Pennsylvania bull rider returns to Bangor for Cross Insurance Center's first event in more than a year

Jul. 23—Grayson Cole remembers the first time he climbed onto a calf, which would eventually put him on his career path to a professional bull rider.

"I was 7 years old. I was terrified," Cole said. "But after it was over, I was OK. I was ready for more."

Cole is now 21 and is in Bangor for the three-day Professional Bull Riders Pendleton Whiskey Velocity 2021 tour. He will be one of 40 bull riders competing for money and points that could earn him a spot in the sport's top series, the Unleash the Beast Tour, and in the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas Nov. 3-7.

This weekend's competition, the first to be held at the Cross Insurance Center since it closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, is Cole's second trip to Bangor. He was at the last PBR event at the Cross Insurance Center in March 2020, the last event to be held before the spread of the coronavirus. He placed third and pocketed $3,300.

"I loved it the last time I was here. It was a great event," he said.

The 160-pound Cole is from New Ringgold, Pennsylvania. That isn't a part of the country you would necessarily link to bull riding.

But it is something he had wanted to do since he was 3 years old.

His parents, Jeffery Cole and Nina Krammes, used to take him to the rodeo as a toddler, which is where he developed his love of the sport.

He began riding sheep when he was 3 and graduated to calves when he was 7.

That meant a one-hour trip from New Ringgold to where the bulls were housed in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

He participated in other rodeo activities until he was 15, when he decided to concentrate on bull riding.

Cole competed in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo all three years he was eligible, and was involved at the national level in bull riding in high school. He moved on to the American Professional Rodeo Association and Bullride Mania.

He's suffered a number of injuries, including three broken ankles and multiple cracked ribs.

"My ankles are still a little weak. But they are holding up," said Cole, who considers himself one of the lucky ones.

He is in his second season on the Pendleton Whiskey Velocity Tour and has made $34,000 in his two seasons to date. He is ranked 51st in the world with 58.33 points.

He picked up his first career tour win in his last competition two weekends ago at the PBR Bull Bash at The Michiana Event Center in Shipshewana, Indiana, where he earned $14,408.81.

Bull riders are a dedicated bunch. They don't let sore bodies and nagging injuries prevent them from climbing onto the bucking bovines to try to last the 8 seconds that represent a successful ride.

Cole said he is an adrenaline junkie who loves bull riding.

He rides unicycles and does gymnastics to improve his agility, and he does his homework before every event.

"You find out a few days ahead of time which bulls you will be riding. So I'll find out who rode that bull recently and get some video of it," Cole said.

When he isn't on the road with the tour, he lives with a family that owns the All-American Rodeo Company and helps them set up and run rodeos.

He's anxious to climb onto the bulls in Bangor.

"I'm really looking forward to get in the arena and get going," he said.