ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – To get to the nearest grocery store in White Cone, Arizona, Ivan Sells has to make an eight-mile drive down a dusty, dirt road.
On Thursday, Sells began a much longer drive – roughly 240 miles – from his mother, Irene’s, ranch to travel to his first PBR event with his wife (Tonilessa) and 3-year-old daughter (Kalayiah).
Sells is the latest Native American invite that will compete at the Ty Murray Invitational and admitted that until this weekend, the PBR was only something he ever dreamed about or had seen on television.
“I am nervous and kind of tickled about everything that is happening,” Sells said before beginning his 4-hour drive. “I can’t wait. I have been dreaming about this and thinking about those bulls. I’ve heard everything about the contractors and the good bulls that come out, and I always think about how good it would be if I was competing at that level.”
Sells earned the invitation to compete in Albuquerque because of his victory at the 2014 International Indian Finals Rodeo last October in Farmington, New Mexico.
The full-blooded Navajo went 2-for-3 (158 points) to earn the victory.
“It was a great feeling,” Sells said. “I wasn’t thinking I was going to win it and I ended up winning.”
Sells may be making his PBR debut Friday night, but he is no stranger to the sport of bull riding. The 26-year-old is a third-generation bull rider and was coached by his father (Kenneth).
Ivan got on his first steer at 8 years old and eventually rode a bull by the time he was 15.
The Sells family has deep roots in the Western lifestyle and rodeo. Ivan’s uncles, Lucius and Marco Sells, won two team roping championships (2000, 2002) at the Indian National Finals Rodeo. Last year, Lucius (heeler) teamed with John Boyd III to win the 2014 championship. It was his fifth team roping championship at the INFR.
With his family’s team roping background, Ivan was taught how to break horses, which is one of his biggest passions in life.
He currently has about 20 horses that he trains, and he also cares for the animals on his mother’s farm.
“I just loved it growing up,” Sells said. “I just stared training horses and I didn’t stop. I had everything here so I just kept going with it.”
It is why the past seven days has been a busy one for him. He has spent most of the week getting things situated around the house so that his mother would not have to handle the burden of him being gone for close to five days.
Irene and Kenneth aren’t able to make it to Albuquerque, but Ivan explained that just as his father helped him learn to ride, his mom has been a big supporter.
“My mom always talks to me. She likes to tell me, ‘You know what to do and you can do this,’” Ivan said.
His first opponent on Friday night will be Wesley’s Pet (4-0, BFTS).
Last year’s Native American invite and 2013 International Indian Finals Rodeo bull riding champion Guytin Tsosie has known Sells since he was a kid and believes the invite has what it takes to compete in the PBR.
“He is a pretty good bull rider – a real good bull rider,” Tsosie said. “He is a real sticky guy.”
Tsosie made an impressive debut at the 2014 Ty Murray Invitational by riding David’s Dream for 88.75 points to earn three event exemptions, which he then used to earn a spot on the Built Ford Tough Series.
The 23-year-old says he is still recovering from his broken right leg that he sustained when Wicked stomped on him during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round of the PFIWestern.com Invitational in Springfield, Missouri, last year.
“It still feels sore,” Tsosie said. “It is slowly getting back to normal. It’s been a slow process. I am hoping I can get on bulls again in a month and a half. I am starting to walk on it, but I still can’t really run. It still hurts when I run.
“I’m getting the itch to come back.”
Sells compares his riding style to that of Lane Frost and said Tsosie’s success definitely inspires him and gives him confidence that he can compete with the top bull riders in the BFTS.
He just has to go out there and try and take care of business.
“I am ready for it,” Sells concluded. “I just need to try and stay focused and ride those bulls.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.