JASPER — It’s hard to keep a good man down. Just ask Freestyle Bullfighter Noah Krepps of Jasper.
Freestyle Bullfighting is a professional sport that grew out of the contract job of keeping bull riders safe in rodeo competitions all over the country. That responsibility has always gone to the Rodeo Clown, now called a Protection Bullfighter. It takes more than courage to step between a bull and the rider after he’s come off his bull, or even worse, gets hung up. It requires excellent athleticism and the ability to “read a bull” and control its movement.
Desiring a competition that showcased those skills, Professional bullfighter Evan Allard of Ada, Oklahoma, and fellow peers began Freestyle Bullfighting over a decade ago. Since then, the sport has taken off. You can catch events live all around the country, including during a PBR Event or on TV on the Wrangler Network, Hooey TV, and other cable channels. CBS Sports have also recently featured the competition. Since its inception, Allard has become a three-time World Champion Freestyle Bullfighter and was a protection bullfighter at last year’s NFR in Vegas.
Says Allard, "American Freestyle Bullfighting is our spin on the ancient sport of Spanish Matador Bullfighting, evolving the sport to showcase bullfighters and bulls as athletes. There's so much more to the sport than just stepping around a Mexican fighting bull, it is an art, a dance, of man & bull.” Evan continues, “Freestyle Bullfighters are judged on their ability to engage with the bull and keep his attention while performing fluid moves such as fakes, capes, back steps, rounds, and tricks like jumps, backflips, and swan dives.”
At the age of 16, Noah Krepps of Jasper began protection bullfighting at From the Arena to the Cross Rodeo Bible Camps, Lyle Sankey’s Rodeo School, and Tommy Rand’s American Family Rodeos.
Soon after, as a senior at Jasper High in 2016, Krepps launched his professional freestyle bullfighting career, having been discovered by Evan Allard. Noah wears Evan’s brand, Hookin A Ranch. He competed for the first time just a few weeks later in Vegas at 17 years of age and finished second to his mentor, Allard, out of three countries and 16 bullfighters. The following months while completing his course requirements and graduating from high school, Noah managed to travel and win a total of 10 championships and returned to Vegas in December 2017 to win his first World Champion title, and ABF Vegas Championship.
In July 2019, Krepps was competing in a prestigious, invitation-only bullfight called Bulls of the West in San Angelo, Texas. He won the event but was gored in his left thigh in the last second of his bullfight while pulling off a final trick. He underwent three surgeries and spent three weeks in their trauma facility, Shannon Medical Center. His doctors said he would need a year of recovery before he would be ready to return to his career.
On Dec. 12, 2019, Kevin Rich of ABF, American Bullfighting, LLC again held his end of the year ABF Freestyle Finals at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Just four months after his injury, Noah closed out this poignant chapter of his career by having the last word. He returned to Vegas and secured his second ABF Vegas Championship!
Says Krepps, “I’m forever grateful to Evan for jump-starting my career and for his continuous guidance. I’m grateful to my doctors and the amazing outpouring of support I received during my injury, not only from my communities but also from San Angelo’s. I know how blessed I am, and I thank God for watching over me. It feels incredible to close out the year with a comeback and a big win.”
On a side note, the bulls used in freestyle bullfighting are Spanish fighting bulls, not bucking bulls. The bulls are not harmed in the sport, unlike in Spain. Quite the opposite, they are revered and treated like high-end athletes, receiving the best of the best in conditions and care.