By: Justin Felisko
November 11, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – For the last six months, Ryan Dirteater’s fiancé, Megan Pohlman, would roll over in bed and hear Dirteater hop in the shower every morning and turn on his iPod.
Same song, different day, she would think.
Dirteater would then belt out his own rendition of Eric Church’s hit-single “Record Year” as he got ready for another day of two-a-day workouts.
“Me? I am a horrible singer,” Dirteater exclaimed in Las Vegas last weekend after winning the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals. “Wait, who told you that? Ah, yeah, I listen to some music. I listen to “Record Year” or Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker.
“It pumps me up. It starts my day.”
Dirteater then shakes his head a tad bit embarrassed, but the song helped him focus on getting the job done this year.
Every day it was a reminder to keep thinking about bull riding.
The 27-year-old used the single to help stay motivated in the second half of the Built Ford Tough Series as he was on pace to shatter a series of personal records in 2016.
Dirteater (6-for-6) capped off his record-year by winning the World Finals and $317,916.67 with the best performance of his career.
He became just the third rider in PBR history to ride every single bull he attempted at the World Finals and concluded 2016 a career-best fourth in the world standings.
“That makes four wins. A record year,” Dirteater said. “It is special. In May, I heard that “Record Year” come on and I have been listening to it ever since. It stuck with me.”
Dirteater also stayed stuck on his bovine opponents a career-best 44.59 percent of the time. He posted a career-high 33 qualified rides in 74 attempts.
“It is very important,” Dirteater said. “I live bull riding and this is what I do. It paid off. All the years of working at it and it has finally come together. It feels great.”
Dirteater almost had his career ended seven years earlier when he dislocated his left knee cap and tore his ACL, MCL and PCL.
It took Dirteater nine months before he even attempted to ride a bull again – not to mention the 14 months it took to make his way back onto the Built Ford Tough Series.
If that wasn’t enough, Dirteater then had to miss eight events in his first season back because of surgery to repair a torn ligament and tendon in his right elbow.
Other than a lacerated lung in August just before the resumption of the BFTS, Dirteater had one of his healthiest seasons and missed only two events.
He also did have a sinus infection at the beginning of the World Finals.
“It is pretty cool because he has listened to that song “Record Year” every single morning,” Pohlman said. “He has kind of built up momentum throughout the year. The biggest thing has been his mental (strength). This is my fourth Finals with him. He has matured as a person and as a rider, just like getting stronger with his mentality and just grinding it out in the gym every day. He dedicates so much to this sport. He works so hard. If he is not working hard, he is eating right.
“He is always working to be a better bull rider and achieve his dreams. It is so good to see him a step closer to achieving a World Championship. To have three events and a World Finals win is so awesome.”
A World Championship very easily could have been Dirteater’s if he had ridden more consistently in 2016.
Dirteater finished only 1,382.09 points behind 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, but his season performance was one of feast or famine. Dirteater failed to earn any world points in 32 percent of the BFTS events he competed in. He put up goose eggs in eight regular-season events, as well as seven 15/15 Bucking Battles.
Which is why, in ways, Dirteater’s week of perfection was so stunning in Las Vegas. He was by far the most consistent bull rider all year and somehow found a way to master the Finals.
“Yeah. It is crazy,” he said. “I just have been learning and staying focused and putting myself in a position to win. That is what I have to do more of. Stay consistent.”
Dirteater’s father, Randy, pulled Ryan’s bull rope multiple times during the Finals and could be seen jumping up and down on the back of the bucking chutes when the clock read 8 seconds during his son’s 89.75-point winning ride on Brutus.
“Well, I don’t know if I was doing that,” Randy said with a chuckle. “My heart was probably about to jump out.”
“He worked hard for it this year. I will tell you what. The first of the year, I did blunt out a little comment: ‘I think you are going to win five events this year.’ I was looking for it. It was one hit, second hit, third hit. I just kept that in my mind. I said, ‘You are riding good. From the break to when he started (at the Finals), there was something clicking.”
Ryan earned BFTS victories in Phoenix; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Springfield, Missouri.
His Finals victory gave him the most wins on tour.
Randy added his son was by no means a future country singer, but possibly a future World Champion.
“The maturity really played that part of him being able to focus on what he has to do,” Randy said. “The youth is kind of out of the way now. I always tell him stay young at heart and one day you will be here to win that world title. It is coming. Just have to let it happen. Patience is a virtue, but if you have the patience, things will happen.”
Davis became just the third rider in PBR history to win the world title the year after winning the World Finals the previous season. Troy Dunn (1997-1998) and J.B. Mauney (2013-2014) also accomplished the feat.
Ryan plans on becoming the fourth next year, but he understands he has much more to work on if he hopes for an album worth of bull riding hits versus being a one-hit, YouTube wonder.
“It is a humbling sport,” he said. “If you get a little arrogant, you will get slammed on your head.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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