JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Seth Wilson grew up around bulls. Literally. It’s his family that runs the Jackson Hole Rodeo. It’s his family that traces its roots back to Uncle Nick Wilson who left his legacy and name in the town at the base of Teton Pass.
There isn’t much the 17-year-old rodeo bullfighter doesn’t know about bulls. When he wants them to dodge left, they do. If he feigns right, they buy it. He rarely misjudges a ton of hoppin’ hamburger but when he does, he’s in the dirt—hooked, stomped and bloodied.
It’s no sport for the timid. Every thought, every move, has to be quick and decisive. It’s reflexes, timing, anticipation, and intuition. And when those don’t work you get a little lucky. It’s a well-worn path to the local emergency room, and pats on the back from bullriders who appreciate getting their bacon saved whenever they were down and dirty and vulnerable.
Seth Wilson began bullfighting at the Jackson Hole Rodeo. He also rides bulls and has competed on the National High School Rodeo stage. As a bullfighter, it’s his job to encourage stale roughstock to buck (you see them waving and shouting at bulls as they leave the chutes) but more importantly, the bullfighter distracts horned athletes from doing harm to defenseless contestants once a cowboy is on the ground.
These rodeo ‘clowns,’ as they were formerly known, are every bit the best two-legged athletes in a rodeo arena on any given night. And in recent years they have been recognized for their efforts at events like the Bullfighters Only Championship contest in Las Vegas, going on right now.
Shootin’ the bull
And that’s where our story takes us. Our own Seth Wilson, a Jackson Hole High School student and star of the local rodeo, qualified for the finals with the highest scoring bout of the three-day weekend. Wilson posted an incredible 87.5-point round on Sunday to move on to the finals where he will face nine of the top bullfighters in the world.
“That was a really good bull,” Wilson said. “He came out pretty hot. I just tried to hit him with the hardest fakes I could to make sure he’d take them. There were some things I would have liked to have done differently, but at the end of the day, I put forth the effort for what I came here to do.”
The ‘Super Bowl’ of freestyle bullfighting is the eight-day 2017 Las Vegas Championship, which pays out more than $50,000, with $25,000 of that going to the event champion. The final rounds take place December 13-16 at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. “Bullfighters Only is defined by our commitment to freestyle bullfighting and showcasing the sport’s very best athletes,” said Aaron Ferguson, founder and CEO of BFO.
“Vegas has treated me well so far. Fingers crossed for the next few rounds,” Wilson tweeted recently.
BONUS: This is what good rodeo bullfighters do! Watch Seth put himself between bull and rider.