TULSA, Okla. ― It was only fitting that Kent Cox would be the first man to embrace J.B. Mauney after the 26-year-old threw his hat in victory.
Cox, who has hauled Bushwacker for his owner Julio Moreno throughout his career, and Mauney have gone through so much together in the nine times the Mooresville, N.C., native has faced the bull most revered as arguably the greatest bucking bull in PBR history.
"I don't know if it's a relief or not," said Cox, about how he felt after watching Mauney snap Bushwacker's record-setting streak of 42 consecutive buckoffs at Built Ford Tough Series events, "but it happened. We knew it would happen eventually, and I'm just really happy J.B. was the one to do it because he's been getting on that bull for a couple years now and it had just never worked out and today he did it."
Cox's voice crackled.
And the veteran bull man nearly choked up as a tear welled up in his left eye, but never did it stream down his cheek ― at least not in the arena. Not even after Mauney, whose skin shivered and filled with goose bumps, praised the former rider, who has raised and worked with the 2011 World Champion Bull since before the 7-year -old bull's bucking career even began.
"If there's one man that helps me out more at these bull ridings," said Mauney, standing shoulder to shoulder with Cox, "it's this man right here flanking him. Whether I'm getting on a bull that he's flanking or not he comes to me and he tells me, he said, 'Keep your chin down and be a cowboy. Don't look off and be no girl.'
"That's what it goes back to. That's why I rode that bull right there, it's because I kept my chin down and when he did get me out of shape I didn't panic. I just ― you got to be a cowboy and keep your hand shut and finally I did it for the whole 8 seconds."
Mauney did what he failed to do eight times before, and that's counter-match Bushwacker's every move.
In a matter of 8 seconds, Bushwacker made a total of eight powerful jumps-none of which were in time with one another and, of course, none of which were easy for Mauney to handle.
He was in and out of position throughout the entire ride and, as Cox observed, what made the ride spectacular is the fact that Mauney "just kept gathering Bushwacker back up."
Cox added, "J.B. tried his guts out and it paid off."
Mauney called it a dogfight.
"I was just hanging the heck on because I thought a few times I was about to get my teeth knocked out," explained Mauney. "I just kept my hand shut and it worked out."
It worked out to the tune of 95.25 points.
It wasn't quite the record-setting score people imagined a qualified ride on a bull that caliber would be, but it came with all the drama, excitement and the thrill of victory that it would have had, had it been 96.75 points and a new PBR high-marked ride.
Midway through the ride, every rider and stock contractor behind the chutes was cheering him on. The crowd inside the BOK Center made more noise Saturday night than they did the night Mike White, who was on horseback Saturday night as the safety man, made back in 2008 when he rode Troubadour for 95.75 points.
Coincidentally, those are just two of the many great moments that have come during the nine seasons in which the Built Ford Tough Series has been to Tulsa.
However, no one cheered like Cox.
"I think I was yelling louder than anybody back there for J.B.," Cox said. "I was really happy for him."
Cox admitted he didn't know if Mauney made the whistle or not until afterward when he glanced at the time clock in the arena.
Mauney's wife Lexi, his sister Jessie, his brother-in-law Shane Proctor and his uncle, Dickies DuraBullfighter, Frank Newsom were all there to witness the moment.
So too was Markus Mariluch.
The Elko, Nev., rider was one of only two riders ― Thiago Paguioto being the other ― to make the whistle on Bushwacker, in October 2009, but in many ways that was an entirely different bull. Bushwacker was only 3 years old then.
Mariluch, a last minute alternate in Tulsa, who replaced the injured Kody Lostroh in the draw only a day before the event began, insisted on pulling Mauney's bull rope for him.
It had nothing to do with the fact that he had once ridden the bull at a time when Cox said Bushwacker was still a baby. Instead, it had everything to do with the simple fact that Mauney has made the whistle every time Mariluch has done so.
In the early morning hours, Mariluch joked on Twitter it was the only good thing he did all weekend:
Mauney, who tweeted this weekend for the first time since January 2011, thanked Mariluch.
Unlike Mariluch, Mauney rode with as much, or more, confidence as he did in 2009 when he rode all eight bulls at the World Finals. This weekend's event win - his first of 2013 - moved him from 10th in the world standings to sixth.
More importantly, he went from slightly more than 3,000 points behind No. 1 Silvano Alves to within 2,326.5 points in only two days with eight regular-season BFTS events remaining on the road back to Las Vegas.
"I'm as high as can be right now," Mauney said. "A bull that good and that rank over that many years that hadn't been rode and I'd been on him so many times over and over and he's always got me on the ground, to be able to get lucky enough to just be able to ride him-I mean, your confidence can't get any higher than that."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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