SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Sweat was pouring down Jess Lockwood’s face on Friday night as his upper lip quivered in anger.
Lockwood had just been bucked off by Too Smooth in 7.76 seconds during Round 1 of the PFIWestern.com Invitational, presented by Bass Pro Shops, at JQH Arena.
It was Lockwood’s third buckoff between 7 and 8 seconds in the last three weeks, and the second-year pro knew he let another golden opportunity to pass him by.
“Pitiful,” Lockwood said to 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis to the side of rider walk off.
The No. 3 man in the world standings will get another chance at taking a chunk out of world leader Kaique Pacheco’s lead Saturday night with arguably the marquee matchup of the 15/15 Bucking Battle against 2016 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser.
“Oh heck, greatest bull you could ever ask for,” Lockwood said. “Me, (Cody) Lambert and (Justin) McBride were talking. The only thing I have to do is just not get too excited. I just need to keep riding because he is going to feel so good and feel great to ride. You are going to be at a point where if you get lazy he will buck you off because he feels so good. You are going to think, ‘Oh, I got it knocked out, but you have to keep riding.’”
It won’t be an easy home run for Lockwood, though.
It was only one year ago that Lockwood was bucked off by Bruiser at the 2016 Young Guns Challenge in Decatur, Texas, in 6.57 seconds.
Lockwood explained on Friday his buckoff was less about getting lazy in Decatur, but rather getting his left foot caught underneath Bruiser’s armpit.
“We watched that one over,” Lockwood said. “He felt awesome, but then he just had that direction change. It sounds crazy, but my foot got caught under his armpit actually. That will happen every once in a while. When they hit the ground and pinch, it will pull you toward whatever leg and it did. I was a little bit out of there and couldn’t get back.”
Fans can watch this weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle Sunday at 3 p.m. ET exclusively on CBS national television.
Bruiser is 7-3 this season with an average bull score of 45.83 points. He arrives in Springfield fresh off a 1.9-second buckoff of 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel last weekend in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
However, Bruiser was only marked 45.25 points and didn’t have the same fire and explosion that he showed in the first half.
Dillon Page of D&H Cattle Company said on Friday night that Bruiser – the No. 2 bull in the World Champion Bull standings – is still trying to get back to full strength after spending the majority of the summer out on cows.
Lockwood knows he can’t overestimate Bruiser and overreact to having a matchup that could potentially land him his first career 15/15 Bucking Battle victory, but he certainly is confident.
“He is a pretty rider-friendly bull, and I have been riding pretty good,” Lockwood said. “I would say everyone is a little crazy if they don’t take me because we are fixing to be a pile of points.”
Bruiser has been ridden by two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney (94.25 points), Stormy Wing (95.25 points) and Derek Kolbaba (92 points) in BFTS competition this season.
H.D. Page said he sometimes wishes Bruiser was a little more wild and unpredictable, but the 6-year-old bull is built for riders to make history on.
“I wish Bruiser was a little more out of line at times, but he don’t have a big belly roll,” H.D. said last month. “He isn’t phony. He is just up and down. Them guys have been training their whole life since they were 4 years old riding the drop barrel. They train their whole life to ride bulls like Bruiser. Bulls that rear and drop and kick and spin. That is what they are trying to do.
“If you can keep up with him, you will probably win first.”
A first-place finish would earn Lockwood 150 points toward the world standings and help his pursuit of becoming the youngest World Champion in PBR history.
The 2016 Rookie of the Year is 580 points behind Pacheco in the world standings and has done a good job converting in the championship round and 15/15 Bucking Battles (7-for-11) this season.
The seven rides are tied for the second-most in the PBR with Eduardo Aparecido and Davis and one behind Pacheco’s eight.
Those performances in the rankest rounds of competition has Lockwood on the doorstep of a potential first world title.
“If you are not riding championship round and 15/15 bulls, you aren’t getting anywhere because that is the time to bear down and get the job done,” Lockwood said. “You have to close it out and be clutch.”
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