A little time at home resting and recuperating can do wonders for an athlete, and bull riding world standings leader Sage Kimzey can attest to that after the last month.
The 20-year-old rookie has spent most of the last month in Oklahoma, spending time with family and friends and healing up from a tough wreck at a CBR event in Mercedes, Texas, in mid-October. The time away from the arena has done wonders for Kimzey, and he will head to his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo fresh and ready to compete for a world title.
“I’ve been hanging out and enjoying some time off,” Kimzey said. “I’ve been getting on some practice bulls, and everything’s in order now. I’ve just been enjoying the normal life for a while.”
The time off has allowed Kimzey to reflect a bit on what he has accomplished this season.
“In the last little while when I haven’t been blowing and going, it’s definitely sunk in a little bit,” Kimzey said. “I’m not sure how much it’s sunk in, but it’s definitely sunk in more lately.”
Kimzey will drive to Las Vegas with his father, Ted, a two-time NFR barrelman (1980, 1987). That trip will give them time to talk about the Wrangler NFR’s pen of bulls, a list Kimzey has already evaluated initially.
“It’s a good set of bulls and definitely a great set of bull riders going, so it should be one of the best NFRs we’ve had in a while,” Kimzey said. “There’s definitely a few in there that will be tough to get by, but for the most part, it’s just a good set of bulls that a bunch of guys are going to ride a high percentage of, and there should be some really high scores.”
Kimzey is one of a trio of Wrangler NFR first-timers ranked in the top five, and seven of the 15 bull riders at this year’s Finals will be Thomas & Mack Center rookies. Despite their inexperience, Kimzey doesn’t expect this crop of talented cowboys to fold under the pressure.
“With the group of guys who are going, I know we’re young and inexperienced and none of us have gone to the Thomas & Mack, but all of us seem to have pretty level heads on us,” he said. “The pressure doesn’t really seem to get to any of us, and in the big moments, that’s when we seem to shine.”
I asked Kimzey to give scouting reports on the other riders who will enter the 10-day rodeo in the top five in the standings. As usual, Kimzey didn’t disappoint, offering great insight about his peers.
Trey Benton III, Rock Island, Texas
“Trey rides everything. He’s kind of streaky in the sense that he’ll win a bunch of events in a row, and he’s an awesome bull rider. He’s going to have a great Finals. He’s always been banged up (at the Finals), so nobody’s seen the real Trey Benton in Vegas, and I think this year’s going to be a lot different than his last two Finals. Last year, he broke his leg and has had a rough go in Vegas, but most of it’s been because of his health. I look for him to ride six or seven, at least.”
Cody Teel, Kountze, Texas
“He’s a guy who pressure doesn’t affect at all. He’s already been in the big moment, and he’s succeeded in the big moment. He’s definitely a guy who’s going to ride anything they run under him and is capable of putting up big scores. He’s just a really solid bull rider. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but gets the job done, for sure.”
Tim Bingham, Honeyville, Utah
“I’d say out of all of us, Tim’s probably the home-run hitter. He can pull off the bull rides that not many other guys are going to make and be a bunch of points whenever he does it. He’s really good away from his hand, is technically sound with his riding, and I look for Tim to have a good Finals, too. Shoot, I think all of the Top 15 guys are going to have a good Finals this year.”
Brennon Eldred, Sulphur, Okla.
“Brennon and I grew up riding together. Shoot, that kid is another home-run hitter. When he rides, he always looks really pretty on the back of one, and he’s always a lot of points. It’ll be cool me and him getting to go out to the Finals together for the first time, because we grew up riding together. It’ll just be pretty cool.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh and final article in a series of monthly pieces featuring Sage Kimzey and his path toward the Wrangler NFR. Each month, NFR Insider Neal Reid will catch up with Kimzey to talk about his progress, successes and setbacks as the rodeo season marches on. Stay tuned for more about Kimzey.