RODEO: Bull rider Klassen takes things as they come
Jan 05, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Before you climb on the back of a 1,500-pound American bucking bull, Nathan Klassen says you have to block all fear out of your mind.
"You just try to have good, clean positive thoughts," said Klassen. "You start focusing on the moves you're going to have to make and go out there and be aggressive. You learn to block all negative thoughts out and just try to stay loose and have fun."
That's exactly what the Broken Arrow, Okla., cowboy did on Friday night as he kicked off the 80th SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo at the Ector County Coliseum as the first competitor out of the gates.
Sitting atop a bull named Danny Boy, Klassen's first ride of 2013 didn't turn out as well as he had hoped, but still set the tone for an exciting evening.
Danny Boy immediately went into a violent spin right out of the chute, never straying more than 10 feet away from the steel gates from which he exited.
It took the bull five seconds to dismount Klassen, which is three seconds short of the required time to receive a score, but still longer than five of the six riders in the first section of bull riding for the evening.
Only Josh Barentine registered an official score, lasting the full eight seconds for an 82-point ride on the back of Crusader.
But Klassen looks ahead to the next ride.
"Man, it's just riding one bull at a time and everything takes care of itself," he said. "If you just do that, things will work out at the end, whether the goal is the circuit finals or the national finals. Just take it one at a time, that's all that matters."
Klassen was one of the few competing Friday night who did not grow up with rodeo, or bull riding for that matter, in his bloodline.
"It's just one of those things," he said. "I don't know why it got in me. Sometimes God just puts you in a place and says, 'Hey, this is what you're going to do.'
"Cause I remember from the time I was 4 or 5 years old, I just wanted to ride bulls. I have no idea why, nobody in my family rodeoed, but that's what I wanted to do. So I went and ran with it."
After climbing on the back of a bull for the first time at age 13 and competing for a couple of years, Klassen took time away from the rodeo circuit to concentrate on football.
He played four years at Buhler High School in Kansas and two more at Hutchinson Community College as an outside linebacker, and says the mentality of the two sports go hand-in-hand.
"You've got to stay calm but yet you have to be aggressive," Klassen said of bull riding. "Football is absolutely the same. You have to go out there basically wanting to kill somebody, but you still have to be in control enough so you can focus and get after it."
After leaving Hutchinson, Klassen attended Kansas State and competed on the rodeo team, and has been a professional bull rider since 2001.
When he's not competing, Klassen trains horses for a living and supports his wife, Jessica, who is a barrel racer.
Last year he made his debut as a reality television star, competing on the first season of the History Channel's Full Metal Jousting.
Contestants don full suits of medieval-style armor and compete in a tournament format.
"It was a neat experience," Klassen said. "It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be, but still a lot of fun and I'm glad I got the chance to do it."
He reached the semifinals of the debut season, finishing just short of the $100,000 prize.
His first love, however, will remain climbing on the back of a bull and hanging on for the ride of his life.
--Follow Mike Whitson on Twitter at @OAWhitson
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