PUEBLO, Colo. – Markus Mariluch lay on the hard ground of the Curry County Events Center last weekend grasping at his left leg and ankle.
The 30-year-old had just been launched high into the air by Show Me in only 1.84 seconds, and he had came crashing awkwardly and gruesomely to earth.
Mariluch seemed pretty confident following Round 1 of the L.J. Jenkins Invitational BlueDEF event that he had broken his leg, or at least had torn some significant ligaments. To him, it appeared his impending return to the Built Ford Tough Series had been put to a halt in the first PBR event of 2016.
However, much to his surprise, Mariluch learned earlier this week he did not break any bones and had only sustained a severe ankle sprain and left MCL sprain in his knee after meeting with Dr. Tandy Freeman.
Instead of facing a six-month recovery, he will only need to sit out six weeks.
“Yeah, I should be ready for Chicago,” Mariluch said Friday morning. “I am on crutches, and he put me in a walking boot. I can hobble around with them, but I can’t get up and just take off walking.”
Luckily, the injury turned out to be minor for Mariluch. He had gone to Clovis, New Mexico, looking to gain points toward the 2016 world standings as he hopes to return to the Built Ford Tough Series full time.
“It sucks I went out like that, but that is part of the game sometimes,” he said. “I am about tired of injuries. Hopefully this is it for a while or forever.”
Mariluch returned last year in March for five BFTS events following surgery for a torn right biceps (riding arm) that he sustained at the end of the 2014 regular season before deciding to step away from the PBR and hold onto to his three remaining exemptions for 2016.
He had struggled in his BFTS return and was only 1-for-11 and could tell he was not ready for a return to the BFTS.
“It just really took it out of me for a bit,” Mariluch said. “When you are doing that good right before the Finals and you are sitting right dead in the middle of a bull and your bicep tears in half. It kind of takes it out of you a bit. I felt like I wasn’t doing nothing right. I always felt behind on my bulls. It was weird.”
Mariluch married his wife, Megan, on May 16, and decided to compete in some rodeos during the summer as a way to spend more time with her, while also working on getting back into prime riding shape for 2016.
“This year I just got married, so I was hanging out with the wife and she rodeos,” Mariluch said. “I went with her and got away from the PBR and bull riding for a little bit. I got the fire back and I am ready to go this year and try and make a run at it.”
The time away from the BFTS has made him motivated to return, and it also helped him regain his form.
According to ProBullStats, Mariluch went 16-for-43 (37.21 percent) in the PRCA from May to September.
Mariluch went 7-for-9 during an August stretch that was a turning point in his comeback from the surgery.
“All of a sudden I started riding almost everything,” he said. “I rode a bunch of bulls straight. When you are doing that, you feel pretty good. It just kind of clicks and you know when it happens.”
After a close call in Clovis, Mariluch knows he will need a fast start in January if he hopes to earn enough points in three events to crack the Top 35 and try and stay on the BFTS.
Mariluch has the pedigree to succeed on the BFTS when healthy.
At the time of his injury, the Elko, Nevada, bull rider had competed in every 2014 BFTS event – a career-best 21 – and was 10th in the world standings. He was riding at a career-high 40 percent clip and had posted career-highs in qualified rides (24), Top-5 finishes (five) and Top-10 finishes (six).
He also plans to travel next year with a rider who had to battle his own way back onto the BFTS in 2015.
Shane Proctor began 2015 with four injury exemptions following multiple shoulder surgeries in 2014 and was ranked seventh in the world standings at the time of the first BFTS cut in February.
Mariluch is looking to qualify for both the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals and 2016 National Finals Rodeo.
Proctor accomplished the goal this year and heads into the 2015 NFR eighth in the PRCA standings.
“He is definitely a tough kid,” Mariluch said. “I went a little bit with him last year and we hung out quite a bit. He knows the system so I am going to give him my card number and tell him to enter me up. My goal this year is to make both finals. Be a Top-10 in the PBR and hopefully Top-5 for the NFR.
“I am pumped about it. I am ready to go ride and make a lot of money this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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