By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Triplett is going to have loads of motivation when the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, begins next month at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas.
Not only will Triplett have three other bull riders on whatever team he is assigned cheering him on, he will also have an even larger desire to make sure he helps lead his team to a Top 3 finish in its respective division and qualify for Championship Weekend.
The PBR announced Sunday that the Monster Energy Team Challenge will conclude in front of a live-event crowd at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on July 10-12 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a new set of fan safety protocols that may become the new model for sporting events again hosting fans, just as PBR has set the standard for closed events.
Triplett and his wife, Cierra, live about 30 minutes south of Sioux Falls in Canton, and the Columbia Falls, Montana, native considers Sioux Falls home these days now that he has lived in the region for three years.
“This is the coolest thing since canned beer,” Triplett told PBR.com with a laugh. “Sioux Falls, I guarantee it is going to be great, and they are going to be excited about the PBR coming back there.
“We are going to ride everything. It is going to be crazy. It is going to be amazing. Don’t get me wrong, nothing changes when we are in the chute, but our fan base is so huge and we just love them. When they are there, we do try a little harder regardless. It is going to be so fun. I can’t wait, really.”
The Monster Energy Team Challenge is going to feature 12 teams and 48 bull riders. The each team will consist of four riders (three starters and one alternate), and there will be two divisions consisting of six teams. The Top 3 teams in each division will then qualify for Championship Weekend and a single-elimination tournament in Sioux Falls. Every team will play six regular-season games in Las Vegas.
“It is going to be a fun event,” Triplett said. “When it is a team deal, it puts more pressure on you because you don’t want to just do good for yourself. You have three other guys depending on you to win. Just because it is a team deal, you are not riding for yourself. You are riding for others and their families. You try a lot harder and want to do a lot better.”
The PBR plans to announce further details about rosters, schedules and competition rules for the Monster Energy Team Challenge in the coming weeks.
Triplett – the No. 13-ranked bull rider in the world – grew up playing baseball, basketball and football, and he admits there are plenty of times where he misses the camaraderie that team sports offers.
“I miss it a lot,” he said. “I love that team aspect due to the fact that, in everybody’s career, there are some of those nights where you just don’t feel like being there. You have to overcome that, being a professional athlete. When you are on a team deal, and you don’t feel it that night, you have other guys getting ready to get your motor running. They can help give you that attitude to have a little more of an edge.”
This past February, Triplett also was a member of the Team USA Eagles that won the 2020 WinStar World Casino and Resort Global Cup USA, presented by Monster Energy. It was the first time in PBR history that any bull riding nation won a World Cup or Global Cup event on home soil.
The Global Cup has been the epitome of how exciting and dramatic team competitions can be in the PBR, and Triplett believes his experience riding for his country will help him in the organization’s latest team setting.
“I definitely think I have an upper hand going through these deals,” Triplett said. “It showed me a lot and I learned a lot. I stayed quiet and listened to (coach) Justin (McBride) and took in as much advice as I could. I kind of just played a role and watched what he did. Hopefully I can learn from that and put it towards my team.”
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.
To hold these events safely, PBR’s protocols for returning to action were approved by three layers of government, and have been reviewed by more than a dozen other leagues and organizing bodies attempting to return to competition.
Triplett said the locker room is grateful for the opportunity to have somewhere to compete next month.
Many of the normal summer Touring Pro Division events are postponed or cancelled. Therefore, the Monster Energy Team Challenge gives riders, who are independent contractors with no guaranteed salaries, another chance to earn a living this summer.
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.
“I am totally pumped for it,” Triplett said. “It is something new, and the PBR came up with this great idea. Not only that, but it is keeping us all working. From the bull riders to the TV, to everybody on the circuit. So good on them for keeping us working.”
The Monster Energy Team Challenge will be closed to the public in Vegas from June 5-28, and the PBR will be using the safety protocols it debuted in April and May, including a scaled-down crew, medical testing, functional separation and social distancing.
However, the doors will open for the public once again when the toughest athletes in sports head to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.
To help ensure a safe environment for fans purchasing tickets, event partners Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, the City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and PBR will institute a new series of safety protocols, including mobile ticketing, staggered POD seating, re-routed in-arena traffic flow, social distancing guidelines, enhanced disinfecting and cashless concessions options.
South Dakota is working to get back to normal, and that includes the return of sports at the proper time.
We’re excited to welcome @PBR to Sioux Falls for their championship weekend at the Denny Sanford PREMIER CENTER from July 10-12. (1/3)
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) May 17, 2020
Triplett said he continues to be impressed by the PBR’s ongoing efforts to keep its riders, stock contractors and workers safe in Oklahoma, and he expects the PBR to continue to do the same for its fans.
“We are taking the utmost care for our bull riders,” Triplett said. “We are doing all the protocols and being really safe. We are doing things exactly the way the doctors are telling us to do it. We are following our protocols. We are staying safe. We are keeping our distances. We want to stay at work.
“We don’t want to ruin this opportunity we have to be riding right now.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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