BELLVILLE — A young Bellville man, looking official in his felt hat, boots and cowboy shirt, is going to use his skills as a bull rider to help him get through college.
Joe Potoczny, 18, has just snared a $11,750 scholarship to Missouri Valley College. The scholarship was awarded after he met with the rodeo coach there, and the two got to know each other.
Potoczny said he toured the rodeo facilities at the college and there was good communication. He said the coach is “definitely a winning coach” and the school supports collegiate rodeo riding.
Potoczny has been involved with the rodeo life since he was two. He said he grew up around rodeos because his uncle, Mike Yunker, rode professionally.
Yunker now trains Potoczny.
There is a lot of athleticism involved in rodeo riding, Potoczny said, and he trains for his riding now in a variety of ways.
He said he works out every day, lifting weights. He has “traveling partners” who help him in training sessions, and he uses something called “mighty bucky.”
It is a red leather device, upon which the rider sits. It imitates the movements of a bull.
He does drills on that device, and “occasionally” gets a real bull in training.
Bull riding is at the same level athletically as the NCAA, Potoczny said. You have to be in great shape to be on a football team, he said. There is a difference, though, because when you are riding a bull it is “one on one,” and it’s “you versus the animal,” he said. In football, teams can watch films to determine the patterns of an opposing team, he said, but this is not available in bull riding.
People who are riding are at the mercy of two judges, who sit on opposite sides of an arena.
The rider is timed for an eight-second span. A judge can award 50 points. The number a rider receives is based on “how well you look like you are controlling him,” Potoczny said.
It’s “how easy you make it look.” Potoczny said he can’t give out his secrets, but another rider knows if a competitor is doing well because you “can definitely know guys who know what they’re doing.”
A bull can do high kicks, come down and turn. This is a “spin.” Staying on is called “rides a dance.”
The toughest bull he ever rode was probably at a competition at Hat Creek Rodeo in Van Wert. The bull there would “jump right back to the right.” A rider had to “keep up with him,” he said.
The idea of bull riding could be intimidating to most, but Potoczny says “as soon as I come off” he distances himself. He also knows “every time could be the last.”
He says of the sport and the companion bulls: “You love ‘em and appreciate ‘em.”
Rules of bull riding say that a participant must wear the right clothing an hour before and an hour after riding. The clothing must be a long sleeved shirt, boots and a hat. In winter, the hat is felt. In the summer, straw.
In the summers, Potoczny does a lot of traveling to events. He said July is “cowboy Christmas” because it is loaded with places to compete. There is a group named Southern Extreme Bullriding Association, which posts lists of events for competitors. There is something going on every day of July, Potoczny said.
His bull riding is providing money for his college career, Potoczny said. When he studies at Missouri Valley, in Marshall, Mo., he will be pursuing a degree in agriculture business, with a minor in criminal justice.
The bull riding provides him with a good attitude, he said.
“You definitely have to be positive to go out and conquer this bull,” he said. That attitude applies to the rest of his life, he said.
Bull riding is “tougher” than some sports.
Potoczny said you “get as tired as running a mile around a track.
Bellville Star | Louise Swartzwalder
Joe Potoczny, former FFA president and competing bull rider, in his official riding attire: a felt hat, long sleeved shirt, pants and belt buckle.
Bellville Star | Submitted photo
Joe Potoczny works out on “mighty bucky,” which simulates the movements of a bull. There is a lot of athleticism involved in rodeo riding and “mighty bucky” is just one of type of workout done daily.
Bellville Star | Submitted photo
Joe Potoczny with his uncle, Mike Yunker, who competed professionally in national bull-riding events.