Veteran goes ‘old school’ en route to his Bullfighters Only tour victory in Gooding
GOODING, Idaho – Ross Hill is a veteran bullfighter who has a few tricks up his sleeve.
He earned his spot in Saturday night’s championship round of the Bullfighters Only tour event in association with the Gooding Pro Rodeo, then pulled out some old-school items from his toolbox to pull off an 89.5-point fight to win the championship and $3,000.
“We had a long-round fight to start with, and the top two scores from that advanced to the short round,” said Hill, who bested rising star Cade Burns in the final round to take the title. “The head-to-head format has been awesome.”
It was there, though, that Hill shined while matching moves 12x Fighting Bulls and Costa’s AK-47.
“Weston (Rutkowski) had him in Reno and won on him,” said Hill of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I was really excited to have him. He’s got a big ol’ set of horns. I had seen Weston really shine on him and figured it was my opportunity to do the same.”
The quick little black bull was true to his name, spitting out rapid shots that the Alabama bullfighter countered. When the time came, the 33-year-old Hill pulled the animal toward the barrel and its inhabitant, barrelman Justin Rumford.
“I like to get some showmanship out of the barrel,” Hill said. “I watched the four guys go before I went, and I was on the fence next to the crowd, and they were loud the whole time. The loudest they got was when the bulls hit the barrel.
“I heard a long time ago that if you win the crowd, you win the gold. I wanted to bring that barrel into the fight. Of course, I drew the best bull, so that was the biggest thing.”
That, oftentimes, is the difference in the Bullfighters Only events, which serve as a world-class showcase of the sport’s top talent. Hill has 10 years of bullfighting under his belt, and it shows.
“To be the best bullfighter, you have to fight the best bulls,” he said. “With the BFO, the progression of our group is so high that it really comes down to who draws the best bull. We’re all pretty even in our fights, so it comes down to the bull.”
With half the score coming from the animal, having a talented athlete on the other side of the equation is vital. All the men in Gooding experienced that with 12x Fighting Bulls. In a field that included BFO No. 1 Nate Jestes and three other top bullfighters in Evan Allard, Justin Josey and Zach Call, only Hill and Burns made the short round.
“I really like that format where we can have one on one,” Hill said. “Had it not been that way, I would’ve finished second.”
That’s because Burns put on a solid performance in his inaugural Bullfighters Only competition. He won the opening round with an 88-point fight.
“I’m just excited to get my foot in the door,” Burns said. “It seems like the BFO is really taking off, and I just felt lucky to be part of it.
“It couldn’t have been any better. I’ve been working out all summer, and (Bullfighters Only CEO) Aaron Ferguson said I would probably be able to get into one this year. The way the cards fell, I got that chance. To get to step in the ring and get to compete with those guys was an honor. To be the first one and to be the new kid on the block was just a blessing to me.”
He fared fairly well for not having been part of a freestyle bullfight in several years.
“I wasn’t nervous and I wasn’t worked up,” he said. “I was just excited to have the opportunity to go out there and show my stuff.”
When the ink dried, though, Hill took the top prize. He wasn’t able to put it into any type of season perspective, but there’s a reason for that.
“I don’t rank my bullfights,” he said. “You conquer your bulls, and you don’t look any further than that. Don’t pride yourself on what was yesterday, because there’s another one next weekend. The 0only reason you want to look back is to keep it fresh for the future. None of your premier rodeo guys look at last weekend.”
With the victory, Hill pushed closer toward the top three in the BFO standings. He sits fourth with just eight events remaining in the regular season, but he’s only $1,300 behind the leader, Jestes.
“We’re just now getting cranked up for my season,” Hill said. “I’ve got three events coming up one right after another one, and I plan on winning three of them. My goal is to stick three W’s up on this Northwest run.”
Cade Burns, 88 points
Ross Hill, 87
Justin Josey, 85
Evan Allard, 84
Nate Jestes, 79
Zach Call, 77
Ross Hill, 89.5 points
Cade Burns, 86