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Former bareback star Sylvan La Cross to make Circuit Finals bullfighting debut

GREAT FALLS — Baker native Sylvan La Cross is making his Montana Circuit Finals debut as a bullfighter this weekend at the 40th annual event in Great Falls.

But don’t mistake him for a rookie.

“I’ve been here eight times in the bareback riding, this is the first time getting to come in as a bullfighter,” La Cross said. “It’s kind of a humbling deal that you got voted in by your comrades out there.”

After years of riding bucking horses in the Montana circuit, La Cross made a career transition about four years ago, chasing his lifelong dream as a pro bullfighter. And it would come as a surprise to most, but La Cross claims going toe to toe with a bull is a little less stressful than hopping on a rank bronc.

“I’m more calm coming into the arena to fight bulls, than I was coming in to ride bareback horses,” he said. “I found that to be kind of my calling from God to be in the arena and be part of it. I’ve been preparing the last couple weeks really hard. I’m just ready to get back in there and have some fun.”

La Cross is seeing the circuit from a different side now as well.

“It’s fun because I don’t have to worry about trying to win a paycheck,” he said. “I’m getting paid just to be there so that part is good. I almost have more fun watching my buddies get out there and making some great rides, the kids that I’ve helped kind of come along, not only in the bareback riding but the bullring and stuff too is fun to watch.”

And that’s his other calling. Now that he’s not out chasing check, La Cross has more time to give back to rodeo.

He’s an assistant coach at the University of Providence, where he mentors up and coming rough stock riders like recent Argo graduate Cache Hill who will compete at the circuit finals for the first time in the bareback this weekend.

“To get to be part of his career and then watch him get to his first circuit finals, it’s pretty special,” La Cross said.

Sylvan also runs his own riding camp for youth called “Broncs, Bulls and Bibles” going into its third year in Miles City. La Cross regularly recruits top riders to help out as instructors at the camp including saddle bronc rider Tyrell Smith and Edgar cowboy Parker Breding, the No. 2 bull rider in the PRCA world standings.

“That make the Circuit Finals just like a big old family reunion,” La Cross said. “Some of the guys who didn’t make it come back and just get out there and support us all and watch us in the arena, it’s just been a great homecoming. I’ve been absent for two years, so it’s going to be fun to get back. Ten years now that I’ve been in there, it will be fun. Winter gets a little slow on the rest of us so its good to get out there.”

So what makes a good bullfighter?

“There’s a lot of good cattle sense, athletic ability, and you just have to be a down to earth guy,” La Cross said. “You just go out there and do your job and try not to showboat. One of the coolest things, is watching those guys get in there and get out of those situations and you wouldn’t even really notice them unless you pay attention.

“Everyone looks for the cool shots and the big hits, but if you can get in there and pick that bull off before he even looks at anything else, that’s pretty awesome to me.”

The 40th Annual Montana Circuit Finals begins Friday night, 7 p.m. at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls and runs through Sunday with championship belt buckles expected to be handed out in the afternoon.

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie

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