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Justin Ward jumps over the Spanish fighting bull for his first move. Photo Courtesy of Todd Brewer

Rookie takes first win: Ranch hand wins Professional Bullfighting competition

RICHARDTON, N.D. - Richardton ranch hand, Justin Ward, pulled off his first Professional Bullfighting win coming home with $10,000.

"Once you're in the moment, you don't think about anything else and everything goes pretty smooth," said Ward, a 22-year-old originally from Mabel, Minn.

Competing in rodeo has been second nature to Ward, he started in rodeo when he was 10. He became interested in bullfighting about five years ago when he and a friend were asked to fight bulls at a rodeo.

"I tried it out and I have loved it ever since," Ward said.

Ward skipped his college graduation from Dickinson State University this past weekend to attend his second Bullfighters Only (BFO) event.

Ward competed in the Bullfighters Only Tri-Cities Invitational held in Kennewick, Wash., last weekend, where he picked up his first win. BFO is the elite of bullfighting and is invitation only.

According to bullfighteronly.com, BFO is the exclusive competition platform of the world's top freestyle bullfighters. The Spanish bulls used in the competition are specifically bred for aggression and quickness.

His first BFO competition was in Oklahoma where he finished in fourth place. He has only been apart of the BFO for about a month and is already a stand out.

"They hold development camps, you sign up and go to those and they help you out and fine tweak your fighting skills," Ward said. "I went to one in California and apparently I was a stand-out there and that's how I got invited to Oklahoma."

There are two types of BFO competitions, the Wranglers, which are bullfights they do with rodeos and Stand Alone events, where it is just bullfighting. At the Wranglers the top three finishers get money. During Stand Alone competitions everyone is usually paid and the winner receives more.

BFO puts each bullfighter into a bracket and the highest scoring person in each group make the short round. Ward was placed in the Rookie Bracket this weekend, where he first competed against four other men then qualified for the short round where he scored 91 points to take the win.

"I work out really hard and run a bunch to get in shape," Ward said. "Bullfighting takes a lot of energy out of you."

Meditation and yoga are something that Ward uses to clear his mind and get prepared for these competitions. When he gets to the competition he said that hanging out with other competitors and past world champions help him get his mind right along with getting pumped up.

"It is a scary thing to go run at an animal that is trying to kill you," said Ward.

While competing in a BFO event there are 60 seconds that is set on a timer. The bullfighter is obligated to use 40 seconds of that and the remaining 20 seconds to "wow" the crowd. If the first 40 seconds is not finished for any reason, the competitor is disqualified.

"I jumped the bull for the first move at this one and that was the first time I ever did that," said Ward. "I looked at the bull beforehand and noticed he was shorter so I decided I could jump over him."

After the first move, the bull usually dictates what you do and that is why it is freestyle bullfighting.

"Now that I can get invited to these I will hopefully win some money and become a future world champion," said Ward.

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