Rodeo: Fritzlan wrestles down an event title
RIFLE — Cole Fritzlan of Rifle didn’t let a six-year absence from competing in competitive rodeo stop him from earning a pretty hefty paycheck.
Granted, the PRCA Rodeo at the Garfield County Fairgrounds rodeo arena wasn’t even close to being the first competition Fritzlan has seen since being gone from the pro circuit for more than half a decade. Even so, Fritzlan’s experience showed on Thursday when his final time of 5.2 seconds in steer riding netted him a tie for first place at his hometown arena.
“After six years, it’s nice to see that I can come back and do it,” Fritzlan said. “It’s really just like riding a bike. You never really forget how to do it.”
Fritzlan netted the top time in the event on the third attempt, only to have it matched by Troy Brandemuehl of Douglas, Wyoming. They shared the top spot in the event and each took home a check of $477.05.
Fritzlan sure hasn’t been a stranger to success in the past year since he’s been back. He qualified for the finals of The American, the rodeo held annually at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, that boasts a prize purse of $1 million. And two years ago, his son, Colten, a sophomore to be at Rifle High School, came within less than a second of winning a national bull riding championship in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, New Mexico, in 2013.
The only reason the 33-year-old Cole Fritzlan stopped doing rodeo full time was because of four bad discs in his lower back. All that could really heal that pain was time, and he’s made the most of his time competing recently.
His paycheck at a rodeo in Bozeman, Montana, earlier this year was close to $1,800. He’s also being very selective about the rodeos he does compete in because of his medical history, opting for two rodeos a week as opposed to six or seven a week like many on the PRCA circuit.
And it obviously helps that the most recent rodeo happens to be in his own backyard.
“It’s always nice to rodeo in Rifle,” Cole Fritzlan said. “I mean, it’s my hometown, and it’s just always fun to be here.”
Fritzlan wasn’t the only local competitor to have a lot of fun or, for that matter, win an event on Thursday night.
Ronnie Will of Silt came away with the barrel racing championship later in the evening, finishing the clover-leaf pattern in the arena in 17.63 seconds. She was followed by Granby’s Lisa Mirabito, who finished in 17.99.
It’s the second consecutive year that Will has won the barrel racing event at the county fair.
CJ Vondette of Rifle, who won the Mountain States Circuit finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming, last year, and came into Thursday night’s rodeo ranked second in the circuit standings, finished sixth with a time of 18.33.
Will took home a paycheck of $512.49.
Nearly coming away with a winner’s paycheck was Rifle’s Justin Hegwer, whose early score of 77 vaulted him into first place in the saddle bronc standings. That was until the ride of Chris Williams of Stephensville, Texas, who nipped Hegwer for first place with a score of 78.
Levi Nicholson of Severance won the bareback with a 73, with Laramie, Wyoming’s Shea A. Hardwick finishing second with a 62.
The biggest paycheck of the night went to Jack Tyner of Laramie. He was the only cowboy of the night to record a time in tie-down roping, and his final time of 27.2 seconds netted him a paycheck of $1,081.
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It was a close game, but after some thrilling back-and-forth plays the Rifle Bears were able to pull off the 28-20 victory over The Academy on May 1.