Division B Power Rankings, Presented by South Point Hotel Casino and Spa

PUEBLO, Colo. – And then there were three.

Team Cooper Tires, Team Las Vegas and Team Can-Am have clinched three of the six spots for the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, courtesy of finishing in the Top 3 of Division A.

Now we will see which teams can work their way out of Division B, which begins Friday night at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena.

This week’s PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge Power Rankings, presented by South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, will rank the six teams competing in Division B for the next two weekends.

All six teams are capable of winning Division B, but the ultimate key is to at least finish inside the Top 3 of the division (based upon win-loss record) to qualify for the postseason at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in South Dakota.

Similar to Division A, Division B teams will each play six total games in the next two weekends.

Every game will be comprised of 12 collective outs, with each team attempting six bulls. Three riders per team, as selected by the General Manager, will attempt two bulls per game. The winner of each game will be the team with the top combined aggregate score from their six outs.

The teams have gone through some changes in the past 48 hours because of the PBR’s COVID-19 safety protocols, but no matter who is crawling into the bucking chutes, you can bet all 24 riders, and their six general managers, are craving victory.

Here is my first attempt at ranking the Division B teams – it will be fun to see which team surprises me and throws my original rankings out the window.

1. Team Lucas Oil (Captain: Matt Triplett)

No pun intended, but Team Lucas Oil may just be one well-oiled machine in Division B.

Team Lucas Oil, from top to bottom, has arguably the best, well-rounded roster with Matt Triplett, Ryan Dirteater, Dalton Kasel and Scottie Knapp.

As individuals, this team has a slew of individual accolades and are proven competitors that hold themselves to a high standard. This team is loaded with horsepower.

Triplett is highly motivated to ride in front of fans 20 minutes from home in Sioux Falls, and the Team Captain has always been a huge proponent of team competitions.

A member of the 2020 Global Cup-winning Team USA Eagles, Triplett is stoked to now lead a team of his own at the METC, but he is going to have a great partner in crime in 11-time World Finals qualifier Dirteater and Kasel – one of the sport’s brightest up-and-coming stars.

As long as Dirteater is not rusty following a four-month layoff recovering from multiple thoracic fractures, and Kasel’s groin injuries are a thing of a past, Team Lucas Oil should be a force not just in Las Vegas, but as a playoff team in Sioux Falls.

World Finals Qualifications: 20
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 1
Some Accolades: 2016 World Finals event winner, 2019 Rookie of the Year, 2020 Global Cup USA Champion, 2009 World Cup Champion.

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Kasel returns to his round-winning ability of a year ago, and Dirteater picks up with his 53% riding average prior to getting injured at the 2020 Iron Cowboy in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Team Lucas Oil’s success is dependent on those two’s health. Triplett, though, will need to thrive in his first go in a leadership/captain role and knock down rides in clutch moments.

2. Team Ariat (Captain: Cooper Davis)

Jose Vitor Leme essentially carried Team Cooper Tires to the Division A title, and 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis can do the same for Team Ariat in Division B.

Davis returned to competition by winning his first event back (Sheridan, Wyoming, TPD event) following a near five-month layoff because of a broken neck.

The 26-year-old absolutely loves riding in team competitions, and this is his bread and butter in many ways. In 2017, Davis championed a group of last-minute additions to Team USA to a sensational victory at the inaugural Global Cup by going 2-for-3 and riding Catfish John for an event-winning 89.5 points.

Davis was from then on nicknamed Captain America, and he will once again be looked to to carry a group of riders to victory – now at the METC – after he selected Ky Hamilton, two-time NFR qualifier Tyler Bingham and Maverick Potter to his team.

In Edmonton, though, Davis had a partner in crime in Stormy Wing, and that will be key for Team Ariat.

Davis may have selected one of the best up-and-comers not competing in the PBR just yet in Hamilton to be his running mate.

PBR fans have yet to see the true Hamilton ride at his full potential. He was only 18 years old when he competed at the 2018 Sydney, Australia, Global Cup, and then he sprained his right MCL at this past Global Cup.

The 20-year-old has been living down at Cody Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas, for almost two years now, and has been primarily competing at PRCA rodeos.

Hamilton is riding over 53% in the PRCA, is ranked 4th in the bull riding standings and is continuing to develop.

Meanwhile, Potter, 19, is another young gun to keep an eye on if General Manager J.W. Hart and company put him into the lineup. Potter finished second in the PRCA’s bull riding permit standings last year with over $53,000 in earnings and is sitting 27th in the 2020 PRCA standings.

World Finals Qualifications: 5
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 3
Some Accolades: 2016 PBR World Champion, 2015 World Finals event winner, 2017 Global Cup Champion, 2016 Music City Knockout Champion, 2011 National High School Finals Champion.

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Cooper Davis. Simple as that.

Davis has the ability and the drive to put a team on his back just as Jose Vitor Leme did. He went 8-for-11 in three Global Cups, and he also captained a team to victory at Chad Berger’s $125,000 team challenge last year in Bismarck.

If the five-time PBR World Finals qualifier dominates in Vegas these next two weekends, he pushes this team to Championship Weekend inside and outside of the arena. Bingham, 27, will also be a veteran presence for the younger Hamilton and Potter and contribute in a playoff push.

3. Team Pendleton Whisky (Captain: Marco Eguchi)

The Monster Energy Team Challenge may just be a continuation of the coming out party that Lucas Divino ended the first half with when he won the final UTB event in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

The third highest-ranking rider in the PBR world standings (No. 7 overall) that has elected to compete at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon could make an even larger statement about how good of a rider he is if he can help carry this team against heavy hitters like Davis and Team Lucas Oil.

Team Pendleton Whisky captain Marco Eguchi smartly made Divino his first choice for the METC, and that gives General Manager Justin McBride quite the 1-2 punch.

Eguchi – the 2018 World Finals event winner – is coming off a partially torn left groin in Guthrie, but if he is healthy with Divino, then Team Pendleton Whisky’s top pairing can contend against any other team’s top two riders in Division B.

The key for Pendleton Whisky beyond Eguchi’s health, will be getting contributions from rookies Junio Patrik Souza and Amadeu Campos.

However, this tournament may just become Divino’s statement that he is here to be a true contender.

Divino is 15-for-29 (51.72%) with two victories, two 90-point rides and five Top-10 finishes in 10 premier series events this season despite an injury to his riding hand earlier this year that cost him three events. He also sustained a different, but minor, injury to his riding hand in his last event in Guthrie.

World Finals Qualifications: 8
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 0
Some Accolades: 2018 World Finals event winner, 2019 Global Cup Champion, 2019 Music City Knockout Champion

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Eguchi returns from his partially torn groin healthy and can withstand the possibility of getting on six bulls in three days for the next two weekends. If not, Divino puts this team on his back a la Leme and Team Pendleton Whisky receives important contributions from Souza and Campos, similar to what Mauricio Moreira did for Team Can-Am.

4. Team South Point (Captain: Cody Nance)

Team South Point General Manager Colby Yates had to scramble earlier this week to replace his previous team captain after Cody Teel informed him he had aggravated a knee injury in the practice pen last week.

It was one of many changes Yates had to make over the last few weeks that has led to him fielding a completely different roster than the one he had in May.

Regardless, this team will have some fight to it.

In steps 11-time PBR Finals qualifier Cody Nance, who is making his 2020 debut after missing the first six months of the season because of nerve damage in his right shoulder as the new team captain.

Yates then also convinced 2011 PRCA champion Shane Proctor to take Teel’s roster spot, giving Team South Point quite the veteran-heavy one-two punch. Also on the team is three-time NFR qualifier Ty Wallace and newly named alternate Cody Casper.

Nance, 32, and Proctor, 35, give Team South Point the oldest dynamic duo among the Division B teams.

They have 537 rides combined on the PBR’s premier series, have won 18 events at the PBR’s highest level and qualified for the PBR World Finals a total of 20 times.

One thing is for sure, true heart and determination should be on display by Team South Point.

World Finals Qualifications: 20
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 8
Some Accolades: 2011 PRCA champion, 2009 Rookie of the Year, 2017 Global Cup champion, 2016 Iron Cowboy champion.

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Proctor has not competed at a PBR event in two years since returning to rodeo full-time, and Nance is still trying to work his way back into true form, but both veterans step up in gritty fashion to carry Team South Point to Championship Weekend. Meanwhile, Wallace also steps in to be a primary contributor.

5. Team Boot Barn (Captain: Daylon Swearingen)

Daylon Swearingen is the No. 4-ranked bull rider in the PBR world standings, and he is coming into this weekend on a hot streak with PRCA victories in Coleman and Mesquite, Texas. In Coleman, Swearingen won that rodeo with a 90.5-point ride.

Swearingen will most likely have to be close to perfect in Vegas to help carry Team Boot Barn to the postseason. The Team Captain, who got some lessons from General Manager and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney at Mauney’s ranch last week, has three new teammates this week in Braden Richardson, J.C. Mortensen and Kache Moosman.

Swearingen has shown flashes of brilliance before, including this season with a victory in Chicago, and his team will need him at his best.

However, the 20-year-old is also not the only rider coming into Vegas with some momentum.

Richardson won the Lawton, Oklahoma, Xtreme Bulls event on June 6 with an 87.5-point ride on Magic Trick. Richardson was one of 111 competitors in the event, and it was also his first event back since tearing his left PCL on Jan. 9.

The 25-year-old is good friends with Davis, who has always been a big believer in Richardson’s potential.

Mortensen, 19, is the son of Judd Mortensen, who qualified for the PBR World Finals in 2000. J.C. competes in the PRCA as a bareback and bull rider.

Moosman nearly qualified for the 2019 PBR World Finals with a seventh-place finish at the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals.

World Finals Qualifications: 1
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 1
Some Accolades: 2020 Global Cup USA Champion, 2019 Collegiate National Bull Riding Champion

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Swearingen goes on a hot streak and puts on his own impersonation of Jose Vitor Leme, while one or two of Richardson, Mortensen and Moosman step up for Team Boot Barn.

6. Team Cat (Captain: Clayton Sellars)

Clayton Sellars will lead the reconstructed Team Cat at the Monster Energy Team Challenge following a series of unexpected, last-minute roster changes for General Manager Paulo Crimber in the past 48 hours.

The new Team Captain went 4-for-8 last year at his first NFR, riding 2018 PRCA Bull of the Year Spotted Demon for an impressive 91.5 points.

Sellars – the 2018 PRCA Rookie of the Year bull rider – is riding at his first professional event Friday night since tearing his left ACL/PCL in January.

Sellars is joined by Ouncie Mitchell, Kyle Jones and Dakota Louis. Mitchell and Jones were in Las Vegas as emergency alternate riders last weekend, and you can bet they will be fired up with the opportunity to compete for Team Cat.

This team of underdogs could be a ton of fun to watch, and they would love nothing more than to knock off some of the on-paper favorites.

Mitchell, the cousin of UTB mainstay Ezekiel Mitchell, qualified for the World Finals last season via the Velocity Tour Finals. The 24-year-old is No. 73 in the PBR world standings, and he has not competed at a PBR event since Feb. 29, but he could have some upside for Team Cat.

Jones is No. 58 in the PBR world standings and he went 2-for-2 in Sheridan for a runner-up finish to Davis.

Louis is No. 50 in the world standings and rode for the Team USA Wolves at the 2020 Global Cup USA.

World Finals Qualifications: 1
National Finals Rodeo Qualifications: 1
Some Accolades: 2010/2012/2013 Indian National Finals Rodeo Champion

HOW THEY CAN WIN DIVISION B: Sellars shows no rust coming off his ACL/PCL surgery and steps up in memorable fashion at the METC. Sellars makes multiple major rides, like he did vs. Spotted Demon at the NFR, and one of Mitchell, Jones or Louis become a major contributor for Team Cat as the underdogs become the feel-good story of the competition.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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