IDAHO — The National Finals Rodeo starts Dec. 2 and four cowboys from Idaho clinched their ticket to the premier championship rodeo competition in Vegas.
“Being 17th for the past two years it’s just disappointing that it could very easily be my third NFR I am going to, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me those two years," Ruger Piva, professional bull rider said. "I am so glad I made it finally.”
From the money they won during the regular season, the top 15 contestants in the nation in each event qualify for the NFR, and Piva, from Challis, Idaho is one of them.
"Coming from a small town, they have all stood behind me," he said. "The whole town they have believed in me for the past two to three years and I was just glad this year I could make the whole town proud."
He is heading into his first NFR sitting at 12th place in the Bull Riding World Standings with a season total of over $98,000.
“It feels really great," he said. "In 2019 after I won the Caldwell Night Rodeo I thought for sure it was going to be my year, last year I thought it was going to be my year, but maybe it just makes this one feel even better.”
Although it hasn't been an easy journey with the heartbreak of barely missing out on the NFR the past couple of years followed by a severe injury in February of 2020.
“My hip after I got done riding it hurt so bad it would just sit there and throb and I couldn’t walk on it for ten minutes so they sent me over to a specialist in Philadelphia," Piva said. "They did an MRI and they realized all of my muscles on the right side of my hip were torn. They shaved down those hips spurs that were cutting me up there and reattached all those muscles.
It took him up until this past summer to get back to being 100 percent, but then he had the best season of his professional career.
With three weeks left to go until Vegas, Piva is focused on working out, and when asked if he's nervous for his first NFR, he simply said that he lives for these big moments.
"I feel like I always do well at the bigger rodeos, something inside of me wakes up," Piva said.
He also credits a lot of his success to his family and a sport he grew up doing.
"It goes back to the wrestling. My uncle and my grandpa really brainwashed you into knowing how great you can be. I wouldn’t say that I was a stellar athlete in anything, but when I stepped out into the mat I was not going to lose," Piva said. "I did lose but there was no way to beat me in my head and that is how I have attacked bull riding too."
"It has taken me a while to get to the top of my game, but it is just that never say die, and just win any way you can," he added.
Piva will be joined in Vegas by three other Idaho Cowboys. Professional bull rider Roscoe Jarboe, and professional steer wrestlers Stetson Jorgenson and Dirk Tavenner.