By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Ezekiel Mitchell made the biggest ride of his career a week ago when he conquered reigning and two-time YETI World Champion Smooth Operator for 93 points in Arcadia, Florida.
Mitchell is now trying to use the momentum from that moment, which was popular on social media throughout this past week, to take the next step in his career.
“It just gave me the confidence to know I can do anything I set my mind to,” Mitchell told CBS Sports Network’s Kate Harrison on Saturday. “I want to be a World Champion, so that is all I am worried about right now.”
Mitchell finished Round 1 of the PBR Coors Banquet Invitational in ninth place after riding El Chapo for 83.75 points.
The 23-year-old was one of 10 riders to record a qualified ride during Saturday’s long round, and Mitchell is right in the mix to potentially win his first career event this weekend at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center.
Cole Melancon won Round 1 with 88.5 points on Soup in a Group. Melancon leads the Unleash The Beast with three round wins in as many weeks.
“You have to take it one bull at a time,” Melancon told Harrison. “I didn’t really put much thought into it. I kept it simple and went at it just like I would any other bull.”
Melancon has drawn Foghorn Leghorn (10-6, UTB) for Round 2, and the No. 5-ranked bull rider in the world will be looking for his first event win of 2021.
“That is where I have been lacking. I just need to finish,” Melancon continued. “This could be the weekend.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Mauricio Moreira (87.75 points on Udder Lover), Cooper Davis (87.5 points on Stretch), Brennon Eldred (87.25 points on Gangster Boy) and Joao Henrique Lucas (87 points on Coy Dog).
Mitchell has six Top-5 finishes in his career on the Unleash The Beast. If he can put together two rides Sunday, he may indeed finally get his long-desired first win just one week after conquering a bull he had his eyes on for the past three years. It will take some rides like that, though, to jump back into the aggregate race in Okeechobee with eight riders ahead of him, but Mitchell has the talent to do just that.
The Rockdale, Texas, native has drawn Reign Hills Wedding Crasher (2-0, UTB) for Round 2.
Mitchell is ranked No. 24 in the early 2021 PBR world standings, but two-time World Champion and CBS Sports analyst Justin McBride said before the season that Mitchell has Top-5 potential if he can improve his consistency.
On Saturday, McBride and 2002 World Finals event winner J.W. Hart discussed on CBS Sports Network the importance of Mitchell knocking down the easier bulls more often than not.
“He’s got to start knocking down those calm ones,” McBride said.
Hart added, “Every fighter trains harder when they know they are the underdog, so when you go into a championship round or a 15/15, and you have Ridin Solo or you have Smooth Operator, and you know you are the underdog and know you are the only one that believes you can do it, you are going to put up more effort.”
Mitchell knows he is capable of winning his first Unleash The Beast event, and that may just happen on Sunday afternoon.
Championship Sunday of the PBR Coors Banquet Invitational begins at 2 p.m. ET on RidePass and airs on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. ET.
Professional Bull Riders – PBR COORS BANQUET INVITATIONAL
Okeechobee, FL, 2021 – Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Round 3-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Cole Melancon, 88.5-0-0-88.50-28 Points.
2. Mauricio Gulla Moreira, 87.75-0-0-87.75-18 Points.
3. Cooper Davis, 87.5-0-0-87.50-17 Points.
4. Brennon Eldred, 87.25-0-0-87.25-16 Points.
5. Joao Henrique Lucas, 87-0-0-87.00-15 Points.
6. Colten Fritzlan, 86.5-0-0-86.50-14 Points.
7. João Ricardo Vieira, 85.75-0-0-85.75-13 Points.
8. Alex Cerqueira, 85-0-0-85.00-12 Points.
9. Ezekiel Mitchell, 83.75-0-0-83.75-11 Points.
10. Junior Patrik Souza, 78.5-0-0-78.50-9 Points.
Kaique Pacheco, 0-0-0-0.00
Cody Teel, 0-0-0-0.00
Keyshawn Whitehorse, 0-0-0-0.00
Silvano Alves, 0-0-0-0.00
Marco Eguchi, 0-0-0-0.00
Dalton Kasel, 0-0-0-0.00
J.T. Moore, 0-0-0-0.00
Dener Barbosa, 0-0-0-0.00
Marcelo Procopio Pereira, 0-0-0-0.00
Eduardo Aparecido, 0-0-0-0.00
Dakota Louis, 0-0-0-0.00
Cody Casper, 0-0-0-0.00
Derek Kolbaba, 0-0-0-0.00
Claudio Montanha Jr., 0-0-0-0.00
Mason Taylor, 0-0-0-0.00
Taylor Toves, 0-0-0-0.00
Cody Nance, 0-0-0-0.00
J.B. Mauney, 0-0-0-0.00
Tye Chandler, 0-0-0-0.00
Rafael Henrique dos Santos, 0-0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
Courtesy of PRCA