RAPID CITY — Colt Carlisle spoke in positive terms about his freestyle bullfighting experience Thursday afternoon at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Carlisle resides in San Saba, Texas, and collected 80 points on his effort to qualify for that night’s final.
Freestyle bullfighting is an athletic event pitting man against bull, with the man making contact with the bull and trying to score as many points as possible.
Bullfighters during traditional bull riding events do everything they can to protect the rider from the bull. In freestyle, there is no rider.
Positivity and having a clear mind constitute the ideal mindset for Carlisle.
“You don’t want to come in thinking of your last bullfight or anything,” he said. “You want to come in: new bullfight, new start, and be ready for it.”
Carlisle believes in keeping calm right before a bull enters the arena.
“Honestly, it’s better if nothing is going through my mind,” Carlisle said. “When you start thinking, you start messing up and overcorrecting.”
Something always goes through Carlisle’s mind during a bullfight. He does his best to keep away negative thoughts.
The 80-point score pleased Carlisle, who said he can always work on something. He looks forward to weight room sessions and getting back to the sport’s basics.
Carlisle, 21, started fighting bulls at age 14 before moving to the freestyle ranks four years later.
That positive mindset was the most difficult thing for Carlisle to learn.
“You can be in great shape, and all this and that,” Carlisle said. “But if you can’t have your mind be to where you know you can step around him, your mind’s just going to tear you down as fast as you can build it up.”
This year marks Carlisle’s second in Rapid City for this event. Camaraderie brought him back for this year.
“There are great people here, a lot of buddies here,” he said. “It’s a fun event to show up to.”
Carlisle and others are gratified to be able to test their skills this week.
“It’s nice to have, to show people that this is a sport. Freestyle bullfighting is at the top,” he said. “We have a right to be here.”
Carlisle competes in two circuits: Ultimate Bull Fighters, and Bull Fighters Only. He had a solid season in 2020 although the COVID-19 pandemic affected a lot of things.
He most enjoys the friendships he has made. “If it wasn’t for them, it would be really hard to go up and down the road, other than the love of the sport,” he said.
Travel poses the biggest challenge, with some riders having to travel 17 hours to the next event.
Freestyle bullfighting has experienced tremendous growth in public acceptance and number of events, Carlisle said. He credits social media and posted videos.
“People now know that the bull is not harmed whatsoever,” he explained. “If anybody’s getting harmed, it’s us.”
Carlisle’s injury list has included lost teeth and fractured bones, but he has not had to visit the hospital.
The love of the sport keeps Carlisle coming back.
“If it wasn’t for that, I could find a lot of different ways to make better money sitting behind a desk,” he said with a laugh.
Missouri’s Kelson Gunther turned in an 82-point score: the best of the day. Jeffery Wheelock (Nebraska) and Noah Krepps (Arkansas) tied for third at 78.
The North American Sheepdog Trials converted on the James Kjerstad Event Center earlier that day.
Handlers of 59 border collies used voice and whistle commands to help the dogs move three sheep around a course in as little time as possible.
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