Bull rider Trey Benton III remains one of pro rodeo's hottest young talents in 2014
PRESCOTT - Trey Benton III of Rock Island, Texas, the 2013 Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo's bull riding champion, paid another visit here Saturday afternoon to defend his crown.
Shortly after he won the coveted buckle at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds last July, Benton III, a third-year pro who's only 22, had to persevere through a rough patch.
This past September, he broke his left femur when a bull stomped on him in Washington state. But Benton III healed quickly and, through July 4 of the 2014 season, finds himself in third place in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world standings.
"My dad told me ever since I was little that you've got to block it out and take care of business," Benton III said. "The first chance they (doctors) released me, I got back on bulls. I've had quite a few injuries for just being in the PRCA three years. So I've kind of learned from it. It's helped me to where I'm at now."
Benton III, who has already won buckles at three rodeos this season and has amassed $62,142 in earnings, was hoping to keep his mojo alive at an historic Prescott venue where he's had good fortune.
"Prescott's a good rodeo. I've come here every year since I first started," said Benton III, who lets his father, Tom, wear his Frontier Days buckle. "Heck, I'm probably going to keep coming back to it, too."
Unfortunately, none of the riders that competed in front of a standing-room-only crowd Saturday afternoon in Prescott lasted the required eight seconds on their assigned bulls.
Benton III drew Summer Nights, a bull on which he had posted an 86-point score at the Houston rodeo a few years ago.
"You always want to come back to a rodeo that you won before," Benton III said prior to the afternoon performance. "It's a long summer, and there's a lot of money to be won. And I won quite a bit last year before I broke my leg. So I'm feeling pretty confident."
Despite what happened here Saturday, Benton III is still red-hot and in contention to be among the world's top 15-ranked bull riders who will qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas this December. (The regular season ends in September.)
Benton III's attention will now shift toward making his third straight NFR - and attempting to win his first world championship.
"It's going great. I couldn't complain a bit," he said of his pro career thus far. "But I don't have a world title, either, so it's not where I need to be yet."
In the latest bull riding world rankings, Benton III trails only No. 1 Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Oklahoma, who has accumulated $86,881 in earnings and rode here Saturday night, and No. 2 J.W. Harris of Mullin, Texas, who is now pushing Kimzey with $85,016.
"If I stay healthy, I'm confident enough I should go in the Finals' top three," Benton III said.
On Saturday evening, 25-year-old Brett Stall, presently the world's fifth-ranked rider from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, also gave it a go in Prescott. He drew Smashing Success, a bull that's lately made plenty of money for cowboys.
The 5-foot-6, 125-pound Stall, who has one NFR qualification to his credit (2012) since he joined the PRCA in 2010, is an up-and-comer. He finished 25th in the world standings last year after undergoing hip surgery.
Stall has already won five rodeos this season, including the Cody/Yellowstone Xtreme Bulls, where he picked up more than $13,000 on June 30.
"The past couple days has been a blessing," Stall said. "That really kicked off my Fourth of July in high gear. As long as I stay healthy and keep going, I should be fine."
Stall praised Benton III for his never-say-die attitude, something Stall has taken to heart. Having confidence, faith and belief in yourself are necessary to combat the fear all bull riders have.
"When the fear comes in, you start thinkin' negative," Stall said. "You've got to just overcome it with a positive thought, and clear your head and nod your head."
During the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo's final performance this afternoon, world No. 4-ranked Cody Teel of Kountze, Texas, is also expected to compete.
If Teel shows, that would mean four of the world's top five-ranked bull riders came to Prescott this weekend.
Three-time National Finals Rodeo-qualifying bull rider Clayton Savage of Casper, Wyoming, who's won rodeos in Thermopolis, Wyoming, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado, this season, is an eighth-year pro who's ridden in Prescott at least a few times.
Savage, a spiritual man who's a traveling partner of Stall's, hasn't fared well here in the past, but he said his failure has motivated him to keep entering the Prescott rodeo.
"I've gotta do good at some point," said Savage, who had no score against a bull named Lil' Warrior on Saturday.
The bulls at Frontier Days come from renowned stock manager Scott Pickens of the Diamond S Rodeo Co. in Texas, who lays claim to some of the fiercest bucking bulls around.
"Scott Pickens brings in a good pen of bulls everywhere he goes," Savage said. "He expects only the best, and when you bring good bulls, that's part of the game."
This year, Savage has stayed close to home in Wyoming and focused on winning circuit money. He and his wife, Catherine, recently had a daughter, Rylyn, who was born March 31.
Savage, now 27, said he remembers wanting to ride bulls as a toddler. He grew up a rancher's boy who craved the rodeo arena spotlight. Although he'll probably have a ranch of his own someday, he's committed to bull riding as long as he's healthy.
Like Benton III and Stall, something keeps pulling Savage back into rodeo arenas to hop on bulls. Perhaps it's the adrenaline rush. Perhaps it's in his blood.
"I still love it every day," Savage said. "It's awesome."
Follow Doug Cook on Twitter @dougout_dc