Saddle bronc rider Andy Kurtz spent last summer driving across the country in search of top bucking horses and good paying rodeos.
Kurtz enjoyed more than a few top results during his travels, but he might be best remembered for the fantastic finish he rewarded hometown rodeo fans during the Pat Mantle Memorial Saddle Bronc competition on the final night of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo's 2005 season.
"The Pat Mantle was one of the biggest things to happen to me all last season," Kurtz said. "I grew up in Steamboat and always wanted to win the Pat Mantle Memorial."
Kurtz ranks winning the competition with making the cut for to the Mountain State Circuit Finals and winning a good-sized rodeo in Texas last summer.
"Everybody in the Mountain States Circuit knows about the Pat Mantle," Kurtz said.
"It's getting a reputation across the country. There are a lot of cowboys who want to win it."
The saddle bronc ride-off is the traditional end of the 10-week rodeo series. In order to ride in the event, a cowboy must finishing among the top-six saddle bronc riders in the series. Those six riders get one chance to score enough points to win the title, a Winchester Rifle and a $2,000 check.
"I didn't even think I was going to get to ride last year," Kurtz said. "I finished in second place on the final weekend, and ended up sneaking in about 30 minutes before I was supposed to ride. It was a good thing because I didn't have any time to think about it, and I didn't have any time to mess it up."
Kurtz's ride was a thrilling way to wrap up the 2005 season on the rodeo series on a night when champions were crowned in bull riding, team roping, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, No. 11 roping and pee wee barrels.
Kurtz has yet to win a season title in Steamboat Springs, but said that is his goal this season. Kurtz said he expects to be at a lot of the Steamboat events.
"The series title is a hard one to win," Kurtz said. "Things have to go your way, and you have to get to a lot of the rodeos in Steamboat."
K.C. Jones of Hawk Springs, Wyo., won the series' all-round cowboy title in 2005. The all-around title goes to the cowboy who wins the most in two or more events during the series. Jones, who has been to the National Finals Rodeo three times in steer wrestling, also competes in tie-down roping.
Other 2005 series champions included Josh Kaine Johnson of Douglas, Wyo., in bull riding; Jared Schlegel of Burns, in bareback; and Cole Fritzan of Rifle in steer wrestling.
Wyoming's Lance Allen and Paul Beckett won the team roping title and Joe Colletti of Pueblo won the tie-down title.
Margi Ward of Eagle won the barrel racing title, Jocko Camilletti of Hayden won the No. 11 roping title and Cutter Barnes won the Pee Wee title, following in the footsteps of his older brother Casey Barnes who won the title three times.
Britt Trumbull of Torrington Wyo. won the saddle bronc riding title. Sadly, Trumbull, who won the 2003 Pat Mantle Award, took a fall in the second round of the Mountain States Circuit finals last November, shattering his C-5 vertebrate leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.