By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney was throwing haymakers with his surgically repaired right shoulder like it was 2015, and the fans inside the Ford Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho, on Saturday night were slowly getting to their feet.
The building was percolating with tantalizing anticipation.
7.25 seconds flashed on the big screens above the bucking chutes.
I’m Legit Too spoiled what would have been an emphatic ride to cap off an electric finale of the Unleash The Beast regular season when he whipped Mauney down to the arena floor just shy of the 8-second mark.
Mauney was on the precipice of winning a PBR-record 33rd career event in pure Mauney fashion, selecting one of the rankest bulls available to him in the championship round just six days after the same bull bested him in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 4.34 seconds.
The fire in the dragon slayer’s eyes has returned.
The confident Mauney smile that inches across his face when he picks a bull he knows most of the other bull riders in the locker room may want to avoid was there once again.
So regardless of the end result this weekend, Mauney has proven once again, and now for four consecutive events, that he seems ready to erupt for potentially another memorable performance at the upcoming 2020 PBR World Finals in Arlington, Texas, on Nov. 12-15.
Mauney has posted three consecutive fourth-place finishes, and he has won a round in four consecutive events after missing the first seven months of the season recovering from his second reconstructive right shoulder surgery in the past three years.
In August and September the murmurs were beginning to grow louder that Mauney’s streak of 14 consecutive World Finals may be in jeopardy.
Now Mauney is set to ride at his 15th consecutive World Finals in four weeks after finishing the PBR Cooper Tires Take The Money and Ride, presented by Union Home Mortgage, in fourth place.
Most of all, Mauney may just be poised to bring the thousands of fans expected to be socially distanced inside AT&T Stadium to their feet as he has done at previous World Finals.
“I knew all I needed to do was get on one bull, so that’s what I did,” Mauney told Kate Harrison on CBS Sports Network after his 89.25-point ride on Kapt’n Krunch was the best in Round 2. “I started getting on as many bulls as I could, and I feel good now.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride was the first rider in PBR history to win 32 premier series events before Mauney joined him atop the record books with his 32nd win last season in Little Rock, Arkansas.
McBride tipped his hat to Mauney despite the buckoff Saturday night. Mauney gave it his all against I’m Legit Too, who helped his case in the YETI World Champion Bull race by tying his career high with a 46.25-point bull score.
“Well, that’s what J.W. Hart was hoping for out of the bull,” McBride said on CBS Sports Network. “He would’ve loved to have seen Mauney there another three quarters of a second and be 93 or 94 points. What an effort by both bull and Mauney.
“Look, that’s a record (all-time event wins) Mauney will get at some point, and I will be very proud of him when he does, because it will be well earned. That’s a great champion in J.B. Mauney.”
It has taken the heart of a champion for Mauney to continue showing up these past three years since he sustained a career-altering right shoulder injury at the 2017 Calgary Stampede.
In fact, Mauney had not gone four consecutive events with at least one round win since the first half of the 2016 season, which was nearly a year and a half before Cowahbunga stepped on him and injured him in Canada.
There is no questioning that the road back from that fateful July afternoon in Calgary, which has since included two reconstructive shoulder surgeries, has been a physical and exhausting mental challenge for Mauney, but his determination is once again paying off.
Mauney walked out of MetraPark Arena on Sept. 13 ranked 98th in the world standings.
Of course, Mauney will certainly be frustrated with how things finished on Saturday night in Nampa with I’m Legit Too, but he is now the 29th-ranked bull rider in the world 35 days and four events since he left Billings with some people wondering if he would run out of time to reach the World Finals.
Now the fun question is: when do we get to see Mauney vs. I’m Legit Too next?
And will it happen in Arlington?
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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