THACKERVILLE, Okla. ― There was no doubt Saturday night that one of the previous two Built Ford Tough Series winners was going to win their second event in matter of three weeks.
J.B. Mauney, who had won two weeks earlier in dramatic fashion, was first in the average going into the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, while Guilherme Marchi was trying to win back-to-back BFTS events for the third time in his 10-year career.
One said that life away from bull riding couldn't be better and credited it for his success.
The other said he's using bull riding as an escape from life away from the arena.
Just a few short years ago, it certainly would have been Mauney, who was using bull riding as a means of escaping the chaos of late nights and the invincibility of youth. Instead, it's Mauney ― the once raucous rebel ― who is citing marriage and fatherhood as stabilizing factors as he surges up the world standings.
"Bull riding doesn't last for long," Mauney said. "If you're feeling good, you have to go and you have to get on and take advantage of every moment you can.
"I've always showed up with the mindset that there's not a bull here that can throw me off."
While Mauney won the WinStar World Casino Invitational in the
final round when he rode Jack Daniel's Winter Jack
for 91.5 points, it was an 82.25-point effort in Round 2 that most
illustrates his confidence and consistency.
RELATED VIDEO: Mauney puts up 91.5 points on Jack Daniel's Winter Jack
"The way I look at a bull like that ― that doesn't do the same thing and will change it up like him ― kind of jumps forward and rolls at you, they're way harder to ride," Mauney explained. "You kind of have to bear down a little harder than one that just spins. I felt like I had done my job and stayed down where I needed to be."
Down on that particular bull, but rides like that are moving him up in the standings.
In a matter of three weeks, Mauney has nearly cut Silvano Alves' lead atop the standings in half.
After winning his second BFTS event this weekend ― he previously won the Tulsa, Okla., event ― he now moves into fourth in the standings and trails Alves by only 1,979.75 points. Joao Ricardo Vieira, 2, Marco Eguchi, 3, and Mauney are all within 280 points of one another.
Marchi finished fourth a week after winning his second BFTS event of the season in Nashville, Tenn., and has recorded five Top-10 finishes in the past 10 events.
The 31-year-old former World Champion said, "You know, something going in my life right now ― a little bit of trouble and little things ― but finally I put everything together and I pray a lot for God to help me."
However, inside the arena, he explained that everything is going his way.
With Alves faltering this weekend ― he went 0-for-2 ― Marchi is slightly more than 2,500 points off the world lead.
Guilherme Marchi after is win in Nashville, Tenn.
Just as Mauney is in a cluster among the three positions right behind Alves, Marchi is among another cluster of four riders ― Cody Nance, Shane Proctor, Eduardo Aparecido and Marchi ― who are separated by less than 400 points.
"The more I keep my eyes open, because I still have the chance to be a Champion," Marchi said. "That's what I want to do: be a Champion again."
Marchi and Mauney are two veterans who know what it's like to be in a closely-contested race for a title.
Marchi won in 2008 after three consecutive second-place finishes and was second again last year behind two-time reigning World Champion Alves, who is attempting to win a third straight title.
Mauney was second behind Marchi in 2008, and again in 2009.
Only recently has he learned that coming out on top in the end isn't about the big moments ― he covered Bushwacker two weeks ago for 95.25 points to snap the bull's streak of 42 consecutive BFTS buckoffs ― but rather moments like this weekend, in Round 2, in Thackerville, Okla., that remind him he's in control of his own destiny.
"Those bulls there are pretty easy to get you thrown off," said Mauney, who indicated he was pumped up and ready for one more bull in the final round. "I just felt like I wasn't quitting and kept trying."
INJURY UPDATE: For those wondering about the cast Mauney was wearing on his right thumb, he said, "I don't know if it's broke or not. Last week, that bull stepped on my arm and just kind of jammed it into the ground and split (my fingers) out. It's just sore." He's wearing the cast as a precaution to keep from jamming it again.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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