Spiel making a statement

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At 6-foot-5, Dayton Spiel is a mountain of a man, but he's also very athletic. He will take his next freestyle bullfighting test this weekend at the Bullfighters Only's event in Vernal, Utah. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)
At 6-foot-5, Dayton Spiel is a mountain of a man, but he’s also very athletic. He will take his next freestyle bullfighting test this weekend at the Bullfighters Only’s event in Vernal, Utah. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Young South Dakotan is excited to be part of Bullfighters Only season

VERNAL, Utah – Dayton Spiel is just 22 years old, but he made quite an impression in his first Bullfighters Only competition a month ago.

Spiel finished as the runner-up at the BFO Cavender’s Cup in Decatur, Texas. What makes it more impressive is that it was just his first freestyle bullfighting competition ever. He’s about to embark on his second event with the BFO this week in conjunction with the Dinosaur Roundup Rodeo, with performances beginning at 7 :30 p.m. Thursday, July 6-Saturday, July 8, at Western Park in Vernal.

“I showed up one time, and now I’ve got to prove to everybody that I can stick around and hopefully do it for the whole tour,” said Spiel, who lives in the tiny town of Parade, S.D., a community of 10 people on the Cheyenne River Reservation. “I’m going to make a statement, and I hope it’s a good statement.”

He is part of the Bullfighters Only Developmental Camp system, where top athletes are selected from around the country to train with the BFO’s top athletes. Spiel advanced to the BFO Super Camp, which took place the week after Memorial Day in Decatur. He won a qualifying competition to be part of the Cavender’s Cup, where he faced Bullfighters Only’s greatest stars, including the famed bull Chute Boss.

“Freestyle bullfighting is a rush, and the atmosphere with that group of guys is outrageous,” he said. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and you can beat it. The environment you are in and the talent involved with BFO is unbelievable.”

Spiel was raised around rodeo. His father was a saddle bronc rider, and he and his brothers have ridden broncs and bulls. He found his way to protection bullfighting by chance.

“I jumped in the practice pen in junior high,” he said. “I fought a bull riding in my seventh-grade year because a guy got hurt. I’ve been doing cowboy protection, but I wanted to learn more about freestyle, so I went to a school with (BFO pioneer) Nate Jestes. He told me about the BFO.

“To be part of BFO right now and to be the first Super Camp selectee is amazing. That’s something I’ll probably hold onto forever.”

He brings a natural touch to the game and a size advantage never seen before in bullfighting at 6-foot-5-inches tall.

“To the untrained eye, he’s a big guy, but he’s super athletic,” said Weston Rutkowski, the reigning BFO world champion. “The thing I like most is that the kid wants it. Anytime you give him some advice, he takes it, goes home and works on it. He comes back even more skilled than before.

“I think he’s got a great future in the BFO. I think he’s got the right mindset and wants it bad enough that he will prove he is out here to stay.”

Freestyle bullfighting is a true man-vs.-beast game of skills, courage and the ability for a bullfighter to use his own athleticism against an athletic and quick Spanish fighting bull that is bred for this kind of fight.

By growing up on a ranch, the long, tall cowboy has a solid foundation.

“Dayton has been around livestock his entire life and is able to read and react,” BFO Founder Aaron Ferguson said. “Any time you’re around animals, it helps you read them and how they move.”

Spiel put his talents to the test in Vernal. The competition features three three-man bullfights, one for each night of the rodeo. The high score from all three nights will receive a cash bonus.

“I’ve been working hard,” he said. “I’ve been able to put in two-a-days when I’m not working cowboy protection, and on those days that I am fighting bulls, I’m still working out at least once a day. I’d say I’m definitely more mentally ready, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Now he hopes all that work pays off. Not only will he be competing this week in Utah, he will be part of a small stand-alone event next week in Fortuna, Calif.

“It’s still new, so it all hasn’t really hit me yet,” Spiel said. “I want to prove to myself that the first time wasn’t a fluke. My goal is to be in Las Vegas this winter and run at a world championship.

“But I’m still a little star struck that I’m in that elite group of guys. I never thought I’d be in there, and it’s so amazing.”

So is Dayton Spiel.


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