By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2021 Unleash The Beast: American Roots Edition series begins Saturday afternoon at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion in Ocala, Florida, with the PBR Monster Energy Invitational.
PBR.com will be counting down the final days leading up to the UTB season opener by looking back at the Top 5 bull riders at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
Today, we look at 2018 PBR World Finals event winner Marco Eguchi, who finished fourth in the 2020 world standings.
No. 4 Marco Eguchi
World Championships: 0
Best World Standings Finish: 4 (2020)
2020 Premier Series (UTB) Stats
Riding Percentage: 40.48%
Top Ride: 91 points on War Fury (World Finals)
Average Ride Score: 85.63 points
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 0
Round Wins: 2
Top 5: 5
Top 10: 6
90-point Rides: 1
2020 Recap: Marco Eguchi nearly won a second PBR World Finals event title when he bounced back from a Round 1 buckoff (3.55 seconds on Honey Man) to ride his final four bulls in Arlington, Texas, at the 2020 PBR World Finals.
Eguchi capped off his eventual third-place finish with a season-high 91 points on War Fury to propel himself to a career-best, and somewhat unexpected, fourth-place finish in the world standings. In fact, Eguchi’s 40.48% riding average (17-for-42) is his highest since he converted at a 46.48% clip in 2013.
The 31-year-old has been a streaky rider since making his premier series debut in 2011, but he has also shown that he has the pedigree to win some major events in recent seasons. Eguchi won the 2018 PBR World Finals event title (4-for-6) and was victorious at the 2019 Music City Knockout PBR Major in Nashville, Tennessee.
Regardless, Eguchi entered the 2020 World Finals mired in a 3-for-15 slump, and 2020 was shaping up to be a season he would have liked to forget.
Eguchi dealt with several injuries in 2020 – he sustained a concussion in the practice pen in January, another concussion at the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour event in Memphis, Tennessee, in February, and then a partially torn groin attempting to ride Chiseled on May 10 in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Eguchi showed a different level of toughness than some would expect during the Monster Energy Team Challenge, riding 6-for-13 despite his groin injury, as Team Pendleton Whisky nearly upset Team Cooper Tires in the championship game.
“Marco Eguchi is the heart and soul of this team,” Team Pendleton Whisky general manager Justin McBride said over the summer. “They had to have this guy reach down extra deep today, and that is exactly what Marco did. He got some help from Boudreaux Campbell, but Marco Eguchi is the backbone of Team Pendleton.”
OUTLOOK: So, what comes next for Eguchi?
He has quietly posted three consecutive Top-10 finishes in the world standings, but he has yet to enter the World Championship conversation with the likes of Jose Vitor Leme, Jess Lockwood, Kaique Pacheco and Joao Ricardo Vieira.
Eguchi finished fifth in the 2018 world standings because of his World Finals victory, and he went on to finish the 2019 season 10th overall. He has five Top-10 finishes in the last nine seasons.
But is Eguchi a dark horse World Champion contender in 2021? The eight-time PBR World Finals qualifier will need to ride closer to 50% of his bulls rather than his 35.02% average over the last three seasons to truly enter the title conversation.
After finishing 14th in the 2014 world standings, Eguchi took a step back and missed qualifying for the 2015 World Finals. He struggled with an injury to his riding elbow, which he first sustained in Nampa, Idaho, in 2014, attempting to ride Pound the Alarm, before eventually bouncing back in 2016 (27th in the world) and 2017 (22nd).
Five-time PBR World Finals qualifier and RidePass commentator Colby Yates said Eguchi certainly has flashed the ability to be a Top-5 bull rider, but it appears injuries slow him down at times, as we have yet to see him put together a fully consistent campaign since he rode 46% of his bulls in 2012 and 2013.
“I promise you, when that guy commits 100%, he is hard to stop,” Yates said. “I think the problem is the injuries get him flinching a little bit. That has been the problem with Marco that holds him back. It almost startles him, and he doesn’t put in the effort for a bit. Then he gets to a point where he has to put the effort in, and he does, and he will do it consistently for a period of time, and then something will happen and it will go over again. That is a lot of bull riders’ problem that deal with that particular thing. Look, it is a scary sport. It is the nature of the beast.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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