Rookie of the Year Contenders Emerging

By: Justin Felisko
March 04, 2016

at 36 years old Wallace De Oliveira is not your everyday rookie. Photo: Andy Watson/

At 36 years old Wallace De Oliveira is not your everyday rookie. Photo: Andy Watson/

PHOENIX – The 2016 rookie class of bull riders is beginning to take shape now that the Built Ford Tough Series is officially basing each event’s draw on the current world standings.

The PBR has already welcomed seven rookie riders to its elite tour –Wallace De Oliveira, Derek Kolbaba, Nevada Newman, Cody HeffernanJustin Paton, Fraser Babbington and Lindomar Lino – through the first two months of the season. Other than Heffernan, who has returned to Australia in pursuit of the 2016 PBR Australia championship, the other six will all be competing in Phoenix at this weekend’s Ak-Chin Invitational at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Coincidentally, the top two rookies so far are the oldest and youngest in the class.

36-year-old Oliveira currently leads the Rookie of the Year race with 1,215 points in the world standings and is ranked sixth overall. 19-year-old Kolbaba, the current leader in the BlueDEF Tour standings, is 12th in the world and trails Oliveira by only 555 points.

Oliveira has drawn Hy Test (16-15, BFTS) in Round 1 Saturday, while Kolbaba is slated to face Catfish John (2-1).

Kolbaba is returning to competition this weekend after missing the Choctaw Casino Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, because of an injury to his riding hand.

The race also features three PBR Australia bull riders, including 2015 Australia champion and New Zealand native Babbington, as well as Newman, a 23-year-old from Melstone, Montana, and Lino, a 34-year-old from Anapolis, Brazil.

Regardless, as 1995 Rookie of the Year winner J.W. Hart wisely notes, all of this year’s rookie class still have much to accomplish if they want to qualify for the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals in November.

In fact, Oliveira’s 11 qualified rides are only four less than the 15 combined rides Kolbaba, Newman and Heffernan have on the BFTS.

Hart says every rider has to learn how to handle the demands of the Built Ford Tough Series physically and mentally.

It is a learning experience for every bull rider as early season success brings more media attention, money and distractions.

“It just takes a different cat to go, ‘Yeah, I can go do all of that,’ and when you walk away from it, remember you still have to ride bulls,” Hart said. “That is what got you to do those other gigs. Riding the bulls come first. There isn’t a class for it. You can’t teach a kid that.”

Hart, who serves as a color commentator for CBS Sports Network, also admitted the media landscape of professional bull riding has certainly evolved since he won the Rookie of the Year award.

“Oh, hell yeah,” Hart said with a big laugh.

Kolbaba quickly had TV cameras and microphones thrown in his face after his run of three consecutive wins on the BlueDEF Tour and Newman quickly became nationally known because of his 87.75-point ride on the recently retired Mississippi Hippy.

Even Oliveira, who doesn’t know much English, had to deal with some attention after winning the season-opener in Chicago and sticking around the Top 5 of the world standings through the first eight events.

“If there is ever a place for a coach or manager, that is the area it needs to be,” Hart said. “They know how to ride. They got here because they know how to ride. They have to have someone manage that stuff for them.”

It is simply way too early to predict what the future has in store for any of this year’s contenders, even while Oliveira, Kolbaba and Newman have had their own breakthrough moments through the first two months of the season.

There is also plenty of time for another couple of rookie riders that have yet to be seeded on the BFTS to qualify for the rookie race.

“It is hard to tell,” Hart said. “Let’s give them 15 events because anybody can stay on some bulls for two events.”

Below is a look at the current 2016 Rookie of the Year Contenders

1. Wallace de Oliveira

2016 BFTS Stats
Rides: 11
Attempts: 24
Riding Percentage: 45.83 percent
Top Ride: 89.25 points on Cash Ya Out in Anaheim, California.
Wins: 1 (Chicago)
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 0
Round Wins: 3
Top 10: 4
Top 5: 2
90-point Rides: 0
Last 10: 4-for-10

2. Derek Kolbaba

2016 BFTS Stats
Rides: 8
Attempts: 20
Riding Percentage: 40 percent
Top Ride: 89.75 points on DaNutso in Anaheim, California.
Wins: 0
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 1 (Anaheim, California)
Round Wins: 1
Top 10: 3
Top 5: 0
90-point Rides: 0
Last 10: 2-for-10

3. Nevada Newman

2016 BFTS Stats
Rides: 2
Attempts: 8
Riding Percentage: 25 percent
Top Ride: 88.25 points on Ante Up in St. Louis
Wins: 0
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 0
Round Wins: 1
Top 10: 1
Top 5: 1
90-point Rides: 0
Last 10: 2-for-8*
*Has yet to have 10 BFTS outs

4. Cody Heffernan

2016 BFTS Stats
Rides: 5
Attempts: 19
Riding Percentage: 26.32 percent
Top Ride: 85.25 points on Shepherd Hill’s Trapper in Anaheim, California, & 85.25 points on Back Jackin’ in Chicago.
Wins: 0
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 0
Round Wins: 0
Top 10: 0
Top 5: 0
90-point Rides: 0
Last 10: 2-for-10

5. Justin Paton

2016 BFTS Stats
Rides: 4
Attempts: 20
Riding Percentage: 20 percent
Top Ride: 86 points on Roll of the Dice in Kansas City, Missouri, & 86 points on Big Dan in New York.
Wins: 0
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 0
Round Wins: 0
Top 10: 1
Top 5: 0
90-point Rides: 0
Last 10: 2-for-10

Other eligible rookies in the mix: Fraser Babbington, Lindomar Lino

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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