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Worth the Wait

1/12/2007

It was worth the wait and all the ups and downs for bull rider B.J. Schumacher when he was finally able to strap on the gold coveted buckle awarded to each world champion upon the conclusion of the 48th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Schumacher (Hillsboro, Wis.) won his first world title in fine fashion, setting two records along the way and picking up the average title with 696.5 points on eight head. Schumacher set a new bull riding Wrangler NFR earnings record with $142,644, breaking Blue Stone's 2001 record of $112,322 and he also set a record for most money won at a PRCA Rodeo with $144,644, a record previously held by steer wrestler Lee Graves who won $126,412 at the 2005 Wrangler NFR.

The 24-year-old Wisconsin native became the first bull rider since Stone to ride eight bulls during the 10-day competition. Schumacher's closest competitor in the average was Bobby Welsh (Gillette, Wyo.), who rode five bulls for a total of 414 points. Schumacher placed in every round, except for two when he didn't make the whistle, and finished no lower than fourth in any of the rounds.

"I got in a comfortable groove, I guess, and I was healthy the whole time," said Schumacher about winning the average and riding three more bulls than the rest of the field. "I'm just thankful for my health. My life's great and everything's gone so well all year."

Schumacher has battled major injuries throughout his career keeping him from reaching the pinnacle of his sport until now. In 2001, the year he joined the PRCA, he spent most of the season at home recovering from a broken leg that required a rod to be inserted. Upon returning later that year, he bent the rod in his leg and had to undergo surgery again. He qualified for his first Wrangler NFR in 2002, where he finished 13th in the world. He returned the following year to the "big dance" where he finished second in the average to Greg Potter (Whitt, Texas) and second in the world title race to world champion Terry Don West.

Haven gotten so close to the top in 2003, Schumacher returned in 2004 with a new competitive fire and things were clicking for him until July, when he was sidelined once again. Schumacher, who at the time was leading the world standings, underwent surgery on his hip to remove some bone fragments. He returned to competition the first part of October and qualified for his third Wrangler NFR, where he finished seventh in the world standings.

The following year, 2005, was good for Schumacher right up to the end of the season. The young bull rider had just qualified for his fourth Wrangler NFR, but had to withdraw from the event after suffering a broken collarbone just two weeks prior to the start of the Finals. Despite the injury, Schumacher was in attendance providing support for his fellow riders, including Jason McClain who took his place in the line-up.

"After you have to sit there and watch everyone else win the money, you realize what you're missing when you're sitting in the stands," said Schumacher, of his experience at the 2005 Wrangler NFR. "It is very frustrating just watching, but you know how much you want it after that. But everything worked out, and it's going well now."

Schumacher entered the 2006 Wrangler NFR nearly $50,000 out of the top spot, but consistent riding and injuries to the top two cowboys helped propel him to his first Wrangler NFR average title and world title run.

"It feels awesome and I made it through the event healthy, too," said Schumacher following the 10th round. "Now, I'll have the world champion tagline and no one can ever take it away from me."

Schumacher also became the first bull rider from the State of Wisconsin to win a world title and is only the second competitor from that state to win a world title. Jack Buschbom, of Cassville, won the bareback riding world title in 1949 and 1959-60.