DES MOINES, Iowa – Nathan Schaper knew that he was going to have to bear down every week if he wanted to try and finish off the first half of the season strongly.
So far, it’s been pretty good for the 24-year-old from Grassy Butte, North Dakota.
Schaper – fresh off his 5-for-5 performance in Billings, Montana – rode Air Bender for 86.25 points to win Round 1 of the Des Moines Invitational at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday night and earn 100 points toward the world standings.
“I have been on that bull before,” Schaper said. “I was happy to have him. I really like that bull a lot. He feels good. You can’t asked for anything better. He is just honest.”
Schaper previously rode Air Bender for 85.25 points at the Monster Energy Buckoff at The Garden in January.
The round victory, Schaper’s fourth of 2015, moves him from seventh in the world standings to fourth. He trails world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira by 865 points.
“I am pretty thankful I feel good,” Schaper said. “Under the circumstances, we all are dealing with something. Everyone is getting banged up. I think we are all ready for a break.”
It was a tough night for the bull riders as only six men were able to reach the 8-second mark in the first round.
J.B. Mauney returned to action for the first time since Fresno where he sustained a torn left ACL. The 2013 World Champion rode Jukebox Hero for 86 points in Des Moines to finish second in Round 1.
Mauney, who earned 60 points toward the world standings, could be seen favoring the knee following his qualified ride.
Schaper and Mauney were the only two riders inside the Top 20 of the standings to record a qualified ride.
Rubens Barbosa and Robson Aragao picked up important points toward the standings as they hope to stay inside the Top 35.
Barbosa is now 31st in the world after riding Booger Red for 85 points and a third-place finish. Barbosa picked up 50 points toward the standings.
Aragao has sole possession of No. 33 following his fifth-place finish in Round 1. Aragao rode Flip Out for 83.75 points to earn 30 points toward the standings.
Mason Lowe (84 points on Jill’s Deal) earned 40 points with his fourth-place finish in Round 1.
Des Moines is the 16th stop on the BFTS and injuries, fatigue and soreness are beginning to take its toll on the riders.
Five riders inside the Top 35 were officially ruled out by Dr. Tandy Freeman, and a handful of other riders are limping their way into the summer break.
Therefore, Schaper is happy and thankful to be relatively healthy heading into the final two BFTS events of the first half, as well as Sunday’s Round 2 and Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“I knew after the Easter Break these last five events were going to be the toughest on us all,” Schaper concluded. “I know I can’t let down until the end. It is like a marathon and I just want to push through it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Des Moines Invitational
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