Leme captures PBR Cooper Tires Invitational victory
By Brandon Walker EBS SPORTS EDITOR
OKLAHOMA – In the second installment of professional bull riding’s return from the COVID-19 suspension of competition, the top ranked PBR rider in the world, Jose Vitor Leme, captured the commanding victory after completing all three of his rides on the weekend of May 9-10.
Taking place at the same arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma as the PBR competition on April 25-26, Leme finished with an event aggregate score of 261.50 to outlast his competition. He was followed by Cody Teel’s event score of 176, while reigning PBR Rookie of the Year, Dalton Kasel, finished just behind Teel at 175.75. Kasel boasted the highest-scoring ride from the competition, coming away with a 90.75 for his efforts on “Soup in a Group”.
“It’s nice to finally be back and see some of my friends and I’m excited that it’s all kicking back off,” said Kasel, a native of Muleshoe, Texas who reigned victorious at the Big Sky PBR last summer.
PBR amended one safety precaution for the May 9-10 competition by testing riders and staff members for COVID-19 more consistently to avoid possible infection and spread. PBR will hold one more competition in Okla. on May 16-17, before taking competitions to Sheridan, Wyoming on May 30.
Kasel remarked that the safety precautions haven’t been an obstacle, continuing to say that he and his fellow bull riders would do whatever necessary to ensure they can continue competing.
The arena remained empty as spectators are still not able to attend the events. Kasel described that the camaraderie between the riders has reached a new high as they can hear each other’s words of encouragement as they ride, without the lacking, usual crowd noise. “I can hear them yelling and know which one it is, so that’s pretty neat,” the 21-year-old said.
“These closed events are different, and we definitely miss the fans,” said PBR Commissioner Sean Gleason. “The beauty of bull-riding is this is a very exciting, adrenaline-fueled sport whether there’s a packed house or not. It did take the cowboys a bit of time to adjust to an arena without fans, but they got their motors running, and we had a great event with some spectacular rides.”
Gleason’s sentiment for the lack of spectators was one shared by Kasel, who said he imagines he is in the practice ring to help simulate the new environment. “It’s a whole lot quieter and I really miss not having fans and being able to interact with fans, so that’s been a little strange,” he said. “…It kind of wakes everybody else up also, including myself, [to] just how thankful we are for the fans and how blessed we are having them at events.”
With the victory, Leme extended his claim on the number one world ranking over Montana bull rider, Jess Lockwood, who is currently recovering from an injury and unable to compete. Jess’s brother, Jake Lockwood, placed inside of the top 10, finishing eighth overall for the weekend.