PUEBLO, Colo. – With three days remaining until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, PBR.com will take a look at the Top 5 riders in the world standings before the stretch run to the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals officially begins.
Today, we look at Derek Kolbaba, who is currently third in the world standings.
FIRST HALF RECAP: Kolbaba has already qualified for the PBR World Finals in each of his first two seasons, but now the 21-year-old has entered his first World Championship race.
Kolbaba may become the fourth 21-year-old to win the PBR world title thanks to a career-best 37.25-percent riding percentage, a career-high two event victories and two fourth-place finishes in 16 events.
The Walla Walla, Washington, native is 19-for-52 this season at the BFTS level and only needs one more ride to set a new career-high for qualified rides in a season.
Kolbaba’s victories in Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Arkansas, put him alongside world leader Eduardo Aparecido (3), No. 2 Kaique Pacheco (2), No. 4 Jess Lockwood (2) and No. 7 Stormy Wing (2) as the only riders with multiple event wins in 2017.
Kolbaba is 785 points behind Aparecido for the No. 1 ranking.
BEST FIRST HALF PERFORMANCE: Faced with the task of conquering 2016 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser, Kolbaba didn’t back down from the challenge in Oklahoma City in January.
Kolbaba was able to fight every second of the way and ride the reigning World Champion Bull for a career-high 92 points and his first win of 2017.
The ride was a demonstration of the potential the young cowboy has as one of the PBR’s rising stars.
Overall, Kolbaba went 3-for-3 in Oklahoma City, which was one of three instances where he rode three or more bulls in one event.
FIRST HALF TOP RIDE: 92 points on SweetPro’s Bruiser (Oklahoma City)
KOLBABA USES QUEBEC WIN FOR SUMMER DOMINANCE: Kolbaba led all PBR riders this summer by earning 430 points toward the world standings.
Kolbaba earned 300 of those points by winning the first PBR Canada International Major in Quebec City, Quebec. The Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider used impressive rides on Funky Junk (89.5 points), Time Bomb (87.5 points) and Pneu-Dart’s Doomsday (88.5 points) for the first of his two summer victories.
He followed up his Quebec victory by winning night one of the Bismarck, North Dakota, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event with an 88-point ride on American Gangster and 89 points on BC Circular Insanity.
Kolbaba concluded his summer run 9-for-17 (52.94 percent) in seven PBR-sanctioned events. He also spent time hitting up the PRCA rodeo trail part-time.
NO MORE BUCKOFF STREAKS: When it comes to Kolbaba, it would be pretty hard for the third-year pro to do much worse than he did during the 2016 second half.
Kolbaba posted only one qualified ride in the final three months of the season and ended 2016 with 24 consecutive buckoffs.
It is highly unlikely Kolbaba will perform that poorly again, but the key will be for him to avoid long buckoff streaks as he tries to win his first world title.
RELATED: Kolbaba gains ground on Aparecido.
Kolbaba has been a historically streaky rider at times, and this year he has had buckoff streaks of 13 and six.
With only 10 events remaining in the regular-season, any buckoff streak that stretches multiple events can possibly spell doomsday for any rider trying to win it all.
“It should be fun,” Kolbaba said. “I am really excited. There are 10 events left and we just have to be the most consistent bull rider in those 10 events and go into the World Finals a hot one.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said Kolbaba’s balance has helped him succeed this season.
“He has a lot of ability and a lot of talent,” McBride said. “There are a couple of little things here and there technical wise that is not there for me with him. But it is not a big deal at all to fix. There are times he doesn’t do mistakes and that is when he is successful. He has a bright future. He rides really, really good with great balance.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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