By: Justin Felisko
June 14, 2018
PUEBLO, Colo. – Their red, white and blue Team USA jerseys may be packed away now, but that doesn’t mean Stetson Lawrence and Derek Kolbaba won’t be cheering each other on despite being opponents at this coming weekend’s Henson Manufacturing PBR Touring Pro Division event in Vinita, Oklahoma.
Lawrence, Kolbaba and Ryan Dirteater accepted an invitation from Jane Clark and Gene Owen to compete in a winner-take-all $40,000 challenge following the TPD event Saturday night at American Legion Arena.
“Shoot, we are never enemies,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence then added before laughing, “I will be happy if he wins, and I am pretty sure he won’t be happy if I win.”
Kolbaba was walking out of the Team USA locker room in Sydney, Australia, last week when he heard Lawrence’s comment.
“If I lose, I wouldn’t expect him to give me a damn thing,” Kolbaba said with a laugh. “Shoot, $40,000 for one bull ride? I am excited. There should be a couple good bulls to get on, and I will go beat ole Stetson and Dirteater and do a little extra shit talking.”
The three riders competing in the challenge will randomly draw their bulls in the arena on Saturday night following the TPD event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. CT.
The three bulls that Owen and Clark have put in the pen are Cochise (50-8, All levels), Lester Gillis (36-4, All levels) and Hedoo (11-5, All levels).
“They won’t know their bull until two minutes before they get on,” Owen said. “It will be a little drama. A little different.
“I am pretty excited about Vinita. Things have come together pretty good. The tickets. The sponsors. It is going to be good.”
Lawrence and Kolbaba would each love to get another crack at Cochise.
Lawrence rode Cochise for a career-high 92.25 points in Oklahoma City this past January and nearly picked up another monster ride on him a month later in St. Louis before falling just short at 7.62 seconds.
Kolbaba conquered Cochise last season in North Little Rock, Arkansas, for an event-winning 89.5 points. The win was Kolbaba’s second of a PBR-best five wins in 2017.
Dirteater was bucked off by Cochise in 7.12 seconds the week after Kolbaba rode him.
“Cochise is the bull to have,” Kolbaba said.
Cochise is 9-2 this season with an average bull score of 44.18 points.
“He has been starting to suck back,” Lawrence said. “He will go out there around to the left and then he has slowly been getting back underneath himself.”
Kolbaba jumped back in the conversation to say, “That is what brought you down last time.”
Lawrence responded, “Exactly! That is why this time I am going to get up near his neck.”
Kolbaba has been bucked off twice by Lester Gillis, while Lawrence and Dirteater have never been on him.
The three riders have never squared off against Hedoo.
Lawrence and Kolbaba began the weekend in Sydney with qualified rides aboard Light Em Up (83.5 points) and Rockslide (82.25 points).
It was Kolbaba’s first ride since tearing his right ACL in Billings, Montana. The No. 20 ranked bull rider in the world standings had bucked off 12 consecutive bulls since the injury.
“Individually, it is huge,” Kolbaba said during Round 1 in Sydney. “It is always good to get something like that under our belt. Get your confidence back and kind of remind yourself you can do it.
“It is what it is. It pops every once and a while. It is nothing terrible. It has felt pretty good. It has been a couple 7-second deals and that is just a mental thing. It comes down to finishing. Hitting that 6-second mark and kicking the after-boosters in and finishing no matter what. That is kind of what a guy has to have. You have to go back to the basics and go back to having fun.”
Both riders later bucked off in Round 3 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Dirteater – the No. 16 rider in the world – has not competed since Last Cowboy Standing in May.
Lawrence, who is currently 17th in the world standings, sprained his right thumb on his free hand and may have some torn ligaments.
The injury won’t prevent him from competing in Vinita.
“I am pretty pumped about that opportunity to go there and get that money,” Lawrence concluded. “That is awesome to be a part of that. It is cool.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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