Home Local Sports Rugged Rider: Cipriani pursues passion out of the chutes

Rugged Rider: Cipriani pursues passion out of the chutes

Dane Cipriani rides Bayou, a bull he covered that hadn't been covered in three years. (Photo contributed by Vickie Mathis)

HAMLET — What started out as a tempting dare from his twin brother has turned into a hopeful career path for Dane Ciprani.

When his brother Lane Cipriani dared him to take up the extreme sport, Cipriani wasted little time.

“After Lane dared me, I was riding in my first rodeo the very next weekend,” Cipriani explained. “I rode and was hooked from that point on. Riding bulls seemed pretty cool and I’m glad I decided to do it.”

Cipriani was 13 years old when he busted out of the chutes for the first time at a Halloween bash at Prices Arena in Bessemer City. Since that fall weekend in 2021, he’s been a familiar face at rodeos all across the country.

A soon-to-be sophomore at Richmond Senior High School, Cipriani has seen his hobby-turned-passion take him all over from his hometown of Hamlet. Later this year, he will travel to Texas twice to compete in two world championship events.

Cipriani is a member of the Southeastern Junior Bull Riders Association, as well as part of the E.W. Mini Bucking Bulls Association in Denton, N.C., which is a branch of the World Championship Miniature Bull Riding Association.

During the peak season of bull riding between April and October, Cipriani rides on several different circuits. One of those is the Youth Bull Riders, a global organization which holds regional qualifying rodeos to go to the world finals. 

“I ride almost every weekend,” Cipriani said. “There are two rodeos a month for each association and I ride in a winter series, too.”

When he started bull riding, Cipriani was put into the pee-wee group. He explained that it was a difficult way to start his career since the classification was a step above sheep and steer riding and he had no experience.

That didn’t deter his spirit, as he quickly advanced to the pee-wee junior series. Standing at 5-feet-3-inches and weighing just 112 pounds, Cipriani, now 14 years old, is the youngest and smallest member of the SJBRA.

He gets his fearlessness and grit honest, taking up after his mother Vickie Mathis, who was a horse barrel racer when she was in high school.

“I always want him to try and do his best,” Mathis said. “Dane is very tough and sometimes I don’t like how tough he is. But he’s perfect for the rodeo because he’s very outgoing and loves all of it. He spends a lot of the time with younger riders taking photos.

“I’m most proud of his dedication,” she added. “I rode horse barrels so I know what it takes. He’s taken a lot of beatings, but he keeps going. His natural talent helps him a lot.”

Dane Cipriani takes a photo with a younger rider. (Photo contributed by Vickie Mathis)

When Cipriani slides his hand into the bull rope and prepares to leave the chutes for a hopeful eight-second ride, he’s riding bulls that weigh between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds.

Currently, Cipriani is ranked as the No. 1 rider in his classification in the SJBRA and the E.W. Mini Bucking Bulls Association. Those standings have qualified him to attend the Youth Bull Riders World Finals in Abilene, Texas, in August.


It will be the second straight summer that Cipriani competes in Abilene, and he will return to Mesquite, Texas, for the third year in a row in October to ride in the WCMBRA World Finals.

If he rides well in those events, Cipriani hopes to qualify for the finals in Las Vegas in December.

While he enjoys the sport as a whole, Cipriani said he enjoys two things the most — the energy of the crowd and the camaraderie between fellow riders.

“I like the atmosphere and the crowd,” Cipriani said. “Everyone is there to watch the bull riders and that really fuels my adrenaline. The bigger the crowd, the better.

“I’m glad I moved up to juniors so I don’t have to compete against my friends,” he laughed. “We all cheer each other on and a lot of friendships have been made. Everyone wants to win, so it’s really us competing against the bull. I enjoy standing on the back of the chutes and hollering.”

In his short riding career, Cipriani has racked up several accolades. He earned buckles for competing in the WCMBRA World Finals in 2021 and 2022, and took reserve champion in the E.W. circuit in 2021.

In 2022, Cipriani was named the He Paid Your Fees junior bull rider champion, an event held in Archdale, N.C. Hosted by former world champion bull rider Jerome “Danger” Davis, Cipriani covered a bull named Smokey, which was one of Davis’ bulls.

When Smokey is retired from the rodeo, Cipriani will be gifted the bull for having covered him.

Dane Cipriani smiles after covering a bounty bull named Bayou, a bull that hadn’t been covered in three years. (Photo contributed by Vickie Mathis)

Another way Cipriani has let his grit define him out of the chute is his ability to bounce back from injuries. Knowing it’s part of the sport, Cipriani said, “I can’t think about injuries. I just put that thought away for eight seconds and ride.”

Over the past two years, Cipriani broke the growth plate in his right arm, and broke his left forearm two weeks after that injury. He’s had stitches in his chin and knee, but he looks at the scars as a badge of honor.

Earlier this spring, Cipriani suffered a grade-three liver laceration when he was stepped on by the bull following a ride. He spent three days in the hospital and was sidelined for six weeks, but was cleared to ride again earlier this month.

“There’s some anxiety about him getting hurt, especially now that he’s riding the bigger bulls,” Mathis said.  “How I make it through is by always praying that he makes it out of the arena safely.”

Another thing Mathis said she’s proud of is Cipriani’s willingness to fund his own journey. With the help of some sponsors, Cipriani works several small jobs to pay for his entry fees, equipment and apparel.

“I’ve got a lot of events coming up,” Cipriani closed. “I’m looking forward to the World Finals in Texas and will be riding in the Jerome Davis event again. My goal is to win Worlds and hopefully one day become a professional bull rider.”

Below is a sit-down video interview of Cipriani with sports editor Kyle Pillar.

Previous articleNorth Carolina residents urged to watch out for spotted lanternfly during Fourth of July travel
Next articleHamlet drops regular-season finale to Wilmington
Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.