FORT WORTH, Texas – Derek Kolbaba is in the driver’s seat at earning a shot at competing for $1 million on Sunday afternoon at RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN.
The No. 8 bull rider in the PBR world standings won the Thursday night bull riding at THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals with a 90-point ride on Udder Lover inside the historic Cowtown Coliseum.
“I knew what I had,” Kolbaba said. “I knew if I kept moving forward and kind of moving my outside foot that would keep me out of that well. He bucked me off before last year and they actually switched deliveries on him so I was a little mixed up there, but, shoot, it worked out great right there into my hand.”
Kolbaba is only the second rider in 34 outs at all levels of competition to make 8 seconds on Udder Lover.
Udder Lover previously bucked Kolbaba off last year in 4.06 seconds in Oklahoma City, but the stakes were by no means as high as they were on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old had to ride the bull if he wanted to have any shot at competing for his share of $1 million inside AT&T Stadium at THE AMERICAN.
“I mean I didn’t pay $1,000 to come here and fall off,” Kolbaba said. “You come here expecting to win and to get your bulls rode. I just need to keep it rolling for tomorrow.
At the conclusion of THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals Friday night, the Top-5 bull riders in the event average will advance to THE AMERICAN on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
The five bull riding qualifiers from the Semi-Finals will be eligible to win a share of the $1 million bonus that is offered to any qualifier who potentially wins one of the seven rodeo events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and bull riding the day after the PBR’s Iron Cowboy.
“Any time you are 90 it is a great feeling and it boosts your confidence, but, at this event, it is more so just getting them rode,” Kolbaba said. “Whether you are in the middle of them or upside down, you just have to grit it out.”
10 riders advanced to the Friday night finale of the Semi-Finals.
Claudio Montahna Jr. (88 points on Reckless), 2015 PBR Brazil champion Luciano de Castro (86.25 points on All Aboard), Trey Benton (85.5 points on Bio Graphic) and Jake Gowdy (80.75 points on Hurricane Hustler) were the riders advancing on Thursday night.
They joined Cole Melancon (86.75 points), Sevi Torturo (86.5 points), Luke Haught (85.5 points), Jory Markiss (85.25 points) and Stetson Lawrence (84.25 points) from Wednesday night’s competition.
“The game plan don’t change,” said Lawrence. “I still need to ride my bull. I am approaching this like AT&T Stadium. It is no different. I have to keep my head straight and ride my bull. I have been riding good so it definitely is a big confidence builder.”
The five bull riding wild cards will compete alongside the Top 10 riders from last year’s PBR World Standings – Cooper Davis, Kaique Pacheco, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, Ryan Dirteater, Joao Ricardo Vieira, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, Eduardo Aparecido, Jess Lockwood, Fabiano Vieira and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee – that qualified for THE AMERICAN, but are ineligible for the $1 million bonus. 2016 PRCA Champion Sage Kimzey is competing as a fan invite.
Kolbaba couldn’t have asked for a better draw for Friday night either.
The Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider has a rematch against No Dice. Kolbaba rode No Dice for 88.5 points to win the Pendleton, Oregon, Velocity Tour event last September.
“I have to take it one bull at a time and ride for 10 seconds and try my butt off,” he said. “Everything will work out. I have been really trying to focus on keeping things simple and keeping my chin tucked because if you can do that you should be able to stick right with them.”
Kolbaba had bucked off nine in a row since winning the Built Ford Tough Series event in Oklahoma City last month.
He has been spending the week with Lockwood at PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas.
Kolbaba jumped up on the back of the bucking chutes following his ride and aggressively slapped Lockwood’s hand in celebration.
“I expect Derek to ride every time he nods his head, just like I expect of myself and he expects of me,” Lockwood said. “We both are handling the pressure really well and doing really good with it. I think we both have matured.”
Both riders will be competing in Saturday night’s Frontier Communication’s Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki.
Neither rider has ever competed inside AT&T Stadium – the massive home of the Dallas Cowboys.
“I wouldn’t really say there will be nerves,” Kolbaba said. “I would say excited. When it comes down to it, I kind of block all of the stands out. It is a great pen we are starting out with and the second round is the rank pen.
If all goes his way on Friday night at THE AMERICAN Semi-Finals, Kolbaba will be riding alongside his pal Lockwood at THE AMERICAN 24 hours after competing at Iron Cowboy.
Kolbaba then will have the opportunity to ride for the coveted $1 million.
“I know my bank account would be looking pretty good, for sure,” Kolbaba said. “It is exciting. It is cool to see where the event has gone and how everything is progressing in the right way.
“This is a big weekend for bull riding and rodeo.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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