Oliver Embracing Challenge of Competing Against World Title Contenders
By: Justin Felisko
OKLAHOMA CITY – Kyler Oliver may only be competing in his second season on the premier series, but the 22-year-old does not have to be a savvy veteran to realize just how tough his competition is atop the world standings.
Oliver knew it was only a matter of time before world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira won an event this season, which happened just last week in Milwaukee. Therefore, Oliver knew he had to make sure to right his own ship this weekend at the PBR Express Ranches Invitational, presented by Union Home Mortgage, at the Paycom Center.
The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world will now get a chance to answer Vieira with a victory on Saturday night after finishing Round 1 in second place with his 88.75-point ride on Razzmatazz.
“It’s important to ride all your bulls,” Oliver said. “Joao’s going to ride probably all of his bulls. There’s a lot of guys that are going to do that, and Jose (Vitor Leme), probably going to be 90 points every time. Consistency is key. Whoever rides the most bulls this year is going to win. It’s going to be a tight one. It’s going to be exciting. I’m excited.”
Oliver earned 18 world points to cut the deficit between himself and Vieira to 115.5 points.
There were nine qualified rides in Round 1, and there is a possibility Oliver could end up heading into Saturday night atop the leaderboard if Round 1 winner Stetson Lawrence is unable to compete.
Lawrence, who rode Big Wave for 89 points, had to head to a local hospital to get stitches on his lower calf after being stepped on at the end of his ride. Lawrence was unaware of how deep of a gash he had until he got back to the locker room.
“I’m doing good, but my calf got stepped on and he ripped my whole calf wide open,” Lawrence said from the arena floor. “So I need to go to the hospital and get it sewed up. They have to pull some skin together. It is pretty cut up. We will see.”
Oliver was mired in a 2-for-10 slump before breaking through against Razzmatazz. He said he wanted to speed things up in the bucking chute and noticed he was recently taking a little bit too long in there.
“As soon as I got my rope on, they rolled that bull right in. And so I got on real fast and didn’t think about nothing,” Oliver said. “I took my wrap, and I did something a little different this time. I nodded my head as I was tightening my rope; I was getting up there and thinking for a second. So I think that helped, and I just kind of tried to stay loose and just keep riding.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Austin Richardson (87.5 points on Mr. Personality), Eli Vastbinder (87.25 points Siroucho) and Chase Dougherty (87.25 points on Frontier Coffee Moon Pearl).
Oliver has drawn Batter Up for Round 2 on Saturday night.
The Roy, Utah, native was one of the surprise omissions from the Team USA Global Cup squad, but Oliver said he isn’t going to pay much attention to it. He will be ready if coach Ross Coleman needs a replacement, and if not, he will be cheering on his buddies wearing the red, white and blue on March 5 at AT&T Stadium.
“I want to be on it, for sure, but the guys that are on there, they all have great resumes, and they all deserve to be there,” Oliver said. “I think Eli Vastbinder deserves to be there too. Maybe next year, maybe me and him will both be on the team.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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