Kingman bull rider is No. 2 in state

When Kingman High School freshman Aaron Campa goes to a rodeo he's following the tradition that started rodeo in the first place — applying his skills learned on the range to competition.

Rodeo got its start with cowboys trying to prove who was the best bronc rider and roper and grew into the sport it is today.

Campa is simply taking the skills he's learned at home and applying them to the sport of rodeo.

"I've been cowboying all my life," Campa said.

"I was born and raised on a ranch.

My family owns a ranch here.

We run a couple head of cows out there.

It's called Knight Creek.

"We're a big ranching family."

Last month Campa finished second in the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association in a skill you don't really acquire on a ranch —bull riding.

"I won the finals," Campa said.

"I was just behind him by just enough that I didn't win (the state championship)."

Campa got his start in rodeo riding sheep in mutton busting contests.

As he grew older he started roping.

"I roped all the time.

My grandpa (Mickey Campa) taught me how to rope," Campa said.

"I rope now.

I calf rope, team rope and ribbon rope in junior rodeo.

I team rope a lot.

I'm a heeler.

"I've ranch roped a lot."

In team roping the header ropes the head of a steer, gets it to change direction and the heeler ropes the hind legs.

But, despite a lifetime of roping, Campa excels at something he didn't start doing until four years ago.

"I started riding bulls about four years ago when I started junior rodeo.

Bulls have probably been one of my strongest points in junior rodeo," Campa said.

"Ever since then I've been roping competitive-wise."

Campa admits he got off to a shaky start at bull riding, though.

"When I first started I just rode with my cowboy hat.

My first six rodeos I rode with just my hat.

I didn't do too good.

I got bucked off a couple of them," Campa said.

"A friend of mine loaned me his mask and said 'Try this mask.

You can post up over them a little more.'

"That's a big step in bull riding is getting your chest up over them."

The safety mask helped Campa's confidence and he was able to get himself up over the bull's shoulders more.

That improved his scores.

Soon he was sticking for eight seconds more often and his scores were improving.

Now, after four years of riding bulls, he's now among the top riders on the junior rodeo circuit.

He admits, it's the thrill of riding a bull that makes him want to get out and do it.

"You get all that adrenaline pumped up inside you.

You're out there riding that bull and you get so pumped up.

Wherever he goes you're going," Campa said.

"People ask me 'What's it like to ride a bull?' I couldn't answer that.

People ride them bucking machines, I've rode them, my grandpa built me a bucking barrel, riding the bucking barrel, bucking machine, that isn't nothing like riding a bull.

There isn't anything like that feeling, I don't think.

"That eight seconds is the longest eight seconds of your life when you're on top of a bull.

You can count to eight seconds and it seems like it goes really fast.

You can count to eight seconds on a bull and it seems like a lifetime."

Campa credits part of his success to a friend who passed away recently.

"One of my mom's friends, a neighbor, Eric Ruiz, was coming down to watch me and when he came down they cancelled it and he didn't get to see me," Campa said.

"The weekend after the rodeo was cancelled he was killed in car crash.

I told my grandma he didn't get to see me and I'm gonna win this rodeo."

And win he did.

"I was leading at about two rodeos and I went to St.

Johns and got bucked off.

Then I went to Douglas and got bucked off.

By the finals I dropped down about 40 points behind the leader and most I could make up in the finals was 30 points.

I knew I had to ride good and ride both bulls," Campa said.

"The second place guy was about 10 points ahead of me.

I beat the second place guy, but didn't get past the first place guy.

"The second half of the season I rode good and covered quite a few bulls.

When I knew I couldn't catch up on the saddle I went 'I'm just going to go out there and ride good' and I won that rodeo and brought home a nice buckle and nice breast collar for second."

Campa likes to golf to release some of the adrenaline from bull riding and is on the Kingman High School golf team.

Although he respects the other sports at school he said rodeo requires a unique kind of person to be successful.

"Not everybody can rodeo.

It takes a certain kind of man or woman.

It's a tough sport," Campa said.

"I was riding bulls in the finals and I jammed two of my fingers pretty bad.

I got two big old blisters on my hand and went out Sunday and roped with blisters and two jammed fingers.

"You've got to cowboy up and ride."

The state junior rodeo circuit opens its season at the Mohave County Fairgrounds on Saturday with the Kingman rodeo.

For more information or to register to enter the junior rodeo call Earl Bender at 692-6433.