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What to Watch For: No. 4 John Crimber Back to Having Fun Ahead of PBR Salt Lake City

By: James Youness

PUEBLO, Colo. – Growing up in Michigan for riders like Hunter Ball, students take a class to get their boating license at age 13.

Growing up most places in the United States, teenagers are typically eager to earn their driver’s license at 16, assuming they pass both written and field testing on the first go.

But for budding superstar John Crimber, it was his 18th birthday which stood out among the rest, as it marked the day he could officially apply for his PBR Card.

One leads to freedom, one leads to glory, money and a whole lotta fun, if you’re doing it well enough!

(Though one would argue travelling the country on tour is quite the freedom-granting venture in itself.)

As to which of the life-changing documents brought him a bit more excitement in the moment?

“Getting my PBR card, that’s for sure,” he shared through a smile.

“The day it got to my house, I remember my mom was asleep. I went to the mail and opened up my mailbox and I saw it there. I walked into the house screaming and woke everyone up. I felt bad, but it was a once in a lifetime deal. They had to understand it.”

Officially granted eligibility to compete professionally for the first time in his well-established career (having racked up endless junior, high school and rodeo titles of the sort over the past decade or so), Crimber didn’t waste any time in blazing himself a trail to the premier series.

Seemingly dancing through more than two dozen Challenger Series appearances as the youngest rider in the industry, he enjoyed plenty of success as the summer came to a close, eventually picking up three consecutive event titles in Kennewick, Washington, Fort Worth, Texas, and Stockton, California, in proclaiming his arrival.

Later turning in a fourth-place finish at the 2023 PBR Challenger Series Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, before capturing his first PBR Canada during his debut north of the border a week later, his Unleash The Beast spot was secured.

Now all he had to do was show up and put on a show!

 
Making it look easy at nearly every step of his ascension, he’d eventually be met with a set of challenges as he assimilated to the big leagues. Intense competition, higher injury risk and the fact that he’d never been here before all floated through the youngster’s mind as he began his trek.

But after a questionable 1-for-5 start to his UTB career en route to enduring a hand injury, Crimber needed to take a few steps back and few weeks off to press the reset button, physically and mentally.

“It was a big distraction, because on top of the bull, I could feel my hand hurt and I wasn’t even thinking about riding, I was just thinking about my hand and stuff,” he admitted.

Thankfully for the kid, having a PBR legend in his own right (Paulo Crimber, maybe you’ve heard of him?) as a father is one hell of a resource to tap.

And he hasn’t been afraid to, one bit.

“When I was riding with my hurt hand, he was trying to tell me to forget about it and just ride my bull, but now he’s just been telling me to go back to doing what I’m always doing: Have fun and think about another night of bull riding,” Crimber continued.

“Just go out there and dominate the bull and don’t be thinking about anything else. When I was close to being cut, I was really looking at the points and stuff, how many points I had to gain and everything, and he told me to quit looking at that, go out there and ride your bull and let everything play out like it’s supposed to. I’ve really took that to heart and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Fast forward to January, as the young talent has celebrated the New Year and returned to the tour after missing a few events with said injury.

While some would argue his “Origin Story” has been documented for a few years now, and continues to shine within “Rise to Greatness: The John Crimber Story”, now streaming on YouTube, others would point towards his recent run as the true build-up.

“The first event, in my mind, I was thinking about how cool it would be to be a world champion, but I didn’t actually think I would be able to do it right away, you know? To go out there and make a run for it. It was going pretty rough and my hand was hurting and all that,” Crimber shared.

“Now, I’ve kind of started kicking it into gear a little bit and changed my mind. Now I want to go for it (a world championship).”

Boots on the ground and ready to make a statement, he returned to premier series action with respectable 13th and 23rd overall placements in New York City and Chicago before really turning things up a notch inside BOK Center.

Just three weekends ago, positioned atop the event leaderboard in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 18-year-old watched on as one of the tour’s oldest riders snuck in and stole the buckle, as Joao Ricardo Vieira edged out the youngster by 12.5 points in the heart of bull country.

 
Refusing to be upset about the close call (which did, after all, feature the youngster’s first flawless, 3-for-3 showcase), he instead celebrated alongside one of the men he’s looked up to for quite some time now.

“JRV is one of my heroes, so of course I congratulated him and we took a picture together and all of that stuff. It was pretty cool. I’ve always watched him growing up, so being able to ride with him and being first and second, it was pretty cool to be there with him,” Crimber said.

“I knew I wasn’t going to win that event because he picked a really good bull in the short round and I was like 13 points behind him or something going into the short round. I just knew I wanted to stay on my bull and hopefully get a Top 5 finish and that was the plan.”

Naturally, finding himself in a similar situation just two events down the timeline, this time it was No. 10 Leonardo Castro Ferreira who came through with the “upset” win. Tapping into his noted self-resilience while again leaving it all to fate, Crimber was anything but upset when addressing his second runner-up finish on the season.

Cognizant. Reflective. Honest. And now, motivated, if anything.

 
“Then last weekend in Sacramento, Leonardo and Callum Miller were the only guys who rode three that weekend heading into the short go, so it was just a similar deal: Try to stay on my bull and hopefully something would play out.”

“There’s a lot of rookies this season and they’re riding really well and it makes me want to try even harder, that’s for sure.”

While everyone knows his time is coming, including the cowboy himself, he’s not letting the close calls get in the way of anything other than acknowledging he’s headed in the right direction.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Crimber added.

“It actually helped my confidence and it made me realize that I can be around those guys and be one of the top in the world. For sure I want to be first, but hopefully I just keep staying on them and my time will come, I think.”

When he finally collects that first premier series win, though, the grind will be worth it and then some.

It always is.

“It will mean a lot to me. My start to the year was pretty rough. I was dang near cut and I had one more weekend to turn it around and I went out there and stayed on three of them, turned it around, and now I’m No. 4 in the world, so it’s pretty cool to know that. But if I get an event win this season, it’ll mean a lot to me. Hopefully it is this season,” he concluded.

“Right now I’m going to ride every weekend like I’m getting cut because the first time I did that, I did pretty good. I’m just focused on the bulls I’m getting on and I’m not worried about anything else. I’m just going to go out there and try to stay on all of my bulls and let it play out how it’s supposed to.”

Set to punch the clock going head-to-head against Gangster Time during Friday night’s opening round, what will the star-to-be have in store for us?

With Unleash The Beast storming into its 11th event of the 2024 slate this weekend inside Delta Center as Salt Lake City, Utah, prepares to welcome the world’s best bull riders Feb. 9-10, let’s take a look at who’s drawing into the lineup during PBR Salt Lake City:

ROUND 1 MATCHUPS

Callum Miller vs. Cocky
Marco Rizzo vs. Red Eye
Cort McFadden vs. Desperado
Vitor Losnake vs. West Coast
Daniel Keeping vs. Dropping Gears
Dalyon Swearingen vs. Pam’s Dream
Keyshawn Whitehorse vs. Lapua
Paulo Eduardo Rossetto vs. Off Radar
Jake Gardner vs. Total Air
Nick Tetz vs. Spice
Kyler Oliver vs. High Plains Drifter
Mauricio Gulla Moreira vs. Dream Walkin
Bob Mitchell vs. Full Throttle
Clay Guiton vs. Blackstone
Ezekiel Mitchell vs. Trump Train
Julio Cesar Marques vs. Devil’s Revenge
Felipe Furlan vs. Badlands
Conner Halverson vs. Texas Rain
*Caden Bunch vs. Concho
Brady Oleson vs. Jump Man
Eli Vastbinder vs. Bison
Alex Cerqueira vs. Hoof Stock Genetics Mud Train
Jose Vitor Leme vs. Modified Ride
Brady Fielder vs. Pete’s Dejavu
*Boudreaux Campbell vs. Ah Hell
Koltin Hevalow vs. Taz
Alan de Souza vs. Po Dunk
*Kaiden Loud vs. Big Worm
Leonardo Castro Ferreira vs. Black Tie
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Sometimes I Fly
John Crimber vs. Gangster Time
Dalton Kasel vs. Cash is King
Wingson Henrique da Silva vs. Reinstate Hank
Cassio Dias vs. Badger

* denotes a rematch

OUT BECAUSE OF INJURY/OTHER

Austin Richardson
Kaique Pacheco
Sage Kimzey
Ednelio Almeida
Silvano Alves
Cody Jesus
Marco Eguchi
Warlei de Oliveira
Jess Lockwood
Dakota Buttar
Chase Outlaw
Marcus Mast
Derek Kolbaba
Colten Fritzlan
Joao Lucas Campos

ROUND 1 REMATCHES

Boudreaux Campbell vs. Ah Hell (4.21 seconds in Tucson, Arizona)
Caden Bunch vs. Concho (89.25 points in Tucson, Arizona)
Kaiden Loud vs. Big Worm (3.6 seconds in Sacramento, California)

NO. 1 CASSIO DIAS LOOKS TO CONTINUE DOMINANT ROOKIE CAMPAIGN

With No. 2 Austin Richardson officially announcing he’s set to miss the remainder of the UTB season due to injuries sustained earlier this season, it will be up to No. 3 Eduardo Aparecido and company to catch up to No. 1 Cassio Dias, who currently holds a 365.33-point lead over Aparecido heading into event No. 11. Able to establish himself a lead larger than that of Aparecido’s total points earned this season, Dias’s three events wins have truly propelled him into nearly untouchable territory. If he can continue his spicy start to his rookie season, that is. Now 19-for-31 (61.29%) on the season, including a tour-best four 90-pointers, he’s cooled off a bit over his last three events (4-for-8) since blazing onto the premier series with his 9-for-10 start. Despite the 4-for-8 slate, he was still able to turn in a sixth-place showing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, (45 UTB points) and most recently produced a seventh-place effort (45.33 UTB points) in Sacramento, California, (with a rare 0-for-2 showing in Houston, Texas, sandwiched in there) en route to continuing to extend his lead atop the standings. Set to dance with Badger Friday night during the opening round’s final out, fans should obviously keep an eye on the best rider in the world.

 

JOSE VITOR LEME RETURNS TO ACTION IN SALT LAKE CITY

After sitting out the past two months due to injury, two-time World Champion Jose Vitor Leme is slated to make his return to Unleash The Beast action for the first time since getting banged up in St. Louis, Missouri, Dec. 2 during the second event of the campaign. Beginning his 2024 slate with a perfect 4-for-4 start, it was his 3-for-3 performance during the season-opener in Tucson, Arizona, which garnered him a fourth-place finish and corresponding 74 UTB points back in November. Starting the St. Louis showdown with an 86.25-point conversion, he was forced to doctor out of the remainder of the contest, albeit still able to bring home 17 UTB points and a 13th-place result. Now, entering this weekend’s PBR Salt Lake City ranked No. 35 in the world, he’s setting himself up to make a dramatic run back to the top of the standings, where he typically sits when not plagued by the body. With No. 1 Cassio Dias holding a 610.83-point lead over “Champ,” the rookie Brazilian will need to continue performing at his tour-best rate if he hopes to avoid seeing Leme make a miraculous comeback and steal the first-year’s glory. Set to dance with Modified Ride during Round 1, we wouldn’t expect anything but fireworks from the 27-year-old in his return to premier series greatness. Especially since Leme won it all the last time UTB passed through Salt Lake City.

FOLLOW ALONG

Already the 11th of 23 regular season events, the two-day, three-round showcase inside Delta Center is set to begin Friday, Feb. 9 at 7:45 p.m. PST, with Round 1 airing live via RidePass on Pluto TV.

Round 2’s action will begin Saturday, Feb. 10 at 6:45 p.m. PST, followed by the Championship go, both of which are slated to air on CBS Sports Network on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. PST.

Fans can stay tuned to PBR.com and PBR social media channels throughout the weekend for the latest scores, wrecks, injury updates and beyond as Unleash The Beast prepares to invade Salt Lake City, Utah, as the 2024 Unleash The Beast slate rages on!

Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media

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