By: Justin Felisko
September 14, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Ryan Dirteater was 20 years old when his professional bull riding career nearly came to an end.
Dirteater had just ridden Country Boy for a round-winning 87 points in Uncasville, Connecticut, on October 16, 2009, when his spur got caught in his bull rope as he tried to dismount.
Hung up, the next few seconds were some of the worst of Dirteater’s career as Country Boy continued trying to jump over top of him, twisting his leg in the process.
The end result was a dislocated left knee cap and a torn ACL, MCL and PCL for the Hulbert, Oklahoma, bull rider. A legitimate career-threatening diagnosis.
It took Dirteater nine months before he even attempted to ride a bull again – not to mention the 14 months it took to make his way back onto the Built Ford Tough Series.
If that wasn’t enough, Dirteater then had to miss eight events in his first season back because of surgery to repair a torn ligament and tendon in his right elbow.
That kind of journey will give anybody some perspective.
So it’s no surprise Dirteater understands, and is extremely grateful, for how healthy he is now with six events remaining until the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Dirteater is ranked seventh in the world standings following his PBR-leading third event win of the season last weekend in Springfield, Missouri, and he is one of the few riders inside the Top-10 not trying to ride through a serious injury.
“Health is very important when you are climbing on 2,000 pound animals every weekend,” Dirteater said. “It is very important because you want to be ready physically and mentally when you crawl on the back of them because they will hurt you. You have to take it serious.”
Dirteater spent last month attempting to work himself back into riding shape after lacerating his lung at the Santa Barbara, California, Touring Pro Division event on Aug. 4. He missed the Music City Knockout to let his injury heal and returned to competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug. 27.
But then he bucked off six consecutive bulls after the injury prior to his 4-for-4 winning performance in Springfield.
Dirteater rode Gear Jammer for 84.5 points in Round 1 Friday, Shattered Dreams for 84.25 points Saturday in Round 2, Double Doze for 80.25 points in Round 3 and Jack Daniel’s After Party for 86.75 points during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
The 27-year-old admitted he wasn’t in the best physical shape in those initial weeks back from the lung injury. Therefore, Dirteater spent the past two weeks getting back to his normal workout routine with Boot Camp classes at Cherokee Nation Gym in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
He normally works out three hours a day. Part of Dirteater’s training involved attempting to stand on his hands and crawl across a full-sized basketball court.
“I have finally got back on it and getting back into riding shape again,” Dirteater said. “I have been getting after it. Eventually once I get into a groove of things it is on.”
Dirteater is 22-for-50 (40 percent) on the BFTS and is seven rides away from tying his career high (29) that he set in 2012.
There is a good chance Dirteater will exceed that mark, especially because he feels this is the healthiest he has ever been this late in the season.
“This is the best I have felt physically and mentally,” said Dirteater, who did receive 20 stitches on the right side of his face in February. “I feel good. I feel great for a bull rider. You are never really 100 percent when you are riding bulls. You always have something pulled or bruised. You have to tough through it and get it done.
“I have won three events this year and it is working for me. I just have to keep rolling with it.”
Dirteater’s father, Randy, has been traveling to the BFTS events lately with his son and says the biggest change for Ryan, outside of embracing his role as a mature veteran, is most definitely the health factor.
“This is the healthiest he has ever been since he started,” Randy said. “This is really what he has been looking at. Being where he is at now – being healthy and mentally prepared for every ride.”
Randy also credited his son for trying to look at the big picture during his eight-year BFTS career. Instead of trying to rush back to the arena when he was hurt, Ryan opted for a week of rest or recovery in plenty of instances.
“He’s basically just never let up,” Randy said. “He never quit. Whatever little bruises or ailments he has ever acquired from his bull riding he has nurtured back. He has never tried to say, ‘Ok, I am alright,’ and go out and get on another one back-to-back. If he is hurt, he sits it out and lets it heal. That is his longevity of what he is doing.”
Ryan heads into this weekend’s Charlotte Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, on Friday and Saturday night only 1,382.83 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco. Fans can catch all of Round 1 on PBR LIVE beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Dirteater has never finished inside the Top 10 of the world standings. His best finish came in 2014 when he placed 11th.
One key area of improvement for Dirteater during these final events until the World Finals is to become more consistent. He has earned 77.69 percent (1,802.5) of his world points through his three victories. Dirteater has also only earned points toward the world standings in six additional BFTS events.
“I would like to be in the Top 5 definitely going into the Finals,” Dirteater concluded. “There is a lot of points. Any of the guys in the Top 5 have a chance to win the world title if they have a good Finals.
“It is motivating being toward the end and I am sitting where I am. It motivates you, especially in the morning, to get up and get after it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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