DECATUR, Texas ― The odds were already stacked against them.
Then, as the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge unfolded in front of a sold out Wise County Fairgrounds on Saturday night, those odds became all the more unfavorable for both J.B. Mauney and J.W. Harris.
In one of the most talked about matchups pitting the reigning PBR World Champion against the reigning PRCA Champion, it proved to be a grueling night of bull riding before they ever met up in the 1,000 Miles from Home $25,000 winner-take-all challenge featuring Mauney on Asteroid and Harris drawing Shepherd Hills Tested.
“The fans have always wanted to know who the best bull rider in the world was,” said Hart, who added the matchup was more about fans debating the PBR and PRCA then any sort of rivalry between Mauney and Harris.
“What a better place than Decatur, Texas?”
The championship round featured a bull pen equal to that of any Built Ford Tough Series with the likes of Stone Sober, David’s Dream, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, Jack Daniel’s After Party, Pound the Alarm and others.
Mauney rode Born Sinner for 87 points at 9:48 p.m. during the second-to-last out in the long round and then 42 minutes later bucked off Total Bull in the championship round.
The PBR fan favorite was wearing a protective left elbow brace for the first time in two seasons.
Thankfully for Mauney, the Touring Pro Division event ran 11 minutes longer than planned during a production meeting a day earlier with producers of both the live event and the PBR LIVE broadcast.
Asteroid, the World Champion Bull in 2012, was leaner and far more muscular than he was the last time he bucked at a BFTS event in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when Silvano Alves lasted seven seconds on the talented bovine.
In fact, four weeks ago Gene Melton, who has hauled and handled Asteroid admitted the prized Circle T Ranch bull was a little heavier than he’d have liked.
That wasn’t the case at all in Decatur.
During the opening ceremony he ran the length of the arena before heading to the back pen area, where he tore up a few back panels, hooked each horn under two separate panels and violently lifted them up over his head as got into another area of the pen.
“Oh yeah, I saw him picking them up back there,” Mauney said. “That (doesn’t) bother me.”
Overly energized, Asteroid hipped himself coming out of the gate when Mauney nodded his head at 10:44 p.m.—it was Mauney’s third effort in less than hour.
Mauney stayed square, but was too slow getting to the first corner.
Just like that, he was piled on his head in two seconds flat, while the judges marked Asteroid 46 points for his most impressive showing since Round 2 of last year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals when he was marked 46.25 points.
“It didn’t have anything to do with him,” said Mauney. “I was a little rusty. You can tell I (haven’t) been on any bulls in a couple weeks.”
He later added, “Even the bull I got on in the short round, you could tell I was just a tick behind. That long-round bull, he bucked, but he was just a good one to get on and I could ride him on round there. That those last two – Asteroid and that short- round bull of Cody (Ohl’s) – I was just a hair behind them and when you’re getting on bulls that buck like that you can’t be a hair behind.”
The Mooresville, N.C., native will compete again next week in his home state Touring Pro Division event in Asheville, North Carolina.
Mauney joked that, perhaps, he needs to reevaluate his summer plans.
However, when pressed on the issue of whether he’ll enter more events than originally planned he noted that he had already made plans with his wife, Lexie, to travel with her to rodeos – “I’ll go support her. She supports me enough” – while she spends the summer barrel racing.
“I feel good right now even getting piled up twice like that,” said Mauney. “Wrist didn’t hurt. Elbow didn’t hurt. We’ll see after next week how I feel.”
It wasn’t any easier of a night for Harris.
In fact, unlike Mauney, he did not leave Decatur saying he felt fine.
The Texas native was the seventh out of the opening round and after slamming his face off the head of Crazy Trip – like Mauney, he does not wear a protective helmet –blood still dripped from Harris’ nose more than two hours later as he readied himself in the bucking chute on the backside of Shepherd Hills Tested.
The same guy who just last week joked he didn’t need a foot to ride a bull when asked about his injured right foot during a teleconference said he didn’t need a nose either – although he indicated he was having trouble breathing through his blood-filled nostrils.
The entire left side of Harris’ face was bruised and noticeably swollen, while the end of his nose appeared to be pushed off to the right.
Despite the injury, Harris said his head felt fine and once it was time to put his hand in his rope he “blocked it all out.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you have a broken leg or a broken nose, you have to block it out,” continued Harris. “Your mind can talk your body into doing a lot of things it shouldn’t do, so I let the mental part take over and not worry about what’s wrong with my nose.”
The 27-year-old quickly nodded and nearly rode Tested before hitting the dirt at 6.17 seconds.
Tested has only been ridden three times in his career and, of his 74 victims, this is the longest anyone has lasted since February 2013 without making the whistle.
Tested was marked 45 points.
“He got me raised up – like he does to everybody – and I just never could get back down and go to the front on him,” Harris explained. “I just kept trying to cut the corner, hoping maybe I could beat him around there every time and I kind of got behind and he stuck me on my head.”
Harris added, “You can’t be mad if you try hard and land on the back of your head. He was just better than I was. You go on from it.”
J.W. Harris slammed his nose against Crazy Trip on Saturday night in Decatur, Texas. Photo by Keith Ryan Cartwright / PBR.com.
Afterward Justin McBride, who was joined by Brandon Bates and Amy Wilson on a PBR LIVE broadcast that streamed live on pbr.com, said Harris’ effort on Tested answered a lot of questions for him. Though the PBR newcomer bucked off both Tested and Long John at a BFTS event last month, the two-time World Champion-turned-broadcaster said he appreciates the effort and try and said he foresees Harris as a Top 5 contender.
Harris is also matched up against Bushwacker for a $50,000 bonus in two weeks at an event in Bismarck, North Dakota. That event will be streamed live on PBR LIVE.
Harris said whether the event is broadcast on CBS network television, the Internet or just a practice bull in his backyard, he gives 110 percent every time he nods his head.
“This is what the fans come to events for, to see the best bull riders in the world get on the best bulls in the world,” Hart concluded.
With the hype and build up in the weeks preceding the event there were less than 400 tickets remaining on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.
“I figured it would,” Mauney said of the heightened interest. “As soon as they matched me against (Harris) it was kind of PRCA against PBR and that drew a lot of people into it because some are for PRCA and some are for PBR and they’re going to talk trash back and forth to each other, so it’s smart on (Hart’s) part to draw more people into it.”
Earlier in the night, a standing room only crowd in excess of 5,000 watched hometown favorite Mike Lee, who was triple-entered, finish the event first and second.
Just last week, Lee won another TPD event in Uvalde, Texas.
He took home a total of $10,859.94, in Decatur and finished the night 2-for-5.
He rode Bruiser – the grandson of Little Yellow Jacket – in the opening round for 91 points.
That was his second entry in the event and then he rode David’s Dream for 88 points early in the championship round on a draw-back for his third entry. Those were the two highest scores of the event and with no one covering two bulls he earned the top two finishes.
The 30-year-old, who will celebrate his 31st birthday on June 11, is currently ranked fifth in the world standings and quickly gaining ground on Guilherme Marchi, Fabiano Vieira, Joao Ricardo Vieira and Silvano Alves.
“People are telling me I’m getting old,” said Lee, who seemed to favor his left arm after bucking off Shepherd Hills Trapper, “shoot, I want that bull back.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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