(Editor's note: PRCA release)
COLORADO SPRINGS - Blue Stone, who won PRCA Bull Riding World Championships in 2001 and 2002, passed away Sunday in Willard, Utah, at the age of 43.
Stone, who was born May 26, 1978, in Ogden, Utah, won his first world championship by earning $174,772 to edge Cody Hancock by less than $10,000.
He followed that feat in 2002 by earning $157,707 and edged Myron Duarte by less than $9,000.
Those were the only two appearances Stone made at the NFR.
"Blue was like Sage Kimzey, the bigger the stage, the better he rode," Duarte said. "Blue was a competitor and he brought me to my best level, and he made everybody's game better. That's what world champions do. When you are around world champions day-in and day-out, you're either going to get better or you're going to go home."
Bull rider Fred Boettcher, a six-time NFR qualifier, including 2001, also had high praise for Stone.
"Blue came on the scene and won two world titles and it was like where in the heck did he come from?" Boettcher said. "He rode with a lot of pain and was very talented and this hits like a ton of bricks because he and I are around the same age. A guy like him isn't supposed to be dying right now. He was a great bull rider and the coolest cat who just showed up and did his job. He didn't brag. When I showed up at the NFR in 2001, I didn't even know who he was, and he kicked all our butts."
Stone was the first cowboy to win back-to-back PRCA Bull Riding World Championships since Don Gay won three world titles in a row from 1979-81.
Stone shares the NFR Round 1 bull riding record with Gay. Gay had a 94-point ride in 1974 and Stone equaled that score in 2001.
Stone also won the NFR average in 2001 and 2002. In his two NFR appearances, Stone rode 14 of his bulls and earned a combined $205,851 – $112,322 in 2001 and $93,529 in 2002.
Stone's NFR performances are stunning considering in 1998-2000, he earned a combined $40,131 as a part-time competitor. He entered the 2001 NFR 12th in the world standings and eighth in 2002 and rocketed to the top both times.
"All I set out to do was to make the Finals," said Stone in a Feb. 6, 2002, issue of the ProRodeo Sports News. "I had never really even tried to make it before. I decided I would try to go at least once. It worked out a little better than I planned."
Stone also won a gold medal medallion at the 2002 Olympic Command Performance Rodeo in Farmington, Utah.
Duarte was glad he and Stone crossed paths in the rodeo arena at the same time.
"Blue would do anything for anybody," Duarte said. "He was truly a cowboy and part of the big rodeo family. He was a person who made rodeo better for the generations we see today. You don't win back-to-back world titles if you're not one of the best. There are very few people who have won back-to-back bull riding world titles. That says a lot about a person to win back-to-back. It shows you're super tough because you can fight through pain and injuries and keep competing at that high level. It is sad to see (Blue) go. He was young."
Stone was the Utah state high school bull riding state champion in 1996 and was runner-up at the 1997 College National Finals Rodeo competing the College of Southern Idaho. He bought his PRCA card in 1998.
Aside from living life in the arena, Stone could often be found on horseback working cattle or hunting with the boys.
Stone was preceded in death by uncles, Jim Willard, Scott Willard, Mont Willard, Frank Sothwick and father-in-law Steven Georgi. He is survived by his wife, Lynsi and six children, Rowdy, Riley, Waycee, Korbon, Ashton and Taygon; brothers, Dusty Stone; and Justin (Cassie) Gibson; sisters, Shelly Gibson and Tammy (Travis) Myers and stepfather Lawrence Gibson.
A viewing for family and friends will be March 16 from 6-8 p.m. (MT) and one hour prior to the funeral on March 17 at the Red Barn, 4300 N SR 32 in Oakley, Utah.
A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m., March 17 at the Red Barn.