By: Justin Felisko
February 03, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – When he takes off his tan cowboy hat, you wouldn’t expect Wallace de Oliveira to be a contender for the 2016 Rookie of the Year title.
Oliveira has few hairs left on his balding head, he walks with a slight limp following the wear and tear of 36 years on planet Earth as a professional bull rider and his riding jeans are a bit baggy.
In other words, he is the complete opposite of 19-year-old Derek Kolbaba.
However, following the Sacramento Invitational this weekend, both Oliveira and Kolbaba will be officially eligible for the 2016 Rookie of the Year.
Even Oliveira admits he was surprised when he learned he would be eligible for the 2016 award.
“It is a surprise for me because I knew nothing about it until my friends told me you have a chance for Rookie of the Year,” Oliveira said through Valdiron de Oliveira. “I said, ‘Really? I am an old guy. I can’t get that anymore.’”
Kolbaba said, “Yeah I didn’t even think about that. It is pretty cool to be battling it out with a guy like that. Wallace is a great guy and it should be a fun year. That is crazy to see. If I can be that age and that good I would be pretty happy.”
Oliveira will be eligible for the 2016 Rookie of the Year title because he was never seeded on the PBR tour.
He had only competed in two events in 2015 and rode at the Built Ford Tough World Finals as an alternate. Oliveira nodded his head at three BFTS events in 2010.
Now, the Goias, Brazil, bull rider heads to Sleep Train Arena as the No. 4 bull rider in the world standings. He is largely ranked so high in the world standings based on his season-opening victory in Chicago, but he also has gone 7-for-14 through the first four BFTS events. Oliveira has also won two rounds this season, including Round 1 last weekend in Anaheim.
“I have tried for a long time to come ride bulls here,” he said. “Now all the pressure is off. I can stay more focused and work.”
Oliveira went 2-for-6 following his victory in Chicago before going 2-for-4 in Anaheim.
“In New York, I had bad bulls to ride,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to ride, but Oklahoma had good bulls, but I did something wrong.”
Despite his age, Oliveira turns 37 on June 18, he still has some resemblance of your everyday rookie bull rider. Oliveira currently doesn’t have any sponsors on his riding shirt and you can normally find him leaning over the chutes videotaping ride after ride on his iPhone.
He simply is enjoying the ride this year, even if he is getting prodded in the locker room for being a 36-year-old rookie.
It isn’t uncommon to hear one of his fellow Brazilian bull riders yelling “Velho,” which means old in Portuguese, toward him inside the locker room.
“All of the guys do it,” Oliveira said with a laugh.
Three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo laughs when asked about Oliveira’s unexpected success in 2016.
Palermo, only three years younger than Oliveira, has been impressed by Oliveira’s work ethic since getting to the BFTS.
The two have become workout partners on the road, and Oliveira recently revealed he lost nine pounds since the World Finals – which means maybe he isn’t wearing his jeans a little baggy to fit in with his fellow rookies.
Oliveira credits his weight loss to a variety of exercise programs that involve jump roping, swimming and running.
“Wallace has been working hard this year,” Palermo said. “He has gone to the gym and lost a little weight. He is now really lean and really fit. For his age and to be riding like that is awesome.”
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray ran into Oliveira and Palermo working out in the fitness center at the Ayers Hotel in Anaheim.
Murray came away impressed by the two older bull riders continuing to push themselves outside of the arena.
“That dedication is where it all starts,” Murray said. “You don’t ever see a person that is dedicated that you see is a negative.”
Oliveira has drawn Big Enough for Round 1 on Friday night.
If he were to win the 2016 Rookie of the Year crown, Oliveira would be the oldest Rookie of the Year in PBR history since 1997 Rookie of the Year Keith Adams, who was 31 years old.
Oliveira would be 16 years older than last year’s 21-year-old winner Kaique Pacheco.
“To win Rookie of the Year would be like winning the World Championship for me,” Oliveira concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.