By: Justin Felisko
October 12, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jess Lockwood may still be a kid in regards to his bull riding career, but you don’t have to worry about the 19-year-old, happy-go-lucky kid still believing in Santa Claus.
“I may watch SpongeBob (Squarepants), but I am not that young,” Lockwood said with his now well-known smile and laugh.
Lockwood certainly doesn’t believe that it will take a Christmas miracle either for a PBR rookie to one day win a World Championship.
“A lot of people think I am too young and a little inexperienced to win it,” Lockwood said. “I am just going to go out and ride my bulls, but I believe fully I can win a world title.”
A PBR rookie has never won the World Championship in the organization’s previous 22 seasons.
So far, it has been a pipe dream to think that a PBR rookie could hop onto the sport of professional bull riding’s biggest stage and win a gold buckle.
Kaique Pacheco was the runner-up to 2015 World Champion J.B. Mauney last year with arguably the best statistical season by a rookie bull rider, and Cooper Davis was the fourth rookie to ever win the World Finals event title, and neither could pull off the feat.
If Pacheco and Davis, nor any of the PBR’s previously highly successful rookies, couldn’t do it, then why should anyone believe that Lockwood can pull off what has so far been impossible?
“Cooper won it last year and Kaique did so great, so that is proof rookies can win it potentially,” Lockwood said. “Heck, I don’t know. I just try to stay in the middle and let the rest fall into place. It has been working out so far this year and consistency is key though. I have to get a little more consistent.”
Lockwood heads into this weekend’s San Jose Invitational, presented by Ariat, fifth in the world standings. He is only 1,654.5 points behind the current world leader Pacheco with two regular-season events and the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals remaining.
Not including the BlueDEF Finals, there are still 1,550 regular-season world points available, and another 3,330 at the World Finals, for one rider to earn.
“If you ride every bull you get on in Vegas, you are going to win,” Lockwood said. “All you have to do is stay in the middle of your bulls and just ride each bull you get on. Most of the time, if you are your bull, you are going to win.”
The event average of the World Finals alone is worth 1,500 points.
Lockwood has bucked off three consecutive Built Ford Tough Championship Round bulls, including Jeremiah in 5.37 seconds last weekend in Nampa, Idaho.
The Volborg, Montana, bull rider could easily be within 1,000 points of the world No. 1 ranking if he had come through in the championship round. He bucked off Modified Clyde in 4.84 seconds in Eugene, Oregon, and Catfish John in 7.88 seconds in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“You get mad when it happens like that, but the day after that you have to focus on the next week,” Lockwood said. “There is tons of money and points I let go there. Everything happens for a reason.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said prior to Nampa that Lockwood is going to one day start finishing out events on a consistent basis.
“That is the thing,” Lambert said. “There is a learning curve and a maturity factor there. He is getting it faster than anybody we have seen, but he is still a teenager that just graduated from high school that is riding against grown men. But he is putting himself in position to win every time, and he will be able to finish in a short period of time. He has come a long way in the last six months.”
Lockwood’s family and friends have also brought up another hypothetical to him since his rise from rookie phenom to dark horse World Champion contender.
What if he had made it on tour sooner?
Lockwood has only competed in 13 events since making his debut in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He missed the season’s first 11 events, while trying to fight his way out of the PBR’s Touring Pro Division and BlueDEF Tour level and onto the BFTS.
In comparison, Pacheco has competed in all 24 events.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride wasn’t ready to call Lockwood the greatest rookie of all time, but he was willing to say that Lockwood was the best 18-year-old to ever debut on the BFTS.
“The surprise is young Lockwood,” McBride said. “This kid is putting himself into the conversation of the World Championship and he has only been around for half a season. He is the best 18-year-old I have ever seen. I would put that in there with Chris Shivers. Anybody.”
McBride is this weekend’s color commentator alongside Craig Hummer for the CBS national broadcast of the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Lockwood takes on Spotted Demon (23-1, BFTS) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle. Fans can watch the matchup Sunday on CBS national television at 5 p.m. ET (check local listings).
Lockwood’s 51.06 percent riding percentage is third-best in the PBR. Does he too wonder where he may have been if he had qualified for the PBR’s top-flight tour before April?
“You can’t think of it that way,” Lockwood said. “I wasn’t riding good enough to be on tour. Obviously I didn’t belong here. Once I did get on here, I started doing well and kept moving up.”
Lockwood admitted his chances at winning a gold buckle really came to fruition when he left Colorado Springs sixth in the world standings.
“I was like, ‘Shoot, this is really close.’
Lockwood faces Hot Blooded (6-1, BFTS) in Round 1 and Dark Shadow (0-0, BFTS) in Round 2.
“I am riding really good right now and that is the key thing,” Lockwood concluded. “I am getting really consistent with myself. I am riding all of my long rounds and earlier in the year I was 90 on a bunch of short rounds.
“I have just been trying to be on my game. I have to stay on my bulls and see how it goes from there.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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