By: Justin Felisko
November 18, 2016
NEW TOWN, N.D. – Stetson Lawrence hadn’t even arrived at the Four Bears Casino and Lodge on Thursday and there was a buzz around the casino floor about Lawrence.
A security officer, seeing a list of the riders competing at this weekend’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event, asked, ‘Is Stetson riding this weekend? We like Stetson.”
Lawrence grew up 70 miles away in Williston, North Dakota, and is one of the main riders sponsored by Four Bears Casino and Lodge. Regardless of his sponsorship, Lawrence is excited to be competing so close to home.
“It would be special,” Lawrence, who arrived in New Town on Friday morning, said about possibly winning the first Velocity Tour event in New Town. “I am going to win and stay sharp, more than anything. I will go this one and take about two weeks off
Lawrence is coming off a career-best, ninth-place finish at the World Finals. The 28-year-old went 3-for-6, including an 89-point ride on Texicali and 85.25-point ride on Chad Berger’s Big Cat.
Berger – the reigning Stock Contractor of the Year – is supplying the majority of the bull power for this weekend’s two nights of competition.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray was impressed by Lawrence’s ability to readjust on the back of Texicali in Las Vegas.
“Man, this looks great, going away from his hand,” Murray said during the CBS Sports Network broadcast. “You can see sometimes his hips get thrown out of there. Look how he just loosens up with both legs, shifts his hip back to the middle because he is in the right place with his upper body.”
Lawrence’s strong performance in Las Vegas propelled him to new career-highs in 2016. His 27 qualified rides on the BFTS was a new best in his four-year BFTS career, as was his 34.62-percent riding average (27-for-78).
He finished 2016 18th in the world standings and Lawrence was hoping he could have built off his ninth-place finish in the world in 2015 a little better.
“I just (need to) stay confident in myself and consistent, more than anything,” Lawrence said. “I tried to stay consistent here at the biggest event of the year and carry it on to next year. Hopefully I will have a great year and be in the Top 5 when I get to (Las Vegas) and have a legitimate chance at the gold buckle.”
Lawrence, like many riders on the BFTS, understands he needs to improve in the championship round and 15/15 Bucking Battles, where he was a combined 2-for-16, if he hopes to be a Top 10 bull rider.
“Not overthinking it,” Lawrence said. “Pick better, I guess? My wife (TK) has been after me about that. All of us bull riders want to get on the best bull, the rankest bull, and prove it to everybody and ourselves we can do it instead of riding the easier bull in the championship round, even though none of them are. Just take it easy and not overthink it. Keep it simple.”
Lawrence can help his pursuit of qualifying for the World Finals for a fifth consecutive season in 2017 by having a good showing in New Town, where the event winner will earn 80 points toward the world standings.
Other top riders tentatively scheduled to compete on Friday and Saturday night include RVT leader Reese Cates, 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa, Fabiano Vieira, Mason Lowe, Gage Gay, Derek Kolbaba and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee.
Lawrence has historically ridden really well at non-BFTS events in North Dakota and has a 63-percent riding percentage in his home state.
He went 1-for-2 at the PBR Canada event in New Town in April 2013.
During the World Finals, Lawrence revealed that he had lost about 15 pounds during the BFTS summer break and was riding at a new career-low of 162 pounds.
“I don’t like to brag, but I have been trying to lose weight,” Lawrence said. “I used to weigh 176-178 pounds and I am down to 162. Nothing to technical. I got some diet pills and started working out a little bit more. Mainly, I am just watching what I eat so I don’t overdo it. I also stopped drinking. That is another big thing.”
Lawrence hopes to lose another five pounds or so before the Built Ford Tough Series begins its 2017 season on Jan. 6 in New York with the Monster Energy Buckoff at the Garden.
“My weight fluctuates, but I don’t want to get to small,” he said. “When I was younger I guess I was smaller, but this is probably the lowest I have ever been.”
Lawrence then added with a laugh, “When I was younger, I didn’t even care what I weighed.”
The plan going forward is to compete in New Town and then see how he is feeling in December.
“I will go to this one and take about two weeks off,” Lawrence said. “If I ain’t feeling good then, I will go somewhere else.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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