By: Justin Felisko
July 31, 2016
BIG SKY, Mont. – During his last four events, Matt Werries kept replaying a message he received from PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert at the first PBR Academy earlier in July over and over in his head.
“He knocked on his head and said, ‘It is all up here,’” Werries recalled on Friday night at the Big Sky, Montana, BlueDEF Tour event. “That is the thing Cody Lambert told me. He told me, you are old enough now. You know how to ride these bulls.”
Werries went through the mental gauntlet at PBR Academy and over the course of the three-day bull riding school and camp at Lambert’s Bowie, Texas, ranch. The Jacksonville, Illinois, bull rider has been riding bulls professionally for 13 years, yet at 33 years old he has still been unable to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals. Therefore, Werries decided to accept an open invitation from the PBR Competition department to attend PBR Academy.
What he received is a mental boot camp that has invigorated him with the confidence that he still can make his dream a reality.
“Well, honestly the reason I went down there is I have goals I have never reached in my bull riding career,” Werries said. “I decided that if I can do everything in my power to try anything that will help me reach the goals that I have for myself that I was going to do it. I saw that as a great opportunity to maybe pick something up and I did.
“I have never made the World Finals. I really want to make the World Finals. That is the main one now.”
Since PBR Academy, Werries has gone 7-for-12 (58.33 percent) with a victory at the Kasey Hayes and Stormy Wing Invitational on July 23 in Guymon, Oklahoma, as well as four Top-10 finishes.
Werries rode No Regrets for 88 points in Guymon before being bucked off by SweetPro’s Long John in 3.28 seconds during a special bounty ride. Long John was marked 46.5 points.
“It is like Jess explains it. The way Cody and all these instructors – Ross Coleman, Justin McBride, J.W. Hart – down there explained it. Your job is to ride every one of them. There is no reason not to. They just really drove that in. There is no excuse. There is no one to blame but yourself.”
Werries went 2-for-3 in Big Sky for a sixth-place finish. He began the weekend with an 88-point ride on Thunderbolt and followed that up with an 89.5-point ride on Americana.
“I just kept working and working,” Werries said about his ride on Thunderbolt. “He wanted to go outside and he was a little steep around that corner, but I just kept going after him.”
Werries was bucked off by Boot Jack in 2.01 seconds which ended his hopes for the event victory.
Regardless, Werries earned another 10 points towards the world standings and is now ranked 67th. The World Finals may seem like a long shot, he’s currently 217.5 points out of the Top 35, but he is only 42.5 points behind the Top 35 of the BlueDEF Tour standings.
If Werries can crack the Top 35 of the BlueDEF Tour standings, then he would be able to compete at the BlueDEF Finals on Oct. 29-31 in Las Vegas during PBR Finals week for a chance to win one of five World Finals wild card berths.
The next scheduled BlueDEF Tour event is set for Sept. 10 in Rochester, New York.
Werries hasn’t competed on the Built Ford Tough Series since 2010. He is 7-for-48 in 20 career BFTS events.
Wherever he ends up this year, PBR Academy helped instill in him the confidence that he has what it takes to make it back to the biggest stage of professional bull riding.
“I look at guys that are still going now that really inspire me. Robson (Palermo) and Valdiron (de Oliveira) and just guys like Sean Willingham. He has been riding awesome. Age is only kind of a number I guess. Yeah stuff catches up to you, but I think if it is something you really want it doesn’t matter if you are in your 30s or not.”
Palermo is ranked 14th in the world standings at 33 years old, while the 37-year-old Oliveira is 23rd.
Werries also took to heart the amount of one-on-one time Lambert had with him during PBR Academy despite him being one of the older riders in attendance.
“Cody Lambert taught me the most,” Werries added. “Just about mentally getting right and living in your zone. You have to be ready to turn it on with everything you got when that gate opens. You have to know that and you have to know that when you are getting on the bull.”
Werries left PBR Academy a changed bull rider and he believes many other bull riders, regardless of age, can take something away from PBR Academy.
“Well, there is always something that you can learn,” Werries concluded. “If you think you are above that or think you know it all you don’t. You can always learn something.
“Like me, I learned a lot. Just imagine what somebody just starting out or younger could learn.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
The next PBR Academy is set for Nov. 19-29. For more information, call 719-242-2706 or email PBRAcademy@pbr.com.
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