Columbia Falls native ties for No.7 in world standings

By Justin Felisko EBS Contributor

PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Triplett lay helplessly on the ground inside the Denny Sanford Premier Center with his arms flailing in the air as Bottoms Up had come crashing to the ground during Triplett’s ride attempt in round two of the First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Invitational in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nearly crushing his knee to pieces in the process.

“It is an adrenaline rush,” Triplett said. “I am just happy he didn’t roll all the way over me. A 2,000-pound bull can roll all over me. Yeah, it is a little scary, but it is scary every time you nod your head. You just have to deal with it and move on.”

It was also another reminder to Triplett, who went on to win the Built Ford Tough Series event 24 hours later, that his career—and life—can be over in milliseconds as a professional bull rider.

The close call reiterated what his father Pat had talked to him about prior to Matt packing his bags and heading to South Dakota.

Pat Triplett had called his son a few days after the Ak-Chin Invitational in Glendale, Arizona, to give some fatherly advice.

No, it wasn’t pretty either.

Matt had just finished the event zero-for-two with buckoffs of 1.92 and 2.63 seconds, and Pat decided it was time for his son to hear some harsh criticism.

“I am very proud of him,” the elder Triplett said. “I have always been proud of him, but it just came to a point where I had to tell him you can either be digging a ditch for $10 an hour or you can keep your hand shut.”

The always brutally honest father continued, “I told him, ‘Dude you have to pull your head out of your ass. … Where is the kid that grew up riding everything with hair? The want? The try? Where is it at? Where are you in your life you don’t want to try so hard?’ He didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. I told him you are better than that. I told him the reality of bull riding. You can do what you are doing and get cut from tour and have to start over. There is a lot of money to be won.”

Most of all, he reminded his son that a year ago his season was basically ended when he sustained a left shoulder injury in Sioux Falls that needed to be surgically fixed.

Therefore, he shouldn’t take his career for granted.

“There may not be a next week,” Pat said. “He may get hurt. That is what I was explaining. This deal could be done tomorrow. All of the bull riders know that. So why not take advantage of what you have to the fullest?”

Matt took his dad’s advice to heart and went three-for-four in Sioux Falls to earn his first BFTS victory since February 2015 in Anaheim, California.

For the victory, he earned 625 points and was propelled to No. 9 in the world standings.

Heading to an April 7-9 event in his home state, the Stanley Performance in Action Invitational in Billings, Matt said, “I have to thank everything I have done this week to my dad.

“He really talked to me and pulled my head together. He was just pretty disgusted with me last weekend. I didn’t even make it 4 seconds on two bulls. It really sunk in. I just love it that he is there to support me.”

Pat said he was just doing what any other good dad would do.

“I don’t care who he is. He is just my kid,” Pat said. “It is just being a parent. At the end of the day, it is being a dad. There is nothing special about that.”

Quite the contrary, his son countered.

Matt considers his dad one of his best friends and loves everything his dad has taught him in and out of the arena.

Pat competed as a bull rider in local and pro rodeos for 15 years. He would travel sometimes 24 hours to compete for just the chance at winning $1,000.

Matt can remember his dad bringing him to Rimrock Auto Arena for PBR events as a kid and those times where he would get grounded for “mouthing off” a little too much.

Then, of course, he will never forget the tears they both shed when he won his first of two Montana State High School Rodeo bull riding titles as a teenager.

“I love him and I appreciate everything he teaches me,” Matt said while holding his Sioux Falls victory belt buckle. “My dad is my biggest supporter. He trains me mentally. He helps with my moves. He has been my supporter my whole life. I love it.”

Pat, who also hauls bulls to select Built Ford Tough Series events, said he doesn’t pull punches when it comes to giving fatherly advice.

It’s something his father taught him, and it’s something he has passed down to his son.

In Billings, with his dad watching, Matt finished seventh highlighted by a round two-winning 88.25-point ride aboard Red Sails in the Sunset. He earned 115 points and moved up one place in the world standings to No. 8.

After a one week break, Matt and the Built Ford Tough series traveled to Washington state where the Montanan finished 10th in the Tacoma Invitational presented by Cooper Tires, and second in the final 15/15 Bucking Battle of the first half of the season. With one event left before the summer break, Matt is now tied for No.7 in the world standings, but is questionable for the next event after spraining his wrist in round two in Tacoma.

The Built Ford Tough Series will next travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Last Cowboy Standing at Helldorado Days, May 12-13, the third major of the season and final stop before the summer break. The two-day event offers increased world points and $100,000 for the last cowboy standing in the unique “ride or go home” format. The action from Las Vegas will begin May 12 at 8:30 p.m. mountain time on PBR Live and the PBR Live app.

CBS Sports Network will also broadcast the opening rounds on May 12 beginning with the “Inside the PBR Majors” pre-show starting at 8:30 p.m. mountain time. The final rounds of Last Cowboy Standings can be seen on CBS starting at 2 p.m. mountain time on May 14.

Justin Felisko is Senior Writer/Editor for Professional Bull Riders, the world’s premier bull riding organization. He has contributed to SiriusXM Radio, 120 Sports, The New York Times, USA Hockey, the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Emmy-nominated documentary series, “Fearless.” He would name a bull “Caffeine-a-holic” if he were given the chance.