By: Justin Felisko
April 14, 2016
BILLINGS, Mont. – Flint Rasmussen, to this day, still laughs about one of his first memories of Jess Lockwood.
It was two years ago, at the Montana High School Rodeo State Finals, when Lockwood arrived at the Finals wearing a cheap, white cowboy hat.
“He has like groupies in Montana,” Rasmussen, a Choteau, Montana, native said. “Two years ago at the state high school rodeo he showed up in this $10 white little straw hat. By the end of the weekend, 25 high school boys had this exact same hat on because Jess Lockwood showed up in this hat.
“And he just giggles about it.”
The 18-year-old Built Ford Tough Series rookie will be an even bigger rock star at the 2016 Montana High School Rodeo State Finals on June 7-12 in Baker, Montana.
Lockwood still has plans on trying to win a fourth state title even though the 18-year-old PBR rookie has already won three consecutive Montana State High School Rodeo Association bull riding titles and is currently 24th in the PBR world standings.
“What will be funny is when Jess Lockwood is at the state high school rodeo and he has been on national TV,” Rasmussen said.
Lockwood is competing this weekend at the Built Ford Tough Series Stanley Performance In Action Invitational in Billings, Montana.
“Yeah, I have won (state) ever since I was a freshman,” Lockwood said. “It would be cool to win four, but I am just going to have to see where I am in the world standings more than anything.”
Lockwood, who has won a BFTS round in each of his first two events, bashfully laughs about what he thinks the reaction will be when he arrives in Baker looking for that fourth state title.
He doesn’t think it will be too different or weird showing up as a professional bull rider.
“I don’t think so,” Lockwood said. “I’m good friends with everyone in Montana high school rodeo, so it’ll just be normal, but I mean my confidence will be better being that I’ve been getting on the best bulls.”
Lockwood is currently seventh in the Montana High School Rodeo Association bull riding standings with 49 points. He is 21 points behind current leader Shawn Perkins, who already has earned the maximum amount of points allowed before Finals (70).
Jess’ brother Jake is fourth with 68.
Jess is hoping to make up some ground during the two-week BFTS break following next weekend’s event in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Since we got that two-three week break between Des Moines and Last Cowboy Standing, I entered a high school rodeo for the weekend before that in Three Forks, Montana,” Lockwood said. “I missed quite a few high school rodeos last fall, going to amateur bull ridings and what not. I just need to go to one more. We get maxed out at 70 points. You are in if you get one point, but you try to get to 70 going into state to give you a better chance at getting to nationals.”
Lockwood came within a qualified ride of winning a national championship at the National High School Finals Rodeo in 2013 and last year.
“He should have been the national bull riding champ,” Rasmussen said. “I watched him at Rock Springs (Wyoming) and his last bull. Right into his hand, about an 83-point bull, he could have rode him blindfolded and just tried too hard and fell off. That would have been cool. He should have been the national champ and he was the best bull rider there.”
If he finishes within the Top 4 of the final Montana state standings, Lockwood will be able to return to the National High School Finals Rodeo on July 17-23 in Gillette, Wyoming.
According to the NHSFR rulebook, “National High School Rodeo Association contestants may belong to and participate in professional or non-professional organizations.”
“I went into it my freshman year leading it and bucked off and I went in last year leading it and bucked off,” Lockwood said. “I plan on getting it won one of these years and this is the last year.”
Lockwood hopes he does well enough in Three Forks and the first couple of days at the state competition that he can jump back into the PBR mix at the Deadwood, South Dakota, Touring Pro Division event on June 10-11, which falls during the middle of the state rodeo.
“The same weekend of state is the same as the Deadwood Touring Pro, so I am thinking I will go to the first day of state and win the round get enough points,” Lockwood said. “Then I would go to Deadwood for the rest of the weekend.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said during this week’s CBS Sports television production meeting how special it is for Lockwood to still be in high school and competing alongside some of his childhood idols.
“Hell, when I was in high school, that was still a pipe dream to me to be able to ride against the really, really good guys that you see on TV,” McBride said. “That is pretty cool for Lockwood.”
Don’t be fooled, though, Lockwood is still very much more focused on the BFTS compared to high school accolades.
He is 2-for-6 on the BFTS and 22-for-52 at all levels of PBR competition.
Lockwood is from Volborg, Montana, which is less than 200 miles away from Billings, and is thrilled to be competing at the Billings BFTS event for the first time in his career.
He still remembers watching Zack Brown win the 2008 BFTS event inside Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings when he was an 11-year-old bull riding fan.
“That is what I am looking forward to the most,” Lockwood said. “(To win) it would be the greatest thing ever in my bull riding career so far. Billings is 3 hours from our house and we got friends and family everywhere in Montana and just close to Billings.”
Rasmussen, added, “I will say there is an excitement because of Jess Lockwood and how he has done things. His dad (Ed) was a circuit champion bronc rider. His mom was a circuit barrel race. His aunt is Lisa Lockhardt. There is a real knowledge there of Jess.”
If all goes to plan, Lockwood could potentially be a state champion, national champion and PBR World Finals qualifier by the end of 2016.
“Yeah that would be pretty cool to say I did all of those in one year,” Lockwood concluded. “That would be fun to look back on.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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