84; 4. Lefty Marvel Holman, 82.5; 5. Leon Fountain, 82; 6. Brody Cress, 81.5.
Tie-down roping: 1. Tyler Boxleitner, 9.9 seconds; 2. Kincade Henry, 10.1; 3. Colton Farquer, 10.7; 4. Ross McAdow, 12.2; 5. Zaine Mikita, 12.9; 6. Seth Peterson, 13.1.
Barrel racing: 1. Kelly Allen, 16.11 seconds; 2. Kelly Yates, 16.14; 3. (tie) Michelle Darling and Makala Pierce, 16.18; 5. (tie) Rainey Skelton and Heidi Tillard, 16.21; 7. Michelle Merrick, 16.24; 8. (tie) Fallon Forbes and Preslie Reid, 16.25; 10. Shali Lord, 16.28; 11. Emery Mask, 16.35; 12. (tie) Natalie Bland and Jayda Jameson, 16.44; 14. Erin Wetzel, 16.47; 15. Alex Odle, 16.49.
Bull riding: 1. Stetson Wright, 88 points on Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Theodore; 2. Cody Johansen, 76.5; 3. Ben Bode, 72; no other qualified rides.