For a teenager on Kansas City's new bull-riding team, this weekend isn't his first rodeo
The Outlaws, Kansas City’s new professional bull riding team, made their hometown debut this weekend. For one Kansas rider on the team, the local event was the most exciting of the season.
In June, the Professional Bull Riding league (PBR) introduced teams into what is traditionally an individual sport. Kansas City’s team, the Kansas City Outlaws, is one of eight in the league. In the second event in the series, the Outlaws made their debut this weekend at the Outlaw Days festival at the T-Mobile Center.
Each team event throughout the season is accompanied by a western festival. In Kansas City, that meant concerts and a street festival in the Power and Light District before each day’s event and a DJ-led party after the dust settles.
This is 18-year-old Tate Pollmeier’s first year in PBR, but it’s not his first rodeo. The Fort Scott, Kansas-raised teen has been riding since he was 4 years old and was drafted to the Outlaws in May.
“I started riding sheep when I was four,” Pollmeier said. “My parents had a junior rodeo association in town, so I just started riding sheep, moved up to calves, to steers, to junior bulls. Then I turned 18 in March and I declared for the draft. I'd never been to a PBR [event] until our first pre-season event in Bismarck. So I was fresh and being drafted at 18 was pretty cool.”
Pollmeier was drafted after a successful junior bull-riding career that culminated in back-to-back wins at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in 2021 and 2022. At the most recent event, he won in the final round of the top 15 contestants with a score of 88 points.
His latest high school championship came just a few days before the PBR Team Series began, marking his entrance into the professional bull riding chute.
Cliff Ryan runs team operations for the Outlaws. He said the Outlaws know Tate will go far in the league. Riders are allowed to join PBR at 18 years old, but adjusting from high school to professional riding takes time.
“The bulls are anywhere from 1,600 to 2,000 pounds – just solid muscle,” Ryan said. “These guys are 130, 140, 150 pounds. So these things are very difficult to stay on. It's not your average backyard rodeo. Going from a high school level to this level, it is different. But he can ride with the best of him on anything.”
To score in PBR, bull riders have to stay on for at least eight seconds. Pollmeier said technique – and practice on a lower caliber bull, a stationary barrel or a bucking machine – is only part of the strategy to stay on.
“Most of it's muscle memory for me by now,” Pollmeier said. “There's a lot of muscles and strength that it takes to get to the eight-second mark. Some people may say you're dancing with the bull. Whatever move they make, you want to counteract and stay on top.”
At a PBR event, riders can score up to 100 points. Half of the points are scored on how difficult, or rank, the bull is, and the other half are awarded based on the skill of the rider. To earn a score, the rider has to stay on the bull for eight seconds (or be awarded a zero) and has to ride with one free hand that cannot touch the bull or themself.
Though the scoring remains the same for each rider with PBR Teams, Pollmeier said audiences should still expect a different event than they’re used to.
“It's going to change for the audience for sure because now somebody's favorite bull rider is part of a team,” Pollmeier said. “So the other four guys just gained a fan themselves, because now you're not just rooting for an individual — you're rooting for five of them and that team.”
For Pollmeier, the team is an added bonus to the sport he loves.
“Rather than in the past, you've got four other teammates with you,” Pollmeier said. “So you want those four other guys to do just as good or better than you do, and the same for you. They want you to do as best as you can so you can get the highest score. It's new and pretty cool having some teammates.”
In the Teams Series, each team has five people ride during each event. Ryan says the rules are simple: whichever team successfully rides more bulls wins.
On the first day of the Outlaws’ first regular-season event in Cheyenne, Wyoming, against the Oklahoma Freedom, neither team managed to stay on the bull for more than eight seconds. But the next day two of Kansas City’s riders – Marcus Mast and Dalton Kasel – had high scoring rides, giving the Outlaws their first win in the series.
Ryan hopes the Outlaw’s hometown debut wowed audiences new to team bull riding.
“As a teams event, it's so much more exciting in my opinion,” Ryan said. “Hopefully this weekend is just some good competition. Good matchups with the teams and back and forth riding. Surely it'll bring a different level of competition for 'em with friends and family being local, I would imagine.”
The Outlaws narrowly lost to the Arizona Ridge Riders Friday night with a score of 170.5-80.25. One rider for the hometown team, Koltin Hevalow from Smithville, earned the team its only score.
Saturday ended in a double loss for the Outlaws and their opponents, the Nashville Stampede, when neither team was able to stay on the bull.
Kansas City fans have one more chance to see the city’s newest team compete when the Outlaws face off against the Missouri Thunder at 11 a.m. The intra-state showdown is a highly anticipated match-up with the Ozarks-based Thunder having three regular-season wins under its belt compared to the Outlaw’s one.
No matter the outcome, Pollmeier said competing in Kansas City this weekend, only an hour and a half from his hometown, made this event the most exhilarating of the season.
“I'm pretty local and being able to compete in Kansas City this weekend is awesome,” he said.