SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – J.B. Mauney walked off the shark cage inside the Denny Sanford Premier Center with his left arm locked tight to the side of his body Saturday night.
Mauney, trying to keep a smile on his face, was doing all he could to not to show any sort of pain on his face following his 15/15 Bucking Battle winning 94.25-point ride on Pearl Harbor.
He then made his way to his daughter, Bella, and lifted her high into the air before posing for some photos.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert was off to the side watching Mauney’s celebration and said, “It is a big deal for a lot of guys, but J.B. rides hurt. J.B. is the best bull rider in the world for a reason because he is tough and gets it done. You watch him walking out of here. He still hasn’t let his arm drop down because his elbow is sore.
“Riding a rank one like that makes you feel better.”
The ride was the second-best of Mauney’s 11-year career and it had the sell-out crowd of 9,434 on its feet.
“That was big time stuff,” said CBS Sports Network Commentator Justin McBride. “That is as good of a ride I have seen in a long time. Not only from J.B., but from anybody. That is a bull that is really high on my list. I think he is a great bull and he is getting better every time. That was big time stuff, especially coming off of a chute injury and aggravating an injured nerve in his elbow.
Mauney (68 career 90-point rides) is now seven rides away from passing McBride (74) for second all-time on the list of career 90-point rides.
And it almost never happened.
Mauney was unable to attempt his bull in the first round Friday at the First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Invitational this weekend after Speed Dial forcefully jerked the defending World Champion forward inside the bucking chute.
Mauney immediately grimaced in pain and hopped out of the chutes, before crouching down and grabbing at his left elbow (riding arm). The 29-year-old then walked off the chutes and back to sports medicine after he began to lose feeling in his hand.
The defending World Champion has had chronic elbow issues for years, and Dr. Tandy Freeman said that Mauney likely pinched or stretched a nerve in his riding elbow, which led to the numbness.
It wasn’t an issue of pain for Mauney, but rather that his hand had literally frozen up on him. It took 10 minutes for Mauney to finally regain some sort feeling and control of his hand.
On Saturday afternoon, Mauney got to the arena early to have the elbow examined again by PBR Sports Medicine.
“I come in here and let them work on it,” Mauney said. “I talked to Tandy and he said do away with that brace and go back to taping it. That is what I did. It felt a lot better. I think I bent that brace a little bit and it wasn’t fitting quite right. I think that is partially what happen to it when that bull snatched me. So it is back to letting them tape it again.”
Mauney’s 70.75-point ride of Unwound later that evening was not encouraging, especially considering he once again grabbed at his elbow following the ride before shaking his head to decline his offered re-ride.
It was partially a strategic choice. Mauney, knowing he would need to be as healthy as possible for that night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle, decided keeping himself fresh would give him the best chance at covering Pearl Harbor for a successful 8 seconds.
“I was trying to save myself,” Mauney said. “I figured I might as well get on the bull I have to instead of getting on the re-ride. Younger, five or six years ago J.B. would have taken the re-ride and kept on going. Age starts playing a little difference. I kind of played my cards I was dealt and it worked out.”
After learning in 2015 that sometimes it is better to rest an injury instead of trying to fight through it, why didn’t the world leader decide to pull out of the weekend and rest his injured elbow?
“Well, I am the worse one on myself about being weak-hearted and not being a cowboy,” Mauney said. “Last night I was so mad because I couldn’t come back and there was no way I was going to be able to hold onto my bull rope.”
Once Mauney informed the PBR he was going to be competing in Round 2 on Saturday night, McBride knew the elbow wasn’t going to be an issue for Mauney.
“I can’t tell you exactly how much pain he is feeling or what his tolerance is, but I can say this,” McBride said. “On that bull, you take out the injured nerve in his elbow. It doesn’t matter. Injured nerve or not, if he gets into the wrong position that bull is going to bring it really hard. To me the injury wasn’t a big deal once he made up his mind to get on. It wasn’t a big deal because either way, with it or without it, he had to be perfect.”
Pearl Harbor was certainly close to perfect, even with Mauney taking him for an 8-second adventure. The 4-year-old bovine athlete was scored a career-best 46.75 points.
Owner and stock contractor Jeremy Walker was in awe of Mauney and the 1,800-pound beast that had already tormented some of the best riders in the PBR.
“I am a J.B. Mauney fan, so he was the one we wanted on him,” Walker said. “We are glad he came back from the injuries and was able to ride him like that. I didn’t want no part of throwing J.B. off. You want him to ride him and be however many he was. That is what I like to see.”
While the ride didn’t crack the PBR’s list of Top 50 ride scores, it did impress a slew of riders on the back of the bucking chutes and inside the locker room.
On Sunday, rookie Nevada Newman saw a CBS Sports Network graphic of Mauney’s Top-5 career rides.
J.B. Mauney’s Top-5 Rides
1. 95.25 points on Bushwacker (2013 Tulsa, Oklahoma)
2. 94.25 points on Pearl Harbor (2016 Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
3. 94 points on Percolator (2014 World Finals, Las Vegas)
4. 93.75 points on Black Pearl (2009 World Finals, Las Vegas)
4. 93.75 points on Crosswired (2008 World Finals, Las Vegas)
“Those are some crazy scores,” Newman said in amazement. “You don’t see that on this caliber of bulls. That is cowboy stuff.”
Mauney, finished the weekend 14th in Sioux Falls, but he will take a 243.01-point lead in the world standings on No. 2 Fabiano Vieira into the Bad Boy Mowdown in Little Rock, Arkansas, next weekend thanks to the 150 points he earned for winning his third consecutive 15/15 Bucking Battle.
The 29-year-old doesn’t expect the elbow injury to get in the way of a potential third gold buckle this year.
“It has been torn up for a long time,” Mauney said. “I have dealt with it pretty much my whole career. It is something I dealt with. As long as I do my job right and stay out over them bulls, it really don’t ever hurt me. It is same old same old. It may be a little worse. Scar tissue builds up in there and things like that.
“The older I get and the longer I ride bulls, everything gets worse and worse, but it’s nothing to complain about.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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