By: Justin Felisko
February 17, 2017
FORT WORTH, Texas – Claudio Montahna Jr. may not be able to speak a lick of English just yet, but the 27-year-old from Ribeirão dos Índios, Brazil, understands that $1 million is a lot of money.
Montahna (261.25 points) won THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals this week at Cowtown Coliseum with an 86.25-point ride on Pyscho Path in the championship round to cap off a perfect 3-for-3 performance.
He is one of five riders that earned a wild card bid to THE AMERICAN on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
“I am very happy,” Montahna said with the help of Marcelo Nunes translating. “First thing, I am thankful to ride good. I was very calm, but I was going to ride that last bull like it was my last one ever. I got the job done.
“Sunday we are there.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in the event average, and also advancing, was Cole Melancon (259.25), Luciano de Castro (257.25), Trey Benton (254.25) and Stetson Lawrence (251.5).
The five bull riding qualifiers from the Semi-Finals will be eligible to win a share of the $1 million bonus that is offered to any qualifier who potentially wins one of the seven rodeo events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and bull riding.
“I am very emotional,” Montahna said. “I was able to come here and ride like I did. I am very happy and very excited to do a very good job. This is my first time here. I am excited to do a good job tomorrow (at Iron Cowboy).
The five bull riding wild cards will compete alongside the Top 10 riders from last year’s PBR world standings – Cooper Davis, Kaique Pacheco, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, Ryan Dirteater, Joao Ricardo Vieira, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, Eduardo Aparecido, Jess Lockwood, Fabiano Vieira and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee – that qualified for THE AMERICAN, but are ineligible for the $1 million bonus. 2016 PRCA Champion Sage Kimzey is competing as a fan invite.
Lawrence earned the final spot on the last ride of the night.
The 28-year-old nearly bucked off After All just beyond 7 seconds, but was able to hang on for 85.5 points.
“Well, that was big, but I tried to not think about it and finish my ride out,” Lawrence said. “That is what I have been struggling with mostly, not finishing my rides. It got a little hairy at the end, but I let it lay on the line and it worked out.”
Lawrence, though, said he can’t look too far ahead.
The Williston, North Dakota, bull rider first has some business to care of at the PBR’s Frontier Communications Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki, on Saturday night before thinking about $1 million.
“I don’t have to worry about that,” Lawrence said. “I got the Iron Cowboy now. I am just taking it one bull at a time. That is how my whole week has been. Nothing is ever handed to you. Take every bull one at a time and stay focused more than anything.”
Lawrence faces Fist Full of Mad (1-0, BFTS) in Round 1.
Castro set the pace in the championship round with 84 points on Broken Spoke. He was the first of eight riders to go a perfect 3-for-3 at the Semi-Finals, which began with a slack bull riding on Wednesday morning.
“I am very happy with the job I did here,” Castro said with Nunes translating. “I tried to do a good and I am going to try to win $1 million.”
Castro, like Lawrence, says he needs to first focus on Saturday night’s Iron Cowboy.
He is set to face Gangster Roll (12-0, BFTS).
“I am ready to get to the (World) Finals and stay (on the Built Ford Tough Series),” Castro said. “I am ready to ride good. Give my best and show (how I ride) to everyone here.”
Derek Kolbaba (3-for-3, 243 points) rode No Dice for 87 points in the championship round, but wound up placing seventh because of his 66-point ride in the Wednesday slack. Jake Gowdy won the championship round with an 87.5-point ride on Show Off, but his 57-point ride in the slack was detrimental in the long run and he placed eighth.
Montahna was invited to compete at THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals as an international invite after winning the 2016 Liga Nacional de Rodeio national title in Brazil with a victory at the historic Barretos rodeo.
The national champion began his Built Ford Tough Series career in blazing fashion last weekend in Kansas City, Missouri. Montahna rode Jack Daniel’s After Party for 85.5 points to cap off a perfect 3-for-3 fifth-place finish.
“I am just happy for a good week and I had good bulls,” Montahna said with a translator in Kansas City.
Montahna got on his first steer at 8 years old while growing up in Ribeirão dos Índios – a city in Sao Paulo, Brazil, of roughly 2,000 people.
His curiosity as a kid helped lead him to bull riding.
“My dad wasn’t a competitor,” Montahna explained. “My parents worked on a ranch. When I was a child, I used to like seeing the rodeos. It was a passion I grew up with.
“Just to come to the United States and compete in the PBR is a dream complete.”
Montahna made his United States bull riding debut last month in Oakland, California, at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event. Montahna then won the Youngstown, Ohio, event four events later.
He is currently second in the PBR Rookie of the Year race after earning 170 world points in Kansas City and trails Dener Barbosa by 170 points.
Montahna is living in Decatur, Texas, with Aparecido and Emilio Resende.
“I have been here for a month and Dener encourages me to ride good,” Montahna said. “I am very happy to see my fellow countrymen doing well too. That motivates me.”
Pacheco was on the back of the bucking chutes cheering Montahna on and congratulated him after the victory.
Montahna is trying to join a new wave of Brazilian PBR talent alongside Pacheco. He is ranked 20th in the PBR world standings and can win over $100,000 Saturday night at Iron Cowboy.
He will take on Swamp Wreck (9-2, BFTS) in Round 1.
“This is all a new experience, and I am really happy,” he concluded. “I need to have good bulls and stay on.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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