Freestyle bullfighting for diabetes

freestyle bullfighting
Tanner Zernetski, the winner of last years event. Photo: Steve Gray

This is the fifth year that Gary Jones has brought to our area competitive American Freestyle Bullfighting as a fundraising event for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Never before have you been drawn to the edge of your stadium seat by each contestant facing possible injury for such a good cause.

Rodeo bullfighting is what rodeo clowns do to protect a bull rider who has gotten bucked off and may be attacked by the bull if not distracted. That job has evolved into its own rodeo event now known as freestyle bullfighting. It is a competitive event like all rodeo events with two judges each scoring the aggressiveness of the bull and the agility of the bullfighter, his ability to keep the attention of the bull, and his showmanship.

Gary Jones had been a well-known rodeo clown and bullfighter for 14 years, and in 1991 and 1992 was a National Finals Wrangler Bullfighter. He retired and moved to Payson to become a realtor with ReMax in Spanish Fork. Then the rodeo days called him again and he wanted to get back in the arena as a bullfighter. At the age of 48, with the help of some sports medicine people and a rugged physical conditioning program Gary returned to the rodeo arena in the 2012 Fiesta Days Rodeo in Spanish fork. This was a remarkable event in the annals of rodeo history.

Gary’s son Westlee was diagnosed early in life with Type 1 Diabetes. He grew up watching his dad’s bullfighting videos and was 10 years old when his dad got back into bullfighting in 2012. Westlee’s dream was to be a bullfighter like his Dad. At age 16 with careful monitoring of his blood sugar by his mother Cyndi, he was approved to compete as a bullfighter in last year’s September 23 Freestyle Bullfighting event. Westlee Jones became the first ever freestyle bullfighter with Type 1 diabetes at age 16. What a remarkable achievement.

The 2018 Freestyle Bullfights will be titled “Freestyle for Hope in the Fight Against Type 1 Diabetes” and will be held on September 29 at the UCCU Center on the campus of UVU in Orem. Twelve of the top Freestyle Bullfighters go against some of the most aggressive Mexican Fighting Bulls on the planet. Tickets are on sale at http://smithstix.com/sporta/all-sports/event/21226/extreme-freestyle-bulllfights.

The picture is of Bullfighter Tanner Zernetski the winner of last year’s event. During last year’s entire event it rained hard and you can see the mud flying in the picture. Fortunately, the 2018 Freestyle Bullfighting event is being held at an inside arena at the UCCU Center. Come on out and watch the bullfights, it will not be a boring evening.