By: Kendra Santos
The epic bull riding battle that’s set to go down at this week’s Royal City Roundup, the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s $1 million major that will light up the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Friday night, will be worth the price of admission all by itself. There’s a bunch of buzz about the all-star Royal City bull riding roster, and rightly so. It’s the coolest possible combo of young guns, rising rodeo stars and Professional Bull Riders headliners, including two-time and reigning PBR Champ of the World Jess Lockwood and some ultra-talented Brazilian bull riders. Up-and-coming teen phenom Colten Fritzlan, who’s a buddy of Lockwood’s, will be there, too. Sadly, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bull rider Josh Frost will not, after a recent blow to the belly that landed him in the trauma unit for two weeks.
Bull Riding Breakthrough for Fritzlan
Colten Fritzlan is a 19-year-old college cowboy from Rifle, Colorado, who’s currently a sophomore welding major at Western Texas College in Snyder. In Kansas City on February 28, he’ll be back behind the chutes with Lockwood, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Jose Vitor Leme, Dakota Louis, Justin McCall, Stetson Lawrence, Ray Mayo and five-time NFR bull rider and 2012 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion Bull Rider Cody Teel. Fritzlan earned his entry onto center stage with his recent win at the Days of ’47 Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs, February 1 in West Valley City, Utah. Fritzlan won the Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo in Odessa, Texas, in early January to kickstart his 2020 quest.
“I was 88 points there at Odessa, and that started my new year with some confidence and got me into Houston,” he said. “Winning my first WCRA event (the Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs) is definitely up there, too. The atmosphere at these WCRA events is pretty unique. Seeing (WCRA President) Bobby Mote and a lot of other world champions and NFR guys, like Kaycee Feild, Orin Larsen (who won the bareback riding), Chet Johnson, Isaac Diaz and Josh—who I’ve seen reach their goals the way I want to reach my own—that’s going to rub off on a guy in a good way. There were a lot of elite guys there who made me want to rise up and do good.”
Fritzlan got on a couple of Bridwell Rodeo Company bulls—Hou’s That and Hou’s Bad News—at the Lewis Feild Bulls and Broncs event, where he earned over $7,000 and the right to ride at the Royal City Roundup.
“It was a draft format, and I was the high-point guy (in the WCRA’s Virtual Rodeo Qualifier system), so I got first pick in the long round,” said Fritzlan, who was 86.5 points on Hou’s That in that first round. “I only knew a couple of bulls there, so I sent the list to a buddy who knew more of them. I’d seen some videos of him, too, so I knew I couldn’t go wrong picking him. I couldn’t have asked for a better one to get on in the long round, and we made it work.
“I never had the chance to meet Lewis Feild, but I’ve heard a bunch about him and he was such a legend. It felt pretty cool to have some success at his event.”
Fritzlan doubled down on million-dollar WCRA majors with the win in Feild’s native Utah. In addition to this week’s cowboy festivus in Kansas City, he’ll also get to ride at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games and Rodeo in Salt Lake City this summer.
“Riding at rodeos where the winner wins $50,000—those are life-changing chances,” Fritzlan said. “Getting a win like that under your belt early in the year would set your year on fire. The cowboy lineup at Kansas City is great, and I’m pretty stoked to be a part of it. The diversity is something I like in general about the WCRA. You can do whatever you want, whether it’s pro rodeos, jackpots, college rodeos or riding in the PBR, and earn the right to ride in these big WCRA events. That’s cool.
“Then there’s the fact that every contestant is going to get paid when we get to Kansas City, before we ever nod our heads. You have to pay your own way everywhere else, but the WCRA has our expenses covered. So the money we win on top of that will add up to something that makes a difference.”
On top of college rodeoing while he earns his education, Fritzlan has his 2020 sights set on capitalizing on his first all-in rodeo year.
“My goal this year is to make the NFR, finish in the top three in the world, and win (PRCA Resistol) rookie of the year,” he said. “These WCRA events are a huge bonus for us all, and they work hard to make sure the bulls are pretty even. If you do your job you’re going to get paid, so I’m going to try to just keep knocking them down and see where it puts me.”
Fritzlan’s been hell bent on bull riding from the beginning.
“I’ve owned some bucking bulls since I was 7 or 8,” he said. “My dad (Cole) and I started buying bulls when I was a kid, so I’ve had practice bulls in my backyard all along. We kept the ones we thought would help me improve, and sold the others. I keep four or five at school that we get on, too.”
As is common with cowboy kids, Colten’s heroes have always been cowboys.
“When I was younger, I looked up to Lane Frost (Josh is Lane’s second cousin) and J.B. Mauney,” he said. “Their characters were one of a kind, and I just liked their confidence and the way they acted toward people and how they handled themselves in their line of work. They’d do anything for you, and their confidence helped them succeed.
“Jess and I went to a few PBR events last summer and are pretty good friends. I like to try and ride like him. He just makes bulls look pretty easy. He’s amazing at sticking to the basics, and he keeps it more simple than anything, if there’s anything he’s taught me from watching him ride. I’ve known most of the guys who’ll be in Kansas City this week, so that’ll be fun. I’m just going to stay focused, stick to the same plan and keep trying to better myself every day.”
Close Call for Frost
Frost was supposed to join Fritzlen and the others in Kansas City, but will be replaced by Ray Mayo after that scare at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo on February 4.
“I made a good ride on Rafter G’s Johnny Cash, was 89.5 points and won my set at Fort Worth,” said Frost, 24, who in December rode at his first NFR. “I didn’t have the best get-off, kind of hung up for a second and landed belly-up. He only stepped on me one time with one foot, but it got me right under my vest. It didn’t hurt my ribs, but he got me right in the soft spot of my belly between my ribs and my hip.”
The ride itself was redemption for getting jerked down and knocked out the night before. Then there was the aftermath.
“I was hurting, but I managed to climb the fence to get out of there,” said Frost, who’s the younger brother of five-time NFR bull rider Joe Frost, who now rides in the PBR, but has also been on the injured reserve list. “It kind of felt like I had the wind knocked out of me, but then I got my wind back. They took me to (Justin) Sportsmed and checked me out. They were concerned, but I thought I was alright and just had a stomach ache.
“I went back to the camper out in the cowboy parking lot. A couple hours later I wasn’t getting better. That was a red flag, and I started getting nervous. It wasn’t something I was going to walk off. Tim Bingham drove me to the emergency room (at Texas Harris Health Methodist Hospital) right there in Fort Worth, which is only two miles from the arena, and they figured out that it wasn’t good. You tell them you got trampled by a bull, and they roll you into the trauma unit pretty quick.”
The first round of tests revealed a lacerated kidney. “But my kidney clotted off,” Josh said. “Then they figured out that my pancreas was damaged. They kept me there for three days, and by day three they realized my pancreas was starting to leak.”
Frost got stepped on on Tuesday night. They wheeled him into surgery on Friday morning to repair his pancreas. They also removed his spleen while they were at it.
“They split me open from the bottom of my chest, where my sternum starts, down to my belly button—I’m going to have a nine-inch scar,” Josh said. “The only way for them to patch my pancreas was to remove my spleen while they were in there. They said the kidney would heal on its own.”
He went to the ER on February 4th, and was released exactly two weeks and 20 pounds later on February 18.
“After surgery, my stomach wouldn’t wake up,” said Frost, who was 20 hours from home in Randlett, Utah, in Fort Worth. “Out of the 14 days I was in there, I couldn’t eat for 10 of them. It was pretty rough.”
He’s back home in Utah now, but will be taking it pretty easy for a while.
“I’m getting up and walking as much as I can,” Josh said. “I can’t lift over 10 pounds for six weeks while I heal up. Then I can get back in shape and get back to riding. I see myself being back to riding toward the middle to the end of April. That’s my current goal, if everything goes according to plan.
“I was pretty disappointed when I realized I was going to miss Kansas City. That’s a big opportunity, and I was pretty dang pumped to qualify for it. It’ll be a great event, and I’m excited for guys like Colten to get to ride there. He’s a good guy and he’s got a really bright future. He’s been sticking it on ’em, and I hope he keeps it up.”