By: Justin Felisko
June 03, 2016
DECATUR, Texas – The never-ending question in the weeks leading up to the Young Guns Challenge at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event is can any of the five riders competing actually convert an 8-second ride aboard Jared Allen’s Air Time.
With one day until that question is answered here in Decatur, PBR.com takes a look at each riders top ride of 2016 thus far.
1. Cooper Davis rides Crossfire for 91.5 points (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Cooper Davis became the first rider in 22 BFTS outs to ride Crossfire when he made the 8-second mark on Chad Berger’s bovine superstar in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for 91.5 points in March.
It was the third time Davis had attempted Crossfire after previously being bucked off twice. Davis had been bucked off by Crossfire in 6.41 seconds in last season’s regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona, as well as in 4.07 seconds at the 2015 Iron Cowboy.
“To get one rode like that gives a man a confidence booster,” Davis said in Albuquerque. “Man, that bull really put me on his head. There were times I needed to sit up and there were times I needed to go to the front. I just didn’t quit. It was wild. I just had to be at my best right there.”
The second-year pro not only rode Crossfire, but he dominated Berger’s bull. The faster Crossfire spun, the quicker Davis countered.
Berger immediately met Davis at the rider walk-off gate and high-fived the 2015 World Finals event winner.
“Cooper kneed up on that sucker and stayed up on his rope and got into a good spot where that bull never got behind,” Berger said. “You get one step behind that bull and he is going to yank you down. He just rode him perfect. The only problem is he should have been 93-94.”
2. Jess Lockwood rides Modified Clyde for 90.5 points (Billings, Montana)
Jess Lockwood is the only other rider competing in the Young Guns Challenge to have eclipsed the 90-point mark.
Even more so, Lockwood’s 90.5-point ride on Modified Clyde in Billings also propelled him to the 18-year-old’s first event victory.
Lockwood and Derek Kolbaba, who won the Des Moines, Iowa, event, are the only two riders with event victories this season.
Lockwood earned his by going 3-for-4 with two of the best rides of his still fledgling career. Prior to riding Modified Clyde, Lockwood had ridden Alligator Arms for 89.5 points to win the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
“It was pretty nerve racking,” Lockwood said in Billings. “He started spinning right there and (Cody) Lambert told me he was going to have some suck back and to stay back on my pockets just a little enough to have him set me up each jump. He got me really loose there the whole time and finally he blew me out of there but luckily my hand stayed in the tail of my rope.”
3. Derek Kolbaba rides DaNutso for 89.75 points (Anaheim, California)
Derek Kolbaba is the only young gun to have won a 15/15 Bucking Battle this year and accomplished the feat in Anaheim with a career-high 89.75 points on DaNutso.
“To go against the Top 15 guys in the world and actually come out on top was pretty cool for me,” Kolbaba said in Anaheim.
Kolbaba has ridden three of his past four heading into the summer break and will have to find a way to conquer SweetPro’s Long John if he hopes to get a stab at Air Time.
The Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider knows it is a deep pick, but he figures why not go out and attempt to ride the 2015 World Champion Bull and the 2015 runner-up back-to-back?
“I want to be somebody that had an impact on the sport instead of a guy hanging around just filling a spot,” Kolbaba said last week. “If you look at J.B. (Mauney), he threw it all out there and slayed those dragons, and now look where he is. That is kind of how I look at it.
“If you are going to be the best bull rider in the world, you are going to have to ride the best. So in the end you are going to have to pick them.”
4. Jorge Valdiviezo rides Buffalo Jump for 88.5 points (Last Cowboy Standing)
Last Cowboy Standing was not only Jorge Valdiviezo’s first PBR Major, but it was also the first event in which his father, Jorge Sr., saw him compete on American soil.
Valdiviezo didn’t disappoint either as he rode Buffalo Jump for a career-high 88.5 points despite a pulled groin and sprained ankle. The ride placed him second in Round 1 and he went on to finish Last Cowboy Standing in seventh place.
“My dad has done so much for our family,” Valdiviezo said in Las Vegas. “They support me a lot when I was a kid and younger. This moment and this ride is for them. Absolutely.”
Valdiviezo headed into the summer break with three consecutive Top-10 finishes.
5. Kurt Shephard rides Sheep Creek for 87 points (Billings, Montana)
Shephard felt he deserved to be in Decatur for the Young Guns Challenge, and after being the last rider added to the event, can he back up his words?
The 21-year-old believes he has what it takes to go head-to-head with the top riders in his rookie class after having a breakthrough in Billings.
Shephard posted his first multi-ride event by going 3-for-4 and finishing a career-best fourth. The Atherton, Australia, bull rider capped his weekend with a career-high 87 points on Sheep Creek.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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