A Young Man With Grit

Mason Stuller is a national champion rodeo competitor at age 15

By Craig Reed

Eight seconds might not seem that long, but it can be for young Mason Stuller.

That’s how long the 15-year-old must stay on bucking and twisting broncs and bulls to be competitive in junior rodeo events. He’s proving to be good at it—like national championships good.

In December, at the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Mason rode all three of his bucking horses the required 8 seconds, earning high marks from the two judges and claiming the national championship in saddle bronc riding. That won him a belt buckle and a check for $1,540.

Then Mason was named the junior all-around champion, earning another buckle and $500. His first-place finish in saddle bronc and ninth-place finish in bareback riding garnered him enough points for the all-around title.

Mason Stuller practicing bull riding at his home on a mechanical bull
Mason Stuller practices bull riding at his home on a mechanical bull that his dad, Brian, controls.

“I was pretty surprised, pretty excited,” he says. “It was a pretty cool experience, to win something that big.

“I was doing pretty well throughout the year so I was pretty confident I could do well. I was hoping for a win, but not necessarily expecting one. You can always hope.”

Mason, a freshman at Elmira High School, competes at the junior level in all three of the rough-stock events: saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and bull riding. His rides and scores through-
out numerous 2018 events in Oregon, Washington and California qualified him for the junior national finals in the first two events.

At the national event, the top 10 competitors from the first two rides advance to a third and final ride. Mason was second entering the final round. By random draw, the competitor who was in first place went ahead of Mason and failed to stay on his horse for the required 8 seconds.

“I was happy to have him go first so I knew what to expect,” Mason says. “Then the pressure was on to stay on.”

Mason responded with an 8-second ride to earn the championship.

In the bareback event, Mason was in fifth place after two rides and advanced to the final round. But during his ride, his rope rigging slid to the side of the horse, Mason slid off with it before the 8-second mark, dropping him to ninth place.

“I’m always nervous,” Mason says.

“That’s not a bad thing. Everybody is nervous. I’ve seen and heard of injuries. I just don’t worry about it.”

Mason has been riding animals since he was 5, when he rode a sheep during a mutton bustin’ event at the Cottage Grove Fair. He was inspired to give the event a try after watching the movie “8 Seconds,” the story of bull riding champion Lane Frost.

“He was like a kid watching a baseball movie and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” says Mason’s father, Brian. “That movie was a motivating factor for him.”

Mason says he didn’t stay on long during that first ride, but he wasn’t discouraged.

“Sure, I was a little bit scared,” he says.

That summer he rode in several more mutton bustin’ events.

Darci, Mason’s mother, admits she’s always been concerned for her son’s safety, but she also says she is “super proud” of him.

At age 7, Mason began riding calves at junior rodeos. Although he began to have some success with high placings, he also suffered his first major injury. After falling off during a ride, a calf stepped on his armpit, tearing his skin. He needed stitches to close the wound.

“It was still fun,” Mason says.

He was soon riding steers, and at age 11 he sat astride young, small bulls. That year, riding a bull named Twist Your Face Off, he took first and won a buckle at the Northwest Youth Rodeo Association event in Philomath.

“I was super excited,” Mason recalls. “I never quit smiling all day long.”

At age 12, he rode his first horse. That horse, Calgary, bucked him off, and he hit the ground hard, ending up with a mouthful of dirt.

Bull riding is a technical sport, where hand placement and arm motion can make or break a ride.

“I thought that was the end of that,” Brian says. “But he came running back with the biggest smile on his face. He said that was awesome and that he couldn’t wait to get on another horse.”

A year or so later, Mason won his first bareback riding buckle at a youth rodeo in Klamath Falls.

His buckle count has quickly increased, totaling 35 in the last four years.

Along the way there have been a few more injuries: a broken arm and a broken wrist. But Mason hasn’t been deterred from his goal of becoming a professional rodeo athlete in the three rough-stock events.

Mason’s dad helps him practice on a mechanical bull in the family’s garage. He has received training and instructions from past and present rough stock competitors, including Clint Wells of Cottage Grove.

In a December 2017 Eugene Register-Guard article about Mason, Clint says the teenager has “grit and try.” Clint explained Mason tries all the time no matter what the circumstances, has ice water in his veins, and doesn’t worry about the size or ranking of the bull or horse he is scheduled to ride.

Younger, smaller and the less violent bucking bulls and horses are used during the junior and youth rodeos.

Last June, during the Junior High School Rodeo in South Dakota, Mason placed third in saddle bronc riding, 10th in bareback and 11th in bull riding. Each event had about 200 entrants from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

After his recent success in Las Vegas, Mason was awarded a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit. According to Brian, it normally takes a list of impressive accomplishments in rodeo events and $1,200 to secure that permit, which allows a person to compete in PRCA events. With that permit, Mason can compete on the pro rodeo circuit in three years when he turns 18.

In the meantime, he will continue to train on mechanical bulls, preparing himself to come out of chutes on the backs of bulls and horses during high school and amateur rodeos.

As his father says, he’s a young man with grit.