By: Justin Felisko
October 15, 2016
SAN JOSE, Calif. – The J.B. Mauney train is coming in hot to the SAP Center this weekend, but he is still trying to track down the PBR’s two 22-year-old emerging superstars.
2015 Rookie of the Year, and current world leader, Kaique Pacheco and 2015 World Finals event winner Cooper Davis have spent the last two months sitting in the top two positions of the world standings.
Both riders have only got better in their second seasons on tour after having two of the more successful rookie seasons in PBR history last year.
Pacheco set a PBR rookie record with 37 qualified rides in 2015 and was the runner-up to Mauney in the world standings. Meanwhile, Davis has shown that his World Finals event victory was no fluke last year and he has evolved from a bull rider that lost 30 pounds into a bonafide World Champion contender.
Together, Pacheco and Davis have won two PBR Majors, three regular-season events, a 15/15 Bucking Battle and are 77-for-153 (50.33 percent).
The trademark sophomore slump cannot be applied to either Pacheco or Davis.
“This is the hottest crop of (young riders) I have seen in my time around the sport with Cooper and everybody else and Jess (Lockwood),” said 2001 Rookie of the Year Luke Snyder last month. “The future is really bright around here. They are just feeding off each other. It is awesome. They are feeding on each other’s energy. It is pushing all of them to outride the other guy. That is what makes really good watching. I am enjoying watching it back home. I know that much.”
Pacheco and Davis are set to compete in Round 1 of the San Jose Invitational, presented by Ariat, on Saturday night, as well as the 15/15 Bucking Battle. They have two marque matchups in the 15/15 against Stone Sober (34-2, BFTS) and Chad Berger’s Big Cat (3-1, BFTS), respectively.
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on CBS national television (check local listings.
Davis trails Pacheco by 490.33 points in the world standings.
Snyder, who is one of four rookies, including Davis, to have won the World Finals event title, said he has been thoroughly impressed by Davis and Pacheco’s ability to reach the next level following their stellar rookie years.
Snyder concluded his sophomore season 16th in the world standings after finishing seventh in the world during his rookie year.
“You kind of feed off that (rookie year) and you have a lot of momentum build up,” Snyder said. “It is all about staying healthy and they have been able to do that.
“The hardest part for me is I jumped out there right at the beginning of the year after my rookie year and I stepped off a bull wrong and blew out my ACL. I didn’t have surgery and it kind of gave me some fits. I had to ride with knee braces for three quarters of the year. I was a young guy dealing with injuries for the first time in my career and that was a big hurdle.”
The reality for Pacheco and Davis is that they earned two of the most prestigious accomplishments a rookie rider can win outside of the gold buckle, Snyder said.
The biggest thing left is that $1 million World Champion bonus.
“Once you step up there and you almost do all you can your very first year, then where are you going?” Snyder said. “The only thing left for me was to win a world title. That was the goal every year, and I never got there, but I had some success along the way. I have my health now and I can look back and hang my hat on a pretty good run and be honest with myself.”
Not only do they have to battle against each other, but Pacheco and Davis were reminded – even though one was not needed – that the defending World Champion is not going down without a fight.
Mauney’s 30th career victory has him within 700.33 points of the world lead.
Silvano Alves is the only back-to-back World Champion in the PBR’s 23-year history.
Mauney, who gets to square off against 2012 World Champion Bull Asteroid (57-4, BFTS) Saturday night, had missed the previous two events because of a broken rib.
“It has been said plenty of times,” Snyder said in reference to Mauney’s prior injuries. “He is one of the toughest guys in any major league sport, hands down. The mental capacity he has to block things out. Just the way he can block that out. Yeah, adrenaline plays a big factor in this sport, but he doesn’t use (injuries) as a crutch or an excuse. He almost uses it as fuel.”
Snyder is on board with PBR fans and insiders that believe this year’s world title race is going to be another one for the ages during the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6.
“I just loved Las Vegas more than any other arena I rode in,” Snyder said. “Just the energy there in Vegas. It is not necessarily the arena itself, but it is the energy of the Finals being in Las Vegas. The lights are just brighter and the money is bigger and your adrenaline just seems to pump more.
He then concluded, “It is going to come down to an epic battle to win the Finals. You can’t rule out any guy in this sport, but the young guys are hot.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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