FORT DODGE — It’s one thing to tangle with another 160-pound opponent in the state tournament, like John Young did as a Creston/Orient-Macksburg wrestler in high school.
But, it’s quite another feat to ride out a bucking 1,800-pound bull for eight seconds, and do so better than all the other professional rodeo cowboys in a national rodeo event.
That’s how the 19-year-old college sophomore spent the past weekend in Oklahoma City.
Young, son of James and Alison Young of rural Orient, was bull riding champion at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo April 4-6. In the process, he won just over $23,000 and a $20,000 voucher for a Ram truck.
The second-year student at Iowa Central Community College, where he is studying business and participates on the school’s rodeo team, said the payoff comes in handy at his stage of his life.
“I’ve got bills to pay like anyone else,” Young said. “It helps cover rodeo (expenses) and toward college.”
Young is able to compete as a collegiate amateur because participants at the Ram National Circuit Finals aren’t paid to compete, they are only paid if they win. They all pay an entry fee.
Young qualified for the finals by winning the Great Lakes Circuit bull-riding competition. Winning there, against older, more experienced riders, was a thrill.
“For sure, that is the most excited I’ve ever been,” Young said.
Young, who is rodeoing on his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) permit, has aspirations of qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2014, and someday earning the title of world champion.
But first, Young was back in class this week at Iowa Central, and practicing for the college team at the Webster County Fairgrounds.
Young was the only cowboy to ride three bulls for the full eight seconds during the competition. The Great Lakes Circuit’s rising star watched his three competitors in the finals get bucked off before he climbed in the chute. He then stayed aboard to claim the victory.
“There were 24 competitors when we started,” Young said. “We get on two bulls in the first round, and then it’s scored on average. The top eight go to the semifinals and then the top four go to the finals.”
Young nearly fell short of the big payoff before reaching the finals.
“My score the first two rounds got me qualified,” Young said, “because I got bucked off the third-round bull in the semifinals. But since I won on overage in the first two rounds, I made the finals.”
Battling a groin injury that started to bother him in the later rounds, Young said he reached back for some benefits from his wrestling days. The sport not only helped him in athletic areas such as balance and strength, but also in perseverance.
“There are similarities in wrestling and bull-riding,” he said. “Mental toughness. Fight through it. The injury didn’t hurt until the final round, after riding that many bulls. I rode him pretty good, and I was the only one to ride that round.”
Those eight seconds could be a springboard toward his ultimate dream.
“Hopefully I opened some eyes,’ Young said. “After I graduate next December, I’d like to go professional in rodeo.”
On a shorter timeline, he hopes to represent Iowa Central again at the College National Finals Rodeo in June in Casper, Wyo. Last year he made the bull-riding finals, finishing sixth in average score.
“I’d like to win it this year,” Young said.
Young’s performance in the Ram National Circuit Finals can be seen nationally on Great American Country (GAC) network. It airs 4 p.m. Central Daylight Time April 21 and 8 a.m. CDT on April 27. For more information go online at http://www.gactv.com.
An interview at the finals with Young can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXUKEY626AM.