NEW YORK – Cannon Cravens may not be on the Unleash The Beast full time just yet, but that does not mean he doesn’t have the ultimate respect of one of the PBR’s active World Champions.
2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood has known Cravens since the rookie bull rider was 15 years old, and he expects Cravens to quickly rise up the PBR rankings just as he did when he was an 18-year-old rookie three years ago.
“He came up and stayed at my house for a week before in 2016,” Lockwood said. “He is a great friend and he rides incredible. We are going to have to be pretty damn sticky if we are going to beat him.”
Lockwood was not able to beat Cravens on Friday night, but he was able to match him for the Round 1 victory at the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden, presented by Ariat.
Cravens struck first with 88.25 points on 4860 Bandit before Lockwood later answered his ride with his own 88.25 points on 5N Bandit.
The two bull riders split the opening round victory of the 2019 season for 100 world points.
Cravens was put on the chute clock and did not nod for the gate until there were four seconds remaining.
“I was on the clock for a while and I finally nodded and it worked out,” Cravens said. “That bull was leaning there pretty bad and I was afraid to take him how he was. I was down to four seconds so I had to.”
Cravens is now 11th in the early 2019 world standings.
He needs every point he can get this weekend in New York if he hopes to ride at next weekend’s Chicago Invitational.
The Porum, Oklahoma, bull rider was the last alternate invited to New York.
Alternates for the first five events of the 2019 season are based upon a rider’s 2018 and 2019 world point totals.
Cravens would now be the second alternate for Chicago based upon his Round 1 victory Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
“That is a big part of it,” Cravens said. “I want to be there next weekend too. Just ride my bulls and I will be there. The points and money this weekend is all there. I just want to walk out on top.”
Cravens only turned 18 last May, but he still nearly qualified for the 2018 PBR World Finals.
He wound up missing the World Finals by only 92.5 points.
“Showing up to the Finals as an alternate last year, I honestly didn’t want to be there,” Cravens said. “I want to be there fair and square this year.”
Lockwood won the 2016 Rookie of the Year award and has qualified for the last three World Finals.
Has he offered any advice to Cravens?
“You know, I don’t give a whole lot of advice,” Lockwood said. “Since I have known him, I have just said keep up with what you’re doing. There is nothing I can tell him he don’t know.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Chase Outlaw (87.25 points on Striker for 60 world points), Claudio Montanha Jr. (86.25 points on Midnight Mystery for 45 world points) and Matt Triplett (86.25 points on Bone Tomahawk for 45 world points).
Lockwood also finished tied for second in the 15/15 Bucking Battle on Friday night with 89 points on Udder Lover.
The 21-year-old picked up another 82.5 world points to move himself to No. 5 in the world standings.
“That was a good bull,” Lockwood said. “That used to be one of H.D. and Dillon Page. Whenever you get one of theirs, you know they are going to buck their ass off. He sure did. He started out really good.
“I knew most of the time he was going to even out, but I just kept going at him. I wasn’t riding him like I was supposed to, but I kept moving my feet so it helped me finish.”
That season started off with a victory at Madison Square Garden, and now he is one step closer to another PBR Major victory inside one of the most famous sporting arenas in the world.
Lockwood takes on White Lightning (0-0, UTB) in Round 2 on Saturday night, while Cravens squares off against Missouri Golden (0-0, UTB).
Fans can watch Round 2 on RidePass at 6:45 p.m. ET and CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. ET.
“I told you I feel as good as I did in 2017 and even better,” Lockwood concluded. “I have better people in my life. I just all around am feeling good. I am excited.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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