By: Justin Felisko
February 20, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Nevada Newman and Matt Triplett were separated by 7 hours and roughly 430 miles when both aspiring bull riders were growing up in Montana.
Triplett, a year older than Newman, was the talented two-time state champion from Columbia Falls, Montana, on the east side of the state, while Newman was the sticky kid from Melstone on the west side.
They would rarely compete against each other because of their distance apart, but Triplett and Newman both remember keeping an eye on the other once the June Montana State High School Rodeo Finals rolled around.
They were two of the upcoming stars in Montana’s high school bull riding scene, along with 2015 PRCA Top-10 bull rider Parker Breding, and always appeared ready for a collision at the state finals.
“In a way, it was kind of a like an Eastern-Western rivalry,” Newman joked last weekend during his Built Ford Tough Series debut in St. Louis.
Newman is slated to compete in Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle against Beaver Creek Beau (33-4, BFTS) following Round 1 of the Built Ford Tough Kansas City Clash. The event can be seen on CBS Network Television Sunday at noon ET.
Triplett and Newman would have likely gone head-to-head at the 2010 Montana High School Rodeo Finals if not for Triplett sustaining a concussion at his first PBR Touring Pro Division event the night before.
It was then a year later when Triplett remembers watching Newman spur the snot out of his dad, Pat Triplett’s, bull Tiny Tim at the 2011 Montana High School Rodeo Finals for 87 points in the championship round a year after Matt had graduated from Columbia Falls High School.
“At the time, I was the only kid in Montana to ride him,” Triplett recalled. “Then they took him to state finals and this little Nevada Newman kid spurred him. That is kind of when I had a big eye opener for him. He spurred him and made a really good bull ride.”
The ride helped Newman cap his year with a second-place finish behind Breding, who finished last year seventh in the PRCA bull riding standings.
Triplett and Newman are no longer separated by hundreds of miles. It is now usually only a couple of feet or a couple bedrooms in Hillsborough, Texas, inside Triplett’s new home.
The two reconnected during the offseason through mutual friend Jess Lockwood – another Montana bull rider ranked 35th in the world standings that is trying to make the Built Ford Tough Series – and Triplett offered to let Newman stay with him whenever he wanted as he began his first true attempt at qualifying for the BFTS.
“We really became buddies kind of around the beginning of this year, when we really started hanging out,” Triplett said. “We always stayed in touch and he saw me doing good at the PBR and he wanted to make the transaction. He knew he could come here, go less and make more money.”
Newman, 23, spent his first couple of years after high school competing at the collegiate level for Casper College, where he was an aviation major, and Montana State. He finished third at the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo as a member of the Montana State Bobcats behind Joe Frost and two-time PRCA bull riding champion Sage Kimzey.
He had plans to then go and try and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in 2015 before sustaining a near season-ending injury to his left shoulder when he was stepped on at a December 2014 bull riding.
Newman underwent surgery on his riding shoulder and had to miss seven months, which was “basically all of ’15” to him.
When he returned to competition last August, he was a shell of his former self with plenty of rust. He bucked off his first nine consecutive PBR Touring Pro Division bulls before finally finding his previous form with an 87-point ride on Yellowhair in Clovis, New Mexico, in late October.
Newman would go 5-for-19 following the surgery in the PBR before five consecutive rides at the BlueDEF Tour level last month, including 2-for-2 winning performance in Wichita, Kansas, helped him earn his BFTS debut in St. Louis.
“After Wichita, I got the invitation (exemption) there for Iron Cowboy and that was the first one I was going to go to,” Newman said. “I was waiting to go to Iron Cowboy and they called me to come here and I was like, ‘Heck, yeah.’ I had been working out a lot and getting in good shape. I was hoping and praying to God I would get the call to come here. They called me on Monday. I hardly let the phone ring once. They asked if I wanted to go to St. Louis and I was like, ‘Dang right.’
Sure enough Newman didn’t wait long to make a good first impression. He rode Ante Up for a first-round winning 88.25 points and then ended his weekend by conquering the 2,300-pound Mississippi Hippy for 87.75 points to finish St. Louis second overall.
He is just the third rider in 38 BFTS outs to ride Mississippi Hippy.
“He has that little built guy (look) like Chris Shivers that has the moves to go after the harder ones,” Triplett said. “He rides really correct. It is cool to watch him because it is almost like he is floating on these huge bulls and he is this little guy with short legs and a little body.”
Newman, the first rider since Douglas Duncan to win a BFTS round with his first qualified ride, actually showed CBS Sports Network commentator Justin McBride a picture of them and Ross Coleman from a Billings, Montana, bull riding school when he was a kid.
“I thought he was awesome,” McBride said on ProRodeoLive Friday night before THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals where Newman was bucked off. “Low and behold the other day, Nevada Newman shows me a photo of me, him and Ross (Coleman) 13 years ago at this school. To see him show up now and see how good he is was really cool. I think he is a talented guy. I had seen him win the first round of his first event ever. He is going to be a good bull rider.”
Triplett expects Newman not to let the added-attention of being the latest dazzling young gun on tour to get to him.
“He is kind of an older guy so he is a little more mature so if he was younger I would say letting this get to his head and quit pushing. He has been in the pros for quite a while and he has dealt with some different areas and scenarios. I think he is going to keep to the grind, keep his head down and keep trying to win every event. I think he will be fine.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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