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The smile that pierced across Sage Kimzey’s lips revealed more than the emotions of winning a bull riding title; he’s done that countless times in his storied career.
No, this smile said more in its creases and lines than many others. It showcased a sign of the times and an understanding that after almost a year on the injured reserve, the seven-time world champion is back and ready to contend for another Montana Silversmiths gold buckle.
Kimzey won both go-rounds and dominated Easter Sunday afternoon to win the San Angelo Xtreme Bulls title at Foster Communications Coliseum and make a defining stand on what he hopes to do for the remainder of the 2023 ProRodeo season.
“It’s big to go in and get the first big win under my belt since my injury,” said Kimzey, who suffered another injury to an already damaged left shoulder last June and had it surgically repaired. “For me, this is huge, especially coming off injury and having moderate success so far this year.
“Once you get the ball rolling, this is a good time of year to be riding good, especially looking into the spring and summer months. It’s definitely been a process.”
The shoulder injury came to a head last June after he was injured in Weatherford, Texas. He was third in the world standings. Even though he didn’t compete for three and a half months and missed many lucrative rodeos, the Oklahoma-born cowboy still finished 17th in the world standings.
While his free-arm (left) shoulder is still not 100 percent, he was cleared to compete in time for the Xtreme Bulls event at Fort Worth, Texas, in mid-February. In less than two months of riding, he had shot up to 27th in the standings. His earnings on Easter Sunday will push him into the top 20.
Kimzey won the first round with an 87.5-point ride on Stockyards Rodeo’s Crash Cart, while Missourian Creek Young was a point behind for second place. In the championship round, Kimzey rode Harper & Morgan’s Pickup Man for 89.5 points to take the top spot. Tyler Taylor of Stephenville, Texas, was the only other cowboy in the 10-man short round to earn a qualified ride; he was 86.5 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s Con Air.
Kimzey knew there was something special with Pickup Man when he got the opportunity to ride the animal Sunday afternoon.
“He’s a great bull,” he said. “I’ve seen him around for four or five years. A lot of guys don’t get along with him.
“I knew there was something to him. He was in and out the whole time, and that makes it pretty tough to get by.”
In all, Kimzey cashed out for $12,829 and pushed his season earnings to nearly $37,000. It was a great way for him to kick off a holiday celebrating his faith. After what has transpired in the last 10 months, he was excited to take his big payday and Xtreme Bulls championship buckle back to his wife, Alexis, and son, Steele, in Salado, Texas, about three hours east of San Angelo.
“I’d known the surgery was coming,” Kimzey said. “Obviously I was hoping to get through my career before I had to have it repaired, and I was at least hoping I’d get through the year because I’d had such a good winter run. But it was one of those deals. I knew I had to do something about it; there was a lot of finality with that decision.
“I was at peace with it. God’s timing was perfect. It happened on the year my son was born. I had a lot going on at home that kept my mind and my hands busy. I really didn’t miss (competing) a whole lot last year. I had bigger, more important stuff going on in my life at that time, and getting to spend my son’s first year of life with him … you can’t put a price on that.”
Of course, optimistic people tend to look at things that way, whether they’re on the back of a raging bull or trying to use one arm to control a squirming infant while changing its diaper.
“I didn’t have the emotional ups and downs that most people have when they have to take time off,” he said. “Emotionally I was at peace with it. I had support from my wife, and she was the one who took the brunt of it all. She was taking care of her 28-year-old husband and a 1-year-old baby.”
Now that he’s back to his winning ways, he’ll return to supporting his family the best way he knows how. He’s won seven gold buckles in his short lifetime, but he’s not done. His goals are plentiful, and he’s got throngs of supporters who are there to help him achieve them. Rodeo fans across the world always applaud greatness, and there may be none better than those in San Angelo.
“The crowd is so cool in San Angelo,” Kimzey said. “They are some of the most knowledgeable rodeo fans we ride in front of all year. The way that stadium is set up, they’re right on top of you. Whenever you do something good, they let you know it.”
San Angelo Xtreme BullsApril 9First round: 1. Sage Kimzey, 87.5 points on Stockyards Rodeo’s Crash Cart, $3,321; 2. Creek Young, 86.5, $2,546; 3. (tie) Cody Teel and Jordan Hansen, 85, $1,550 each; 5. Jeff Askey, 84, $775; 6. Maverick Potter, 83.5, $553; 7. Stetson Wright, 83, $443; 8. Jestyn Woodward, 82.5, $332. Championship round: 1. Sage Kimzey, 89.5 points on Harper & Morgan’s Pickup Man, $3,985; 2. Tyler Taylor, 86.5, $3,394; no other qualified rides. Average: 1. Sage Kimzey, 177 points on two rides, $5,534; 2. Tyler Taylor, 165.5, $4,243; 3. Creek Young, 86.5 points on one ride, $3,136; 4. (tie) Cody Teel and Jordan Hansen, 85, $1,660 each; 6. Jeff Askey, 84, $922; 7. Stetson Wright, 83, $738; 8. Jestyn Woodward, 82.5, $553.