PUEBLO, Colo. – Jess Lockwood looked up at the ceiling inside Rimrock Auto Arena and a boyish smile scrawled across his face as he shook his head in disbelief.
No, it wasn’t because the 18-year-old from Volborg, Montana, had the girl of his dreams say yes to go to prom with him.
Lockwood was gleaming because he had just ridden Modified Clyde for 90.5 points – the first 90-point ride of his career – and was well on his way to winning his first Built Ford Tough Series event in only his third BFTS event of his career.
It’s rare to see a young bull rider earn his first event buckle at the highest level of professional bull riding before even receiving his high school diploma.
Lockwood is one of five 18-year-olds to win a BFTS event and the second youngest all time. L.J. Jenkins was the youngest when he won the 2005 Columbus, Ohio, event at 18 years and 3 months old. The other three riders to win BFTS events at 18 years old are Travis Briscoe, Brian Canter and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee.
Understandably, the whole weekend in Billings, Montana, was a blur for Lockwood who won his first event with close to 25-30 friends and family in attendance.
In less than six months after celebrating his 18th birthday and purchasing his PBR permit, Lockwood is now ranked 14th in the world standings.
“It is kind of a blur really,” Lockwood said while his lips trembled from the adrenaline.
Lockwood was the final rider to nod his head in Round 3 and he didn’t disappoint his home state faithful before riding Modified Clyde to win the event and championship round.
Lockwood was able to remain upright as Alligator Arms tried to rear him way back in his first three jumps out of the chute before turning back away from Lockwood’s hand as the kid climbed to the front of the bovine athlete for an 89.5-point ride to win Round 3.
“He reared me back at first and then he hopped, skipped and turned back up there,” Lockwood said. “He had me really tipped out of there. I just had to work my but off and get back in there.”
Lockwood did admit he wasn’t happy with his finish on Alligator Arms, who absolutely slammed the 140-pound kid to the floor at the 8-second buzzer.
“I didn’t finish that ride,” he added. “He hopped, skipped through there and really set me up hard. He kind of had me sitting into my hand there, but I worked hard and got back over there. I felt somewhat good, the dismount wasn’t fun at all.”
The Round 3 ride, paired with his 86.75-point ride on Mi Vida Loca in Round 1 Friday night, had Lockwood set up to have a shot at winning the event if Cooper Davis were to stub his toe against Legal Tender in the championship round.
Davis was bucked off by Legal Tender in 4.38 seconds following Lockwood’s ride.
Lockwood was in the middle of a post-event interview with Steve Kenyon of SiriusXM Rural Radio when Davis made his way to the center of the arena to congratulate the kid on his first victory.
“Good job buddy. I am proud of you. That was good stuff,” said Davis.
Before the start of the championship round Davis said, “That kid is going to win a gold buckle in the next few years,” after watching Lockwood’s ride aboard Alligator Arms.
Lockwood is the latest rookie, and the youngest in the class, to hit the PBR by storm this season.
He is the second rookie to win an event this season, joining Wallace de Oliveira, who is double Lockwood’s age, to have earned a BFTS victory. Derek Kolbaba also won the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Anaheim, California.
Lockwood earned 745 points toward the world standings and rocketed from 24th to 14th in the world standings. Lockwood has earned 965 points in three events and has moved up 14 spots in the standings since debuting in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, ranked 28th in the world.
With world leader J.B. Mauney missing the Billings event, Lockwood is within 914.17 points of the defending two-time World Champion.
“You do have to beat the best to be the best,” Lockwood said. “J.B. Mauney wasn’t here so I can’t say that quite yet.”
Lockwood is 5-for-11 on the BFTS. Four of those rides have been good enough for BFTS round victories.
It took Mauney 12 events to win his first BFTS round in 2006, while it took three-time World Champion Silvano Alves 14. Alves won his BFTS debut in Nampa, Idaho, at 22 years old. Mauney won his first BFTS event in his 16th career event.
No rookie has ever won the PBR World Championship.
Kaique Pacheco, last season’s Rookie of the Year, came close though. Pacheco won seven BFTS rounds last season and finished just behind Mauney in the 2015 title race. Pacheco was just 21 at the time and showed it’s certainly possible for a rookie to make noise.
“That is what you dream of,” Lockwood said. “I have dreamt of it ever since I turned 18 and ever since I was little. Really, I expect myself to just show up and ride everything and just go from there. If it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t it wasn’t meant to be.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride has been helping mentor Lockwood while the kid lives at Cody Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas, and didn’t want to discount Lockwood’s talent, but cautioned about putting too high of expectations on the 18-year-old too soon.
“I am not going to talk to him about anything like that,” McBride said. “He knows that is always the goal. He knows that is the end game. That is the reason he started doing it in the first place, to be a World Champion.
“Right now though he is riding really, really good and he is proving it to himself that not only does he belong here, but he can win here. He has won a round at every event he’s been too. This week, it was a long round and a championship round, but now he has won the average.”
There is no hiding from the fact there is budding interest and excitement about Lockwood’s start to his career, but how does he make sure he doesn’t let his early success get to his head?
Well, he just plans on having the same attitude on the BFTS that he is going to take to a high school rodeo in Montana in two weeks.
“I was pretty relaxed and calm back there because I know I can do good here,” Lockwood concluded. “You just have to treat it like an old, high school rodeo and act like it is nothing new to you.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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