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Davis Looks to Avoid Sophomore Slump

By: Justin Felisko
February 04, 2016

Cooper Davis rides Mortimer in Anaheim, California.

Cooper Davis rides Mortimer in Anaheim, California.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It has been hard to not miss Cooper Davis walking with a little giddy up in his step on a beeline toward the PBR sports medicine room at the past two Built Ford Tough Series events.

Davis made his season debut two weeks ago after undergoing offseason wrist surgery on his riding hand following a roofing accident while working on his parents’ barn in November.

Yet after every ride attempt, Davis has to run and grab a massive bag of ice and wrap his hand to help calm down the “burning sensation.”

“It is just like when you hit your funny bone, it just burns like heck for a while,” Davis said last weekend following two round wins in Anaheim, California.

Davis has been able to start the season 4-for-8 despite his wrist not being 100 percent just yet. He heads into the Sacramento Invitational this weekend in a tie with Robson Palermo, Wallace de Oliveira, Gage Gay and J.B. Mauney for the BFTS lead in round wins (two) and is ranked 16thin the world standings.

Davis looked strong in Anaheim with his round-winning rides aboard Big Enough (87.25 points) and Mortimer (88.25 points). In fact, all but one of his buckoffs have come before the 6.8-second mark.

The 2015 World Finals event winner won only four BFTS rounds in 2015.

Davis believes the wrist injury may actually be helping him ride more fundamentally sound than last season.

“It is a little bit weird because I have to cater to it,” Davis said. “I have to try and stay under my rope as much as possible. I guess it makes me a little more fundamentally sound when it comes to making the right moves because you want to keep as much pressure off it as you can like you should anyways. It bothers me, but at the same time as long as I keep doing my part I am not going to worry about it too much.”

The beginning of 2016 is already a much different story than the beginning of 2015.

Davis began 2015 0-for-11 and spent time battling his head, switching bull ropes and stumbling for answers.

“For sure, it is all about being 4-for-8 rather than last year, I was 0 for how many…a bunch,” Davis said. “You just have to learn how to get through the slumps and not stay negative about them.”

Of course, there was also Davis’ decision to listen to PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert and 2002 World Finals event winner J.W. Hart in August when the two said Davis should lose some weight.

Davis took the advice to heart and went on to shed 24 pounds before becoming the fourth rookie in PBR history to win the World Finals event title.

Davis went 12-for-24 once he began his diet plan late last season.

He has since lost another four pounds and entered 2016 a career-low 140 pounds.

“I am not trying to look skinny by any means,” Davis said. “I got to where I wanted to and five more pounds is five more pounds. I am not meaning to, but I guess when you get into a little pattern you hope to stay there.”

Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray admitted he didn’t pay much attention until Davis began losing the weight. Then Davis definitely caught the PBR founder’s attention when he went 4-for-6 to win the Finals.

“Well, he looks good,” Murray said. “Really, I didn’t start paying that much attention to him until about the Finals. Obviously he did great there and I take notice anytime I see somebody dedicate themselves. Obviously, he must be doing that. That is such an important component. I am not just talking about the physical. The direct mental ways that helps you to be dedicated. It helps you in every way. It helps you in indirect ways. Take away what the training does for your body or your stamina or your quickness or your strength; that is just two hours a day you are thinking about being better or you are thinking about your sport.”

Davis hit on that exact topic when asked what would be the difference for him in 2016, outside of his recovery from wrist surgery.

“The mental aspect is so big,” Davis said. “It is good to get a good start that way you don’t have to worry about the rest of the season. That is where I messed up a lot last year, not being confident in myself. I just need a better start. Last year, if I would have had the start the way I finished the year, I would have been right there maybe winning the world title.”

“Having a slow start to the year kind of hindered the rest of my year, but I still ended up sixth. I can’t complain with it, that is a big deal. But I could have done better.”

Through two events, Davis appears poised to try and avoid any sort of a sophomore slump.

He does know he will hit a hiccup this season at some point though.

“Bull riding is bull riding,” Davis said. “You are going to go through slumps. You just have to learn how to get through the slumps and not stay negative about them.”

Davis has drawn Udder Lover (2-0, BFTS) for Round 1 on Friday night and is radiating with calm, composed confidence.

“Right now I am the most confident I have ever been, even with my hand being the way it is,” Davis concluded. “If we can get the ball rolling here, I think we will be able to stay alright all year.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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