By: Justin Felisko
June 02, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jess Lockwood is well aware of what is at stake this weekend in Quebec City.
A victory and 300 points toward the world standings could go a big way toward the former world No. 1 ranked bull rider getting back on track in the hunt for the 2017 World Championship.
You don’t need to remind Lockwood, currently sixth in the world standings, he has earned only 110 world points in the last four months since winning the Sacramento Invitational at the end of January.
Nor should you feel the necessity to bring up the fact that he has only picked up three qualified rides on the BFTS since February.
“It is a hell of a big one, but I haven’t been getting my bulls rode,” Lockwood admitted. “I have to not worry about anything. I have to get back to having fun and having confidence in myself.”
Still, when Lockwood got on one final practice bull at home in Volborg, Montana, before heading to Billings Logan International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, he wasn’t thinking about gold buckles or event victories.
Instead, the 2016 Rookie of the Year – amidst his first sophomore slump – is thinking more about aggression.
And, no, the Space Jam sweatshirt wearing, fun-loving bull rider isn’t planning on adopting any bad-boy look or personality.
Rather, he wants to erase the boiling anger that comes from ending the first half 3-for-18 by taking it to his bovine opponents immediately.
“I wasn’t being aggressive,” Lockwood said of his four-month spiral. “That is something I worked on today in the practice pen. Once that bull turned back, I told myself to kick a leg out and spur this sucker. Be aggressive. I felt like I had that aggressiveness today.”
Aftershock, as Lockwood calls his trusty practice bull, is by no means a BFTS-caliber bull, but the bull was the kind of tune-up Lockwood felt he needed before heading north of the border.
“I finally got back to riding and moving and feeling really good and not clamping up and trying to make the whistle,” Lockwood said. “I rode through the whistle and rode them 10-12 seconds. I am back to feeling smooth. My moves felt right.”
Lockwood is slated to take on One Cool Dude in Round 1 Friday night inside the Videotron Center.
Other top riders competing in Quebec on Friday and Saturday include No. 4 Derek Kolbaba, No. 5 Chase Outlaw, No. 8 Matt Triplett, No. 21 Fabiano Vieira and No. 35 Brennon Eldred.
Lockwood is currently 1,237.5 points behind world leader Eduardo Aparecido in the world standings.
The last time Lockwood voiced this amount of frustration in his performance was after his 0-for-5 showing at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Lockwood returned this season motivated to hit the ground running, and he did just that by winning the season-opening PBR Major in New York and then the Sacramento Invitational.
The 19-year-old was a blistering 11-for-16 to begin the season and quickly asserted himself as a world title contender despite having competed on the BFTS for an entire season.
That was before Cooper Tires Brown Sugar flipped Lockwood’s season upside down in Arlington, Texas.
Lockwood wound up tearing his left groin and had to miss five weeks.
He has yet to regain his prior form.
“I was so hot there at the beginning of the year and then I got hurt,” Lockwood said. “I had to sit out. Whenever you are on a hot streak, you never want to stop. You want to keep going because you have the confidence that there is no bull that can throw you off. That is how I felt before Iron Cowboy when I got hurt.
“Whenever you have to sit out from that and nurse an injury, it just sucks. You then come back and you haven’t been on a bull for five weeks. You get on and if it doesn’t go hot right away, it carries along. Everyone has those in their career, it just sucks when it happens.”
Lockwood also admits it wasn’t just the injury that led him to struggle in his return, but also some lazy and bad habits.
He agrees with mentors Cody Lambert and Justin McBride that he has been “sitting on his ass” too much this season.
Lockwood tried to switch to an American bull rope at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas, to curb this habit, but realized it was only causing him to think more about his equipment and not about simply making the 8-second whistle.
“I did go back to the Brazilian,” Lockwood said. “I like to do what works for me. After I rode with that American, it didn’t feel good for me. I was the first to ride Margy Time and I had to get off my ass to ride him, and I did that with the Brazilian. I don’t like to blame it on the equipment. It is just things I have to fix. I don’t think there is no need to switch equipment. I just didn’t feel comfortable with that other rope.
“I don’t like riding when you are already going in thinking. ‘Well, I don’t like this rope. There is no reason to do that.”
McBride said he doesn’t care what rope Lockwood decides to use as long as he is aware of what is causing him to not get over the front of his bulls.
It is more so about the fundamentals than any kind of equipment issue.
“He is going to ride a lot of them long-round bulls, and he is going to ride the lighter end of the championship round, but those real buckers that J.B. Mauney can ride, he can’t ride sitting down the way he does,” McBride said. “He is such a tough, and pretty strong, little guy that he can get by with it on some of the bulls. It is almost a bad thing. I hate to say that, but he gets to relying on how tough and strong he is instead of riding like J.B., who doesn’t rely on strength at all.”
Lockwood is ready to fix those errors this weekend in Quebec, but he cautioned that he isn’t necessarily planning on making a full-blown summer run either.
Last year, Lockwood only competed in Decatur, Texas, and Bismarck, North Dakota, before a partially torn MCL and a gash on the back of his head led him to electing to rest until the resumption of the Built Ford Tough Series.
“I am just going by the week,” he concluded. “I am not looking ahead. I went to that one event last summer and was hurt all summer. Heck, when you get back to the Built Ford Tough that is where you have to make the most of it.
“You have to (consider the summer) extra credit.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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