Noah Gonzales is a lanky 6th-grader, very frustrated that Edgewood Middle school won’t let him play baseball or basketball until 7th grade. 

“They said he can’t play contact sports for another year—but they’ll let him ride bulls,” laughs Noah’s dad, Adam Gonzales.

The 12-year-old has done well in the rodeos this year—so well that he took Reserve Champion on the Colorado-New Mexico circuit and is heading to the Junior World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He will ride steers and mini-bulls with competitors from all over the planet, this Dec. 5 to 14, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The competition is the youth equivalent of the simultaneous National Finals Rodeo, the Superbowl of cowboys and cowgirls.

Joining him for the trip are Cade and Caleb Griego, 15 and 16, from Stanley. The brothers are the 2019 NM Junior High and High School State Champions in bull riding.

The three youths have been busy raising funds for their trip to Las Vegas, selling burritos and street tacos outside of Molly’s in Tijeras, and selling raffle tickets for a private elk hunt, a steer, and a roping saddle. The cost of Las Vegas hotel rooms, food, gear, gasoline and entry fees is not deterring these kids. But then, bull riders aren’t known for being easily deterred.

“I started off [riding] sheep when I was about three,” says Noah nonchalantly. His younger brother has already had to take two years off from riding, since a sheep rolled over with him when he was 5.

“I’m lucky, I haven’t broken any bones,” says Noah, but his dad interjects—“I’ve told him it’s not a matter of if you get hurt, it’s when, and how bad. We won’t let him get on without a helmet, vest and chaps. A good helmet is about $500.”

Noah and his father were on their way out of town to the next rodeo. “We’re heading to Ignacio, Colorado to ride tomorrow,” Adam explained. “Trying to get out early and beat the snowstorm.”

Noah Gonzales of Edgewood, 12, will be riding bulls in Las Vegas, Nevada in December. Photo by Bridget Randles.

Between the 600- to 1,000-pound mini-bulls, steers, and driving over mountain passes, this is no walk in the park, but the grinning boy is undaunted. He even keeps his grade point average up while missing entire weeks of school.

He is sponsored by Moriarty Pipe and Iron, Southwest Propane, White Sands Construction and C&A Transporting and Livestock, locally, as well as Davis Hats.

To purchase raffle tickets for the boys’ trip, contact TammiBobby Griego or Christine Gonzales on Facebook. The drawing will be held Dec. 1, right before the families head to Las Vegas to compete.