LAS VEGAS – Bull riders John Crimber and Clay Guiton keep pushing each other to new heights.
At the Junior World Finals on Saturday, Crimber set the pace with an 89.5-point ride – the highest-marked roughstock ride of the week – to seize the lead in the 16-18 division.
“First round I didn’t draw very good,” Crimber said of his 73.5-point ride on Thursday. “Today I just had a goal to go at him every jump and try to get the most points out of him that I possibly could and that’s what I did.
“I started opening up, kicking loose and having fun. Whenever he made that second corner, I was like, ‘Yep. This is the one right now.’ I started kicking loose and that’s when it all happened.”
A few riders later, Guiton rode his bull for 85.5 points. The 17-year-old from Cherryville, North Carolina, won the first round with an 87.0 and leads the average with 172.5 points on two head. Even though he couldn’t quite match Crimber’s 89.5, Guiton was quick to credit his longtime friend and rival for pushing him.
“Me and John are really good buddies,” Guiton said. “So when he did that it kind of fired me up. I knew I had a pretty good bull I could compete on. I just had to do my part and the rest would take care of itself.”
Guiton and Crimber have already punched their tickets to Monday’s short go-round. Not surprisingly, competing for a championship is nothing new to either one.
Guiton has two Junior World Finals titles on his resume, winning the 12-13 division in 2018 and the 14-15 division two years ago in Texas. Crimber has his own national titles, winning the National High School Finals Rodeo the past two years and the American Bucking Bull Inc. World Finals in 2019 in Vegas. At the 2021 NHSFR, Crimber won the first go and the short go and finished with 173.5 points; Guiton won the second go and placed fifth in the short go to finish as the reserve champ with 167 points.
“Clay is a really good buddy of mine and every time we’re going against each other we try to fire each other up and make the best ride possible,” said Crimber, a native of Decatur, Texas. “I think we really help each other out. Having competition like that makes you better because he’s one of the best guys out here. He motivates me quite a bit.”
The two will push each other one more time at the Junior World Finals on Monday at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena, a venue both bull riders are familiar with. Crimber and Guiton competed in the inaugural event in 2016 and have competed every year since.
‘It’s been pretty cool to watch the bulls and the riders involved through the years because in 2016 we were getting on little calves, smaller stock,” Crimber said. “Now we’re getting on bigger bulls and it’s awesome.”
Guiton feels the same about the quality of competition.
“There are a bunch of guys out here at my level that can compete at a professional level,” he noted. “The competition has made everyone better.”
Naturally, that includes Guiton and Crimber.
“I feel like I’ve really grown as a bull rider,” Guiton admitted. “I’m a lot more consistent and I used to let the pressure get to me, but it really doesn’t bother me anymore. I just do my job like I would any other day at the house. I get on at least four to five bulls every week and that just helps me. I’ve probably been on more bulls this year than any other year.
“I’ve won this event before and I’ve done really good here, but this year I’ve really dedicated myself to riding bulls and I’m getting to the point where I can compete at a professional level.”
The next level might be where Guiton and Crimber go down different paths. Guiton has his sights set competing on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit; Crimber plans to follow in his father’s footsteps – Paulo Crimber qualified for the Professional Bull Riders Finals 10 times and also competed in the 2004 National Finals Rodeo – and compete in the PBR.
“Next year I’ll be in the PBR, hopefully,” Crimber said. “I’m just trying to make the most of this.”
So is Guiton.
“Thomas & Mack is where I want to be,” Guiton said. “I just have to stay consistent. You’re going to have bad weekends but you can’t let it get you down. The main thing with bull riding is you can’t overthink it or overcomplicate it because it’s pretty simple. You just have to go out there and do your job.”
Rodeo fans at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena have one more chance to watch Guiton and Crimber do their job. After that, the best chance for fans to catch them will probably be on TV.