By: Justin Felisko
MINNEAPOLIS – Ruger Piva sat down on the bed of his hotel room in San Bernardino, California, last Sunday afternoon and cracked open a beer.
The 24-year-old shook his head in disappointment and tossed a pillow across the room.
Piva had come up just short of qualifying for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The Challis, Idaho, bull rider finished 17th in the PRCA bull riding standings, $13,128 shy of the Top 15.
The Top 15 money-earners in the PRCA standings qualify for the NFR whereas the Top 35 riders in the PBR world standings qualify for the World Finals via world points earned.
“I was upset, but I don’t throw my stuff and want people looking at me and saying, ‘Look at that,’” Piva said Friday night in Minneapolis. “I try to keep my composure. If I am alone in my room, yeah I will throw a few pillows. Yeah, I threw some pillows this week. Had myself a six pack of a beer and chucked a couple of pillows.
“I was like, ‘Damn it.’”
Piva’s frustration also stemmed from the fact that he had drawn three bulls he was confident he could ride during the final week of the PRCA regular season.
“The last two weeks I was riding pretty good and felt good,” Piva said. “Then I got the draw for the final week – the last three rodeos I would be going to. Two of (the bulls) I rode before, and one of them I didn’t know all that well, but they were all bulls I should have rode. I got bucked off about seven hole on each one of them. I don’t think I was focused, or maybe I was a little too nervous about it. They were bulls I should have rode. That is just what disappointed me, knowing I could have made it and I didn’t quite do it.”
On Tuesday morning, Piva’s morale quickly shot back up when he was back home in Dillon, Montana.
Piva received a phone call from the PBR competition department explaining he had an alternate spot for this weekend’s Minneapolis Invitational.
There was still time to make a push at qualifying for the 2019 PBR World Finals on Nov. 6-10, Piva thought.
“I got the call and my whole mood kind of changed,” Piva said. “I was pretty happy. I kind of got a second chance here. I think I can make some moves the next couple of weeks.”
The No. 50 bull rider in the world standings took a small step forward Friday night in Round 1 by riding Tykro Pound Sand for 85.5 points. Piva finished eighth in the round, so he did not pick up any world points.
Piva, who is riding with a partially torn left MCL that occurred at the Pendleton Round-Up last month, is slated to face Stuntman Hank in Round 2 at Target Center on Saturday night. Rubens Barbosa rode Stuntman Hank for 86.75 points Friday night.
Fans can watch the finale beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET on RidePass Saturday night and on CBS Sports Network Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
“At the beginning of the year, PBR was going to be my focus,” Piva said. “That was what I took priority over everything else. Then early on in March I was like eighth in the world in the PRCA from a couple of rodeos, and I was like, ‘Shoot, I might as well try to do both.’ I think if I would have shifted focus to one of them, I would have been sitting a lot higher here or in the PRCA. I made enough money to keep going, so that is what I am happy about.”
Piva is 257.5 points behind No. 37 Cliff Richardson for the final qualification spot for the PBR World Finals.
Richardson moved into the final spot following a second-place finish this weekend at the PBR Australia event in Queanbeyan. Reigning PBR Australia champion Aaron Kleier won the event.
Piva also is 25th in the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour standings. Therefore, he can try to qualify for his first PBR World Finals through the Velocity Tour Finals on Nov. 2-3 at South Point Hotel Casino & Spa in Las Vegas.
The rookie believes he can learn from his PRCA shortcomings and work that much harder during the final month of the PBR regular season to still make a trip to Las Vegas.
Piva is ready and confident.
“I kind of struggled at the very beginning when I came on to these bigger events,” Piva said. “I was getting too nervous and I just wasn’t even riding bulls I thought I should have rode. I have learned to figure it out. Try to keep breathing and get over it, but sometimes it gets the better of me I guess when I don’t want it to.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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