By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – It did not take long for Ryan Dirteater to reach out to his teammates on Tuesday morning.
Dirteater texted members of the Team USA Wolves, telling them to believe in themselves and that there is no looking back. The Wolves can still win the 2020 WinStar World Casino and Resort Global Cup USA, presented by Monster Energy, this coming weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“I just told them give it everything you got,” Dirteater said. “Hold nothing back. Prove to the world that we are the best.”
The 30-year-old expected to be a key component and leader for the Team USA Wolves at the Global Cup.
However, Dirteater learned on Tuesday morning that he sustained multiple thoracic fractures (T1, T2, T3) when Mason’s Missouri Golden bucked Dirteater off in 3.04 seconds Saturday night at Iron Cowboy, presented by Ariat.
“I knew something was wrong when I hit and my back went down, but I was surprised, too,” Dirteater said. “I thought it was not fractured. But they said it was a compressed spinal fracture, so it makes sense.
“It will be a vacation from work. I am just thankful I am up and walking around. My back feels tight in that spot, but other than that, I feel fine. I know I am just thankful I am up doing stuff and it is not as bad as it could have been.”
According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Dirteater will be out a minimum of three months. The Hulbert, Oklahoma, cowboy will meet with sports medicine/spine specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett on Thursday in Dallas to learn more about his injuries.
“That is the hardest part, this is my last year, which is what is frustrating about it,” Dirteater said. “And I am letting my team down because I am not there to ride.”
Dirteater announced in January that he is retiring following the 2020 PBR World Finals on Nov. 4-8 in Las Vegas.
One of the remaining objectives on his career to-do list was to lead the all-Native American team to victory at Global Cup.
That goal is still a possibility, but he just will have to lead the Wolves from the sidelines, much like 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis (broken neck) and Chase Outlaw (reconstructive shoulder surgery) are doing for the Team USA Eagles.
Wolves head coach Ted Nuce did not sugarcoat what the loss of Dirteater – the No. 10-ranked rider in the world – means to the Wolves.
“Well, basically, you have lost your main player,” Nuce said. “Hopefully, everyone can step up and realize we really need to do this. We need to step our game up and be champions today. Every time I was in that situation (as a rider), I would try and step my game up. You just can’t over-try. The harder you try, the worse the outcome. You have to rely on your passion. I am going to tell those guys to really sit and think about how much do they really love this game, and that is what we are going to try and play off of. Our passion. Go in there and have the best time we can, and let the winning take care of itself.”
Dirteater will be replaced on the Wolves’ roster by Dakota Louis. Louis is ranked 34th in the PBR world standings, and is 7-for-14 at all levels of competition.
This is Louis’ second opportunity with the Wolves, but last year he was an alternate and did not get a chance to ride.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Louis said. “I was a little disappointed when I was first found out I wasn’t on the team, but it really motivated me to be better, and in the back of my mind, I thought there might be a chance. It’s such a great event, and to represent our country on our home turf, and what an honor it would be to win it.”
DIRTEATER PLANS ON RETURING IN 2020 & NOT MOVING UP HIS RETIREMENT DATE
In regards to Dirteater, some have wondered if he would simply hang up his bull rope altogether.
Does Dirteater still want to finish out 2020 and retire following the 2020 PBR World Finals on Nov. 4-8?
View this post on Instagram
I have some exciting news to share. 2020 will be my last season. I am retiring from the sport of bull riding. I love the sport and it has given me everything. From my home to friendships that will last a life time. I will marry my best friend in 2021, and keep running my cow calf operation in Hulbert, Oklahoma. Also, helping my Father Randy, run his Plumbing business and team rope as much as we can, while staying active in my community and in the Cherokee Nation. Bull Riding is a huge part of me. I will continue to put Bull Riding Clinics on and help with the current and young athletes of the sport.
Dirteater says he plans on finishing out the season once he is cleared by doctors to return.
“I am not changing nothing,” Dirteater said. “I still have the second half. It is only eight events (that I am missing).”
Missing at least three months does significantly hinder Dirteater’s chances on winning the 2020 world title. Dirteater is 10th in the world standings, and is 322.75 points behind world leader Jose Vitor Leme.
Two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood missed nine UTB events during last year’s first half and went on a massive surge in the second half to win the 2019 world title.
“That is how I am looking at it,” Dirteater said with a slight chuckle. “See, a world title is still in the cards.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2020 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.