By: Justin Felisko
February 10, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Next Tuesday, members of the Kansas City Royals will head to Surprise, Arizona, for spring training. Even though the PBR does not have an official spring training, Matt Triplett likes to view his almost annual trip to Australia as just that.
Triplett used a close-to-dominant performance in Australia this past fall to propel himself to a spot back on the Built Ford Tough Series after failing to finish inside the Top 35 of the 2016 world standings because of multiple injuries/surgeries last year.
Now, firmly entrenched in the Top 35, the No. 14 bull rider in the world standings says he credits a lot of his early-season success to those three PBR Australia, as well as three Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour events, he competed in before the BFTS season began in New York last month.
Triplett earned two victories in Australia, and his 175 world points before the BFTS began was the most earned by any rider during the BFTS “offseason.”
He now has 412.5 world points heading into the Kansas City Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, on Saturday night.
Triplett has drawn Ink Spots (0-0, BFTS) for Round 1.
“It is just like any baseball player,” Triplett said. “They go to Arizona to do Spring Training and Spring Training to them is to go there, have fun and get the rust off and enjoy themselves. Going to Australia is a paid vacay for me. You go there and you enjoy yourself. You go to the ocean. You go fishing. You do so many fun things. You get to ride bulls.
“Like I have said at the beginning of this year, when you are mixing fun in with bull riding, the outcome is usually a lot better.”
Triplett has gone 7-for-15 (46.66 percent) through the first five BFTS events.
The 25-year-old is competing in his first 15/15 Bucking Battle of the season Saturday night at the Kansas City Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals.
Triplett has drawn Stone Sober (41-3, BFTS) for the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider is currently sitting atop the 2017 PBR Australia standings and is seriously considering heading back to Australia during the BFTS summer break to try and make a run at the 2017 PBR Australia championship.
No foreign bull rider has ever won the PBR Australia championship.
“I would be plum tickled to be the first American to win that title,” Triplett said. “I just found out that I am still winning Australia and they are not having many events until the summer. Australia treats me really well. They treat me like a superstar.”
Three of the five big winners at the first BFTS cut of 2017 were Triplett, Dener Barbosa and Koal Livingston.
All three riders used either international PBR events and/or the Velocity Tour to kick-start their 2017 seasons.
Triplett said it depends on a rider’s preference about whether or not they need a PBR Spring Training to get ready for the season.
He knew he only would have a couple of events to regain a BFTS draw spot, so he didn’t want to waste any time.
“Oh, it is like whatever anyone prefers,” Triplett said. “In my opinion, it is beneficial. You sit there for the two months we have off and you don’t get on nothing, you may come into New York feeling a little rusty. Where if you can go to the Velocities, Australia, you can tune up and avoid that rust that you might have sitting out and just hanging out.
“I rather tune it up at a Velocity than at New York where you can win $100,000.”
Triplett didn’t win that $100,000 grand, but he did finish fifth overall in the Big Apple last month.
That combined with his Australian performance now has him still on the cusp of the Top 10 of the world standings.
It was only two years ago that Triplett was coming off a second consecutive Top-5 finish in the world standings and was a rising star in the PBR.
A year away from competition, though, has seemingly put Triplett on the backburner of the current young gun scene.
“That is with any sport,” Triplett said. “If you are not competing and winning, you are forgotten. That is when you have to overcome it and think, ‘Hey, I can still compete with some of the best bull riders in the world.’ I feel like I can be one of the best bull riders in the world.”
To put himself back in the conversation of best bull rider in the world, Triplett, who is ridden two of his last seven bulls, knows he has to manage his emotions better when things don’t go his way in the arena.
“In bull riding, you are your own worst enemy,” Triplett concluded. “When you can balance it out and stay on that level track it is going to help a lot.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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