By: Justin Felisko
January 31, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – World leader Jess Lockwood understands he has a tall task in front of him if he hopes to hold on to his No. 1 world ranking this season.
Fresh off his second win of the year, Lockwood didn’t have to look to far to see he will have plenty of challengers before the 2017 World Champion is crowned in Las Vegas on Nov. 5.
Lockwood was congratulated by two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney as he was heading toward the shark cage to receive his Sacramento Clash belt buckle on Sunday afternoon following his 4-for-4 victory.
Mauney had nearly prevented Lockwood from his second victory with an 89-point ride on Brutus in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round and is determined to win two more gold buckles before he retires.
“He is J.B. Mauney,” Lockwood said. “Of course, when he is still riding he plans on winning the world title. I just have to keep staying on my bulls and doing my job.”
Meanwhile, 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis sat next to Lockwood in the locker room after the event as he packed up things to head to the airport.
Davis didn’t take over the world No. 1 ranking until after the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series summer break last season, but chimed in that Lockwood’s chances of running the table were, ‘Pretty good.’
Then, of course, there is 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco, who has finished runner-up in the last two world title races, lurking at No. 5 in the world standings, as well as a slew of other riders with a $1 million world title on their minds.
So what does Lockwood think his chances are at running the table?
“You know. I have no idea,” Lockwood replied bashfully. “There are guys like Derek (Kolbaba), Cooper and J.B. – guys that are so hot right now, riding really good. I don’t know how honestly. Guys like Cooper, J.B., show up every weekend and come riding to win.
“All I can do is try and stay on my bulls and let the rest take care of itself.”
Lockwood did just that in Sacramento. The 19-year-old went 4-for-4 at the Sacramento Clash and has stormed out to an 802.5-point lead on No. 2 Marco Eguchi in the world standings through the first four weeks of the season.
On Sunday, Lockwood earned the victory with his first 90-point ride of the season when he took care of business on BC Circular Insanity in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
Lockwood began his weekend by winning Round 1 with an 87.5-point ride on Baton Rouge. In Round 2, Lockwood covered Smiling Bob for 86.5 points.
He then had to hang on to Naughty by Nature for 76 points in Round 3.
“I had to grit it out on that one this morning,” Lockwood said. “That wasn’t very fun and I just had to hang off the side of him.”
Lockwood’s only hiccup came in the 15/15 Bucking Battle when Spotted Demon dusted him in 4.66 seconds.
The 19-year-old has continued to build off his PBR Major season-opening victory in New York and now leads the league in wins (2), round wins (3) and qualified rides (11).
Lockwood is also second to Eguchi in riding percentage (68.57 percent) and six of his 11 rides have placed him in the Top 5 of a round.
Not a bad start, right?
“Yes and no,” Lockwood said. “I didn’t finish my rides very well the first two events. Lucky enough, just stayed on more bulls than everyone else. This last weekend I started finishing a little better except for that long round.”
Lockwood said he isn’t studying the points system or worrying about how many points he is up or down by. The idea of running the table is more about winning each and every time he nods his head for the gate than anything else.
He wants to win every bull ride, every round and every event.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said Lockwood “absolutely” could potentially go wire-to-wire, but McBride said he believes the mentality is more about understanding just how important every bull ride is during a season.
“I don’t know that Jess is going to put too much emphasis on if he is in the lead or not,” McBride said. “What I like about Jess is he staying so focused at the task at hand. Bull to bull. That is really what he means by it. He wants to win each and every time the gate opens. I think that is more what he is trying to say when he says that. He is trying to win every ride and that takes care of the standings in a big way.”
CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart loves Lockwood’s attitude, but he also knows that it will be an extremely tall task for anyone to never let go of the world no. 1 ranking.
The real test, Hart says, is how Lockwood responds when he hits his first rough patch this year.
“Good luck,” Hart said. “That man (Mauney) right there will have a lot to say about that. Cooper Davis will say something about it. Kaique Pacheco will get hot. (Lockwood) will have his trials. He is hot right now, but he will valley somewhere. Nobody will peak all year long. He will valley. That is where you test how tough you are. Your mental game, and I don’t think it is possible, but I like his attitude.”
Lockwood will head to Anaheim, California, this weekend for the Frontier Communications Showdown, presented by Ariat, with one thing on his mind:
“You just have to show up each weekend and expect yourself to win,” Lockwood concluded. “If you are showing up each weekend, if you are not planning on winning, what is the point really?”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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