PUEBLO, Colo. – 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel doesn’t think the reality of competing against 14 other legendary bull riding champions will truly sink in until Friday night when he hangs up his new bull rope inside the Bismarck Event Center.
One thing that has already clicked for him, though, is the fact that he couldn’t have asked for a better bull to draw for Round 1 of Chad Berger’s $100,000 Match of Champions.
Teel is slated to face Catfish John during his first event back following left ankle surgery in March.
“You can be 88-90 points on him every time,” Teel said. “A guy can’t ask for a better draw than that every time.”
Match of Champions Round 1 matchups
Cole Melancon vs. Shelley’s Gangster (10-9, All levels)
Dakota Louis vs. Biker Bob (14-2, All levels)
Shane Proctor vs. More Big Bucks (62-27, All levels)$
Cody Teel vs. Catfish John (53-18, All levels)
Wesley Silcox vs. Rocket Man (19-2, All levels)
Mike Lee vs. Soup in a Group (7-1, All levels)
Cody Jesus vs. Something Magical (18-3, All levels)
Silvano Alves vs. Gambini (28-6, All levels)*
Corey Bailey vs. Wicked Stick (24-8, All levels)
J.W. Harris vs. Rising Sun (10-7, All levels)
Renato Nunes vs. Red Bandana (28-7, All levels)
Sage Kimzey vs. Midnight Rain (7-0, All levels)
J.B. Mauney vs. Livin’ Large (30-4, All levels)*
Jess Lockwood vs. South Texas Gangster (10-5, All levels)
Cooper Davis vs. Stretch (9-1, All levels)
$Rider has previously ridden the bull
Fans can watch the event, as well as the preceding Touring Pro Division event, exclusively on RidePass beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Teel nearly selected Catfish John during the championship round draft in Bismarck last year.
“I have wanted to get on him for a while,” Teel said. “I was going to pick him last year and he went one ahead of me. I had a hard time passing up on him in Albuquerque too. There has been some close calls for encountering him.”
The two have yet to matchup, but Catfish John has been historically great for right-handed bull riders.
Catfish John is 21-16 against known right-handed bull riders, according to ProBullStats, and he is 53-18 at all levels of competition. He has been ridden in four of five outs this season.
The veteran bovine athlete was most recently ridden by Claudio Montanha Jr. for 89.5 points in Billings, Montana.
“From what I have seen, you still have to pay attention on him because he can easily want you down in there,” Teel said. “He can get you stretched out and he has a lot of front end movement. He comes off the ground with a lot of momentum. He has a sweet spot obviously. Silvano (Alves) has found it many times, and Cooper (Davis) finds it many times. He is still a top caliber bull, and you can’t stub your toe on him, but at the same time, if you do your job he has a good seat on him.”
The 26-year-old was recently cleared to return to competition last week after Dr. Jacob Zide inserted four screws and two plates into Teel’s ankle in March after he was stepped on by Little Bob in Glendale, Arizona, on March 24.
Teel was ranked eighth in the world at the time of his injury, and he is 19-for-35 (54.29 percent) with five Top-5 finishes this season.
He heads into the Dakota Community Bank & Trust Touring Pro Division event 11th in the world standings.
“I am doing good,” Teel said. “I am feeling good. I followed up with a local orthopedic surgeon and he X-rayed it. Everything looks good. The fracture has healed and everything. I have been feeling good. I am a little sore here and there from just working all the kinks out, but I am feeling good.
Teel said he plans on attempting a practice bull or a few on Thursday before heading to Bismarck on Friday morning.
“The last few weeks I have been pretty well been able to do everything normal working out as I would have on a normal basis,” Teel added. “It has been feeling good. I feel like I am back in shape and as good as I was before I got hurt. It has been good getting ready.
Teel is hopeful that a few practice bulls, as well as his Round 1 matchup against Rebound at the Touring Pro Division event, will kick any rest off him before the Match of Champions.
He added that it would be a truly significant victory if he could win the inaugural Match of Champions.
Teel also is hopeful that the Match of Champions will become an annual event.
“I don’t think everybody really knows how big of a deal it is going to be,” Teel said. “It is really going to be a big weekend, and hopefully it is something that can continue for years to come. It can become one of the biggest events of the year and grow and be more and more prestigious year in and year out. With just that group of guys, it is really cool.
“It is going to be a big-time deal”
The event winner of the Match of Champions will be the bull rider with the highest aggregate score across two nights of competition. The winner of each round takes home $25,000, and the event winner will receive $50,000.
There is also a $40,000 Montana Silversmiths belt buckle, a $12,000 custom-saddle, a rifle, spurs and 500x American hat awaiting the winner.
“After seeing that buckle, I am really excited,” Teel concluded. “That is the kind of buckle I would be strapping on my belt for sure if I win it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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