TULSA, Okla. - All eyes will be on J.B. Mauney this coming weekend in Tulsa, Okla., where he'll be competing with his left hand for the first time at a Built Ford Tough Series event since breaking it earlier this year in Kansas City.
The 25-year-old has ridden with left at the Calgary Stampede and again this past weekend, in Molalla, Ore., at the Ross Coleman Invitational. He's a combined 5-for-8, including a 93-point effort Friday night on Amy's Pet.
"I'll take it," he said, "but I probably should have been 88 or 89 (points) on him."
Regardless of the score, all that matters is that he's able to compete with his actual riding hand.
He missed two BFTS events after sustaining the injury during the 15/15 Bucking Battle and then competed at three BFTS events using his right hand before sitting out a third event.
He managed to ride three bulls with his right hand and kept himself in the Top 5 of the world standings. He was ranked No. 1 at the time of the injury.
It's been four months since he underwent surgery and he said, "It swells up when I ride with it, but, I mean, it feels pretty good. It (isn't) quite as strong as it needs to be, but if you put enough rosin on there that rope holds onto your hand just as much as you hold onto it."
Mauney's return will be profiled in depth Tuesday afternoon on
All he wanted is opportunity to compete at a BFTS event and, this weekend, he'll be in Tulsa. Zack Brown and Josh Ehlers both earned an exemption after winning a Touring Pro Division event in Molalla, Ore. Brown won Friday's event, while Ehlers split the win Saturday night with Stormy Wing.
"It's amazing what you can accomplish when you're nice and healthy and can react to different situations," Brown said.
The 33-year-old from Hawaii has languished through a series of injuries this year. When asked if it felt good to finally put two qualified rides together, he quickly said, "To win. It's been awhile since I've actually won anything. Earlier this year I won a (TPD) event, but I split the win, so it wasn't actually winning it. Actually winning an event always feels the best."
Brown said consistency and winning go hand-in-hand.
He said without an opportunity like the one he has this weekend at the Express Classic, he won't have a chance to earn enough money to qualify for this year's World Finals. He was 61st in the qualifier standings, but earned more than $5,200 at the Ross Coleman Invitational, which should move him into the Top 50.
However, he joked, "Winning at the upper level events is
definitely a lot easier on the bank account."
MISSED BY 10 MINUTES
For the first time in his three-year BFTS career, Stormy Wing is on the verge of cracking the Top 10 of the world standings and, yet, the 23-year-old from Dalhart, Texas, isn't happy with the way things were going heading into the summer break.
The ligaments on the outside of his left hand, which are located between the ring finger and small finger--were injured sprained and forced him to take some time off at the start of the summer. He said they no longer hurt, but admitted they still get a little sore.
Wing, who is ranked 12th in the world standings, is ready to prove himself in Tulsa this week, especially after how things ended in Pueblo, Colo. Upset about his injury and disappointed with not qualifying for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, Wing packed his car and headed for home before the event was officially over.
Because of several other riders with injuries Wing would have been drawn back into the final round, but was 10 minutes down the interstate by the time anyone reached him by phone. He missed the opportunity and it wasHarve Stewart, who capitalized and wound up finishing third in the in the event.
"It was frustrating and I should have stayed around," Wing said. "You live and you learn. It was a rookie mistake and I wish I could have done something different, but it happened."
Wing is within 500 points of the Top 10 and while many might consider him too far back to contend for the title--he trails Valdiron de Oliveira by 4,481.5 points--he said he's not simply out to finish in the Top 10 or the Top 5. "We still have a ways to go," he professed, "and I don't think that it's out of my reach.
"I could be No. 1. You just have to aim for the stars and go on past it, if you can. That's what I do: Aim for the highest and get there."
Wing later added, "I'm focused on staying on every bull. I haven't even looked at (the standings), but I know I'm up there. I'm just going to keep on going like that. Just ride the bull, make the whistle and let the statistics take care of themselves."
Shane Proctor is one of the few top-ranked riders in the world who truly enjoys driving his van cross country from one bull riding event to another, and although he'll still be riding his way back to the BFTS this weekend when his travel partner returns to the tour, Proctor remains upbeat and positive.
"My goal is to be better than I was the day before," he said.
After breaking his riding arm in December of last year and then suffering nerve damage in his right shoulder, his 2012 season has been one in which he's played catch up after missing much of the first two months.
"It doesn't matter if I have to nickel-and-dime my way in there," he said, of qualifying for the World Finals, "we'll get in there somehow."
Despite only competing in five BFTS events this year, he's currently ranked 33rd in the qualifier standings and is not focused on his place in the world standings-for the record, he's ranked 41st. This will be the first time in his career that he hasn't finished higher in the world standings than the previous year.
"That's one thing I've been proud of in the PBR," said Proctor, who finished ninth in the PBR world standings and won a world title in the PRCA. "I just need to stay on all my bulls and nickel-and-dime the (heck) of them. That's been my strategy for most of my life.
"When you can get the big wins, get 'em. There are so many good
riders that it's hard to get those big checks, but when you do
they're so much fun."
BATTLE OF THE RIBS
After a grueling five-week stretch on the road, veteran Sean Willingham is heading home to Georgia to rest his ailing ribs. Willingham injured his ribs two weeks ago in Afton, Wyo., but continued competing.
After bucking him off the bull stepped on his lower back. Two weeks later, he was stepped on again Thursday night in Santa Barbara, Calif., and he still competed Friday night in Molalla before withdrawing from Saturday's competition.
"I'm not sure what's wrong with them," he said, before self-diagnosing the injury. "They're separated, I believe, that's my opinion. I haven't gone to the doctor yet. I don't think they're broke because I've had broken ribs before and they don't feel like it."
According to Willingham, the injured ribs are in the back and front on the right side. He's a right-handed rider and said it especially hurts when has to lift on his rope.
Earlier this season, Willingham snapped his streak of 228 consecutive BFTS events when he was cut from the tour.
After avoiding significant injuries for much of career, he injured his left wrist and underwent surgery in which doctors inserted a plate and 12 screws. They later added a 13th screw. Then he sprained all four ligaments in his left ankle and missed six weeks of competition.
"It's just been one of (those) years," said Willingham, who is in danger of missing out on the World Finals. He's currently ranked 74th in the qualifier standings. "I haven't looked at anything. I've just been going and trying to win money and they'll call me when it's time to come back."
Once he gives his ribs an opportunity to recover, he said he'll try to "squeeze out a (TPD) win. It's just a long battle to get back in this."
MOVING UP TO BFTS
Whether he's at a TPD event or packing his bags for Tulsa, Chance Roberts said, "You just have to go about it as if it were any other bull riding."
However, Roberts said he doesn't enjoy the long drives that accompany the summertime schedule of traveling from one remote TPD event to another. He's ready for bigger crowds and better facilities that come with competing at BFTS events.
More important, he added, he enjoys the opportunity to ride the best bulls in the world and win larger checks.
"It gets your motor running a little more," said Roberts, who is battling for one of 35 spots at the World Finals. He's currently 38th in the qualifier standings. "I'm going to try to ride every bull I get on and you definitely can't ride enough of them."
UP AND COMING STARS?
In-arena announcer Clint Adkins spent two weeks in Australia this summer as well as working about a dozen TPD events. This past weekend, in Molalla, he said he's "been impressed with the young kids that are coming up."
He's been most impressed by Chris Lowe. After seeing him finish third in the Australian standings, the 27-year-old Aussie made his way to the United States and promptly won the TPD event last week in Redding, Calif. Lowe is anxious to make his BFTS debut.
"It was very impressive," Adkins said. "There are a lot of young kids and that's probably been the most impressive thing I've seen."
Adkins also referenced Lachlan Richardson, who won his debut BFTS event earlier this year, and Cody Johnson, who will make his BFTS debut in Tulsa. Johnson, who will be profiled Thursday on www.PBR.com, has won three TPD events this summer placed in the Top 5 at several others.
"I'm ready to see these guys a little bit more," Adkins said. "It's good to see these kids have success down here and bear down and you know they've got talent, but how can they deal with that talent and success? Can they continue? Can they be consistent with it?
"You see flashes of brilliance, but can they continue that?"
Lowe and two other young Aussies--Sam Dillon and Wes Brooker--pooled together $1,500 last week to buy a used van in California. It has no radio, no air conditioning and, unfortunately, no insurance. The trio had didn't realize they needed to insure the vehicle until they were involved in what they called "a minor accident."
No one was injured in the fender-bender and, more important, they called a local State Farm representative and they now have insurance.
Coincidentally two other Aussies--Jared Farley and Richardson--were also involved in a hit-and-run accident on Sunday morning in Oregon. The two were riding in a rental car with Cord McCoy, who Tweeted, "he didn't know we'd chase him down. Day off lookin for excitement, caught him."
McCoy later Tweeted, "He hit us from behind, we flipped a Uie and got a picture of his plates, waved the cop down with our cowboy hats. Everyone is ok."
Dawn McTaggart, the wife of injured bull rider Colin McTaggart, thanked fans via Facebook for all their support and well-wishes. Colin was seriously injured Friday night when he was stepped on. Three surgeons spent nearly five hours in an operating room and then again on Sunday.
According to Dawn, Colin will undergo a third surgery, which they hope is the last, later this week. The 27-year-old suffered injuries to his liver, intestines and an artery.
"I just want to thank everyone for the kind thoughts, prayers, and love," she wrote in the online post. Dawn later wrote, "I truly appreciate and love ever yone of you and I know Colin will be absolutely overwhelmed when he finds out how many people LOVE him! Please keep him in your prayers and hearts!"
TAKING ON CANCER
Thoughts are with Dusty Ephrom and his wife, Renee, who announced through her Facebook page that she has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. On Friday, she posted, "I started tests today and finish up with them next week to stage the cancer, then will begin treatments ASAP. I feel good, I know I can beat this."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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