PUEBLO, Colo. – Stetson Lawrence knows he can’t think about what could have been when he steps inside AT&T Stadium on Saturday night for the Frontier Communication’s Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki.
With $100,000 up for grabs, Lawrence knows he can’t dwell on the past.
Still, one can’t blame for Lawrence for having some nightmarish flashbacks when he does get his rope ready for Round 1 of the PBR Major at 6:50 p.m. ET.
In 2015, Lawrence nearly won over $1 million in Arlington, Texas.
Lawrence finished second at the 2015 Iron Cowboy after bucking off Magic Train in 2.57 seconds during the final round of competition that paid out nearly $200,000 to winner Joao Ricardo Vieira.
Lawrence then bucked off Stone Sober in 7.73 seconds the following day during RFD-TV’s THE AMERICAN rodeo. At the time, Lawrence was a wild card invite and a ride would have advanced him to the Final 4 Shoot Out Round, where he would have been eligible to win a share of the $1 million prize offered to qualifiers.
“Two years ago, I went in as a qualifier for THE AMERICAN and got on Stone Sober and rode him for 7 seconds,” Lawrence recalled this past weekend in Kansas City, Missouri. “He shot out and didn’t want to go left anymore and I was still going left.”
Lawrence had a near déjà vu moment a year later.
He wasn’t eligible for the 2016 $1 million qualifier purse, but Lawrence almost won THE AMERICAN bull riding and $100,000 last year before another costly 7-second buckoff.
The Williston, North Dakota, bull rider had advanced to the Shoot Out Round with an 85-point bull ride on Footloose, but then bucked off Good Time Charlie at 7.44 seconds.
“If I could go back to that day, I could ride that bull every day,” Lawrence said. “It is in the past. It is over with. I was two tenths away from $100,000 last year, and that year before I had a chance at the $1 million and I fell off Stone Sober.”
Lawrence is hoping the third time is the charm this weekend.
The 28-year-old will be competing at his third Iron Cowboy on Saturday night, but Lawrence is already in Texas this week competing at The AMERICAN Semi-Finals in Fort Worth with the hopes of earning a wild card spot at THE AMERICAN.
The five bull riding wild cards 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.
Lawrence advanced out of the slack bull riding round Wednesday morning with an 81.5-point ride.
“I have been in those situations with all of that money and the best thing to do is not worry about it until it is in your pocket because there is no sense in thinking about it unless it is in your hand,” Lawrence said.
There were 18 riders advancing out of the slack.
Other noteworthy riders advancing included J.W. Harris (87), Luciano de Castro (87), Claudio Montanha Jr. (86.5), Cody Campbell (85.75 points), Silvano Alves (83.25 points), Cody Teel (74), Derek Kolbaba (66) and Jake Gowdy (57).
Nine of the 18 riders will compete on Wednesday night and the other nine on Thursday at Cowtown Coliseum. Any rider that makes a qualified ride will then ride one more bull on Friday night. The Top 5 in the event average, including slack results, will advance to THE AMERICAN as bull riding qualifiers.
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.
“That is about the only cool thing about not being in the Top 10 (of the PBR world standings) last year,” Lawrence said. “The only way to secure your spot is ride your bull and make it happen.”
Lawrence is only 5-for-20 (25 percent) this season, but he arrived in Texas fresh off a 10th-place finish in Kansas City and a sixth-place showing in Anaheim, California.
“I started off a little rough, but I have turned it around now and am feeling good,” Lawrence said. “The main thing is I am healthy. I am just staying focused and not letting the lows bring you down. Nothing strenuous.”
Lawrence is 3-for-7 at all competitions in AT&T Stadium with two second-place finishes.
He also finished second at the 2015 Last Cowboy Standing, which is the same format as Iron Cowboy.
“I wouldn’t say it is (more) confidence, but I just know there is so much at stake,” Lawrence said. “I just try a little harder, which is sad to say. I just like the adrenaline rush of big events.”
Iron Cowboy and THE AMERICAN combine for the Richest Weekend in Western Sports and Lawrence said there is no way to accurately describe the raucous environment of both events being held in such a famed NFL stadium.
“I couldn’t even tell you,” he said. “It gives you chills down your spine, especially when you make a good ride at the Iron Cowboy and THE AMERICAN.”
Therefore, will his third trip to AT&T Stadium finally pay off?
“Yeah, we are banking on that,” he concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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