LAS VEGAS – It is hard to find a moment of solitude and peace during the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
There are always the cameras and bright lights engulfing riders inside the Thomas & Mack Center and then there are the endless media requests, public relations appearances and other obligations for sponsors that pull riders in every possible direction.
Not to mention that Las Vegas itself offers plenty of distractions 24/7.
Therefore, it has been important for Matt Triplett – the sixth-ranked bull rider in the world – to find an escape and a place to clear his mind amid the World Finals chaos.
The 22-year-old has found just that through hot yoga classes he enrolled in on Monday and Wednesday in Las Vegas. Triplett wanted to find a way to keep his routine similar to what he has been doing this entire month, therefore, he found some places to take classes and sweat out any nerves he may have felt leading up to his second career World Finals.
It is pretty hard to think about bull riding when you are in a simmering, hot room with sweat dripping your face and perspiring out of your arms and legs.
“You are in a 100-degree room and you have to do whatever it takes to control your mind and stay in your room and not give up,” Triplett explained. “Yoga does a huge thing for my mental game and it has been helping. I have been doing it for the past full month and I think it is the key to bull riding.”
He has ridden six consecutive bulls and bucked off only one bull in October.
Yoga has become a popular exercise and training regimen for professional athletes in all realms of the sports world. Some star athletes that have put forth their best tree pose include Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Olympic gold-medal swimmer Rebecca Soni.
He also didn’t – and still does not – want to think about what is potentially possible this week. Triplett entered the Finals ranked sixth in the world standings, and he knew when he arrived on Sunday at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino that he had a fighter’s chance at making a run at the world title after winning the Monster Energy 15/15 Bucking Battle in Huntington Beach, California.
Triplett threw his first punch Wednesday night during Round 1 by riding Pearl Harbor for 87.25 points. He finished tied with Mike Lee for fourth in the round and slashed 312.25 points off Joao Ricardo Vieira’s world lead.
However, it took a few minutes for the judges to decide whether Triplett was able to hang onto his bull rope for the entire 8 seconds.
Triplett’s mind immediately raced back to Laughlin, Nevada, when he thought he had won the Desert Showdown before being ruled to have bucked off Compact in the final millisecond.
“I was thinking don’t let it be 7.99 again!” Triplett said. “Just let it be eight. It did and it was good.”
Once the judge’s instant review flashed green, Triplett threw his hands back into the air in celebration just as he did when he thought he rode Pearl Harbor minutes before.
“It was another big, huge relief off my shoulders to come into the World Finals and get your first bull rode,” he added. “It just gives me that confidence.”
Sitting in the stands celebrating at the same moment was his 72-year-old grandfather, David McFadyean,
McFadyean, who taught Triplett to water ski when he was 5 years old, made it down to the arena floor prior to Triplett heading to the post-event press conference on Wednesday night.
“Matt and I are real close and what can I say about him?” McFadyean said, taking a moment to compose himself. “There are not too many 72-year-old grandpas that get the privilege to do what I do. He won Huntington Beach last week and you can see he is building confidence. I can’t say enough about him. He is just a great guy, a great grandson and he is going to be great for the PBR.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who is also hosting “Inside the PBR” this week on CBS Sports Network, said that it is important for bull riders to do whatever they need to do to get in the right mindset at this time of year.
“Whatever works for you,” McBride said. “Whatever gets you in the right frame of mind where you feel like you are prepared, if it is yoga for Matt, then awesome.”
McBride added that you can’t help but enjoy the energy and celebration Triplett has brought to Finals.
Unlike the other Top 5 riders in the world, Triplett is the youngest and new to hanging out in the top portion of the world standings.
“To see his jubilation, if you will, was cool,” McBride said. “He tried until his head hit the ground. Matt Triplett is a young guy that is excited to be here. He knows the opportunity that he’s got and I think he is excited about that and it shows in his riding.”
McBride and J.W. Hart credited Triplett for beginning this year’s Finals with a ride similar to how he opened the action last year in Las Vegas.
“I don’t know if you can be more impressed with him,” Hart said. “You are always impressed with him because he always puts the effort out. He may not always ride the best, but he always puts out the best effort and that is what I admire most.”
He still has plenty of work to do and trails Vieira by 1,714.42 points with 5,000 points technically still up for grabs. Triplett will need a couple of haymakers in his favor to continue his march, but for now he is focused on trying not to worry about what can happen between now and Sunday.
He is slated to face Walk Off in Round 2 on Thursday night and that is all he wants to think about for now.
“I’m not even going to look at (the standings),” Triplett said. “I am going to let the chips fall as they may and just have fun riding my bulls.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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