By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Whether it is his 2012 PRCA championship saddle, a 2020 Global Cup USA gold medal or his bountiful event victory belt buckles, Cody Teel’s house in College Station, Texas, is a treasure chest of bull riding success.
Every buckle, saddle, medal, trophy, etc., carries with it a unique story, and Teel is hopeful to add many more buckles and victories before his career is over.
Teel, of course, long desires a PBR World Championship belt buckle, but he will be changing his focus next month toward winning a PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge Championship when the inaugural competition gets underway in a closed-to-the-public event on June 5-28 in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa.
The Monster Energy Team Challenge is going to feature 12 teams and 48 bull riders. The each team will consist of four riders, and there will be two divisions of six teams. The Top 3 teams in each division will then qualify for Championship Weekend and a single-elimination tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12 in front of fans.
“There is still a lot of unknowns, but I know what the experience was being a part of Global Cup, and that team format, and how exciting and how motivating that was,” Teel said. “If it was anything like that, it will be a lot of fun.”
The PBR plans to announce further details about rosters, schedules and competition rules for the Monster Energy Team Challenge in the coming weeks.
“It will be interesting to see what details come in the weeks to come,” Teel said. “I am looking forward to it. I am really excited about it. Most of all, just having the opportunity to go somewhere and compete right now, that really means a lot.”
The PBR has held three Unleash The Beast events in non-public settings in Guthrie, Oklahoma, including this weekend’s PBR Lucas Oil Invitational, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, after originally going on hiatus for 41 days because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.
Outside of PBR’s events, which began in late April at the Lazy E Arena, the Western and rodeo world is one of many industries in the United States that has been at a standstill because of the pandemic. Thousands of cowboys and those with income tied to events and rodeos remain out of work amid multiple postponements and cancellations of events throughout the world.
“It is definitely a different approach then we are used to,” Teel said of the team format. “Anyone that has been a part of the Global Cup format, if you felt that feeling before, it is exciting to think of another format similar to that and see where it goes on a regular weekend. Most of us are looking for an opportunity to go somewhere right now, and it is better than sitting at the house.”
Teel went 1-for-2 to help the Americans become the first country in the World Cup or Global Cup era to win on home soil.
“I was glad to do my part and help contribute some,” Teel said in February. “It ended up being just what we needed. It worked out. It was another exciting event like it always is. I am glad we got it done. The medals they gave this year were pretty special, having that as a keepsake. As soon as I got home, I put it atop the buckle case.”
Teel may only be ranked No. 21 in the world standings, but the 27-year-old is starting round back into prime riding shape after he aggravated torn ligaments in his right knee on Feb. 23 in St. Louis.
The Texas native finished this past weekend’s event in fourth place, giving him back-to-back Top-5 finishes for the first time all season. In fact, Teel had not posted back-to-back Top-5s on the Unleash The Beast since April 2019 when he won the Billings, Montana, event and placed second in Columbus, Ohio.
Teel did only go 1-for-3 this weekend at the Lazy E Arena, but he won Round 2 on Sunday afternoon by riding Milk Man for 90 points and his first 90 of the season. He is now 4-for-5 in his career aboard the Hart Cattle Company bovine athlete.
In two events, Teel has surged from No. 55 in the world standings, facing being cut from the major league tour, to No. 21.
Teel will likely be one of the top riders selected for the team challenge, and he is not only heating up at the right moment, but he also is a battle-tested veteran – the kind of rider who will let his riding do the talking.
Teel and Cole Melancon are the only two American-born riders with multiple Global Cup victories on their resumes.
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The PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge will be a different test compared to the Global Cup, but Teel said Guthrie was kind of a test run for what things may be like in Las Vegas.
Teel explained that the Lazy E Arena had makeshift teams of riders formed with the groups of riders being broken up into distinctive social distancing groups. The riders housed in RVS near each other, ate meals together, prepared their ropes together and helped each other out on the back of the bucking chutes.
Riders such as Derek Kolbaba, Cody Casper, Joseph McConnel and Dakota Louis became teammates in Oklahoma in ways, said Teel.
Five-time World Finals qualifier Colby Yates said earlier this spring he noticed the same thing.
“It was almost like each letter group was forming as a team,” Yates said. “It was essentially to take the place of the fact there were no fans in the stands to give them the energy, hype them up and get them motivated to win in a very calm environment. These guys all pulled together and it was almost like a Global Cup feel. Those were their guys, and they were pulling for each other. It didn’t matter who won, but they wanted it to be their group letter.”
Camaraderie and team chemistry may take some time to develop for the Monster Energy Team Challenge, but Teel believes a few weeks in Vegas will certainly lead to friendships strengthening among team members
“It might take a week or two, but over time, the more time you spend with each other, that will definitely get that feeling with this format,” Teel said. “You could almost feel it in Guthrie with our little groups that we are quarantined to. Group Q. We hang out around each other the whole time, and then you go in there and your stuff is around each other, so you kind of rally around each other. It is the same kind of deal.
“It doesn’t take much in this sport to get that flame going with a team deal. It is really exciting. Everyone feeds off that. I predict it will be the same way with this new deal in Vegas.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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