SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – J.B. Mauney wasn’t ready to do much celebrating two weeks ago in Glendale, Arizona, following his 85.75-point ride on Running Through The Jungle in Round 1 of the Ak-Chin Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
Mauney had an intense look on his face as he began to unwrap his riding glove from his left hand deep inside the locker room.
His tone of voice was a mixture of attitude, anger and swagger.
“I have rode like shit,” Mauney said before noting his confidence hasn’t been where it has needed to be. “I needed something. This sport is all about pride and confidence. If you don’t have either one you ain’t making the whistle. I rode good, but I got off like shit.”
The sourness in his voice was only amplified by the end of the weekend as Mauney went on to buck off Stage Fright in 6.55 seconds in Round 2 and Black Rose in 2.81 seconds during the championship round.
The competitive fire that Mauney has had during his 13-year career has been amplified in 2018 as he has struggled to overcome a multitude of injuries to his ribs, groin and right shoulder, which he is still less than nine months removed from career-threatening surgery.
However this upcoming weekend is a good reminder of never counting out the two-time World Champion.
The PBR is making its fourth stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with the First Premier Bank Premier Bankcard Invitational beginning on Friday night. It was only two years ago when Mauney defied the injury odds to post the second-best ride of his career.
Mauney had numbness in his elbow and hand, likely because of a pinched nerve 24 hours earlier when he was jerked forward inside the bucking chute, to ride Pearl Harbor for 94.25 points to win his third career 15/15 Bucking Battle.
There was a sell-out crowd of 9,343 people in attendance at the Denny Sanford Premier Center that night.
“To think about J.B.’s great ride on Pearl Harbor, it means something to the people that got to see it, and it means something to me because I was there,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “I was there when he rode Bushwacker. I was there when he rode Pearl Harbor. Those things mean something.
“J.B. has had so many that if you named any other bull rider that would probably be at the top of their (list). It has to be up there pretty high with J.B. That is as good a ride as you will see, but it has to be way up there.”
The ride is the best in the PBR’s brief history in Sioux Falls, which has become one of the marquee events on the Unleash The Beast calendar.
Mauney is third all-time with 72 90-point rides and needs only three more to pass two-time World Champion Justin McBride for second.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy, though, hasn’t surpassed the 90-point threshold in almost a year. It has been 362 days since he rode SweetPro’s Bruiser for 94.25 points last season in Billings, Montana.
It is the longest Mauney has gone without a 90-point ride at the PBR’s top level since going 344 days between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
For what it is worth, Mauney didn’t post a single 90-point ride on the premier series during the first halves of his 2013 and 2015 championship seasons. He posted eight 90s in both second halves.
The No. 29 ranked bull rider in the world standings is 6-for-18 this season in seven events. He hasn’t ridden more than one bull at a UTB event since the season-opener in New York.
“J.B. is a really good bull rider where he is at right now,” Lambert said. “I don’t think he is a really good bull rider by his standards. He is a really good bull rider by everyone else’s standards, but not very good by his standards.
“We haven’t seen the last greatness out of J.B., for sure, but I doubt we ever see the consistency out of J.B. that we have seen before this. At some point, age, and it is not just the years, it is the miles. By the miles, I mean miles of wrecks and bumps and bruises. Those things in a contact sport at some point slow your body down.”
Mauney has drawn Picking Up Pennies (2-1, PBR UTB) for Round 1 on Friday night. Fans can watch the action exclusively on RidePass beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
He may be 29th in the world standings, but he is only 1,360 points behind world leader Ramon de Lima.
At this point last year, eventual World Champion Jess Lockwood was ranked second in the world standings and was 1,217.5 points behind leader Eduardo Aparecido.
That is a difference of 142.5 world points.
Therefore, even though Mauney isn’t riding at his normal standards, he is very much alive in this world title race as injuries to a slew of riders and poor riding by others has led to no one opening up a wide margin.
Mauney is actually closer today in points in the standings than he was heading into Sioux Falls last year, when he was 2,077.09 points behind.
Lambert said on Tuesday he isn’t ready to say Mauney cannot win another world title before his career is over.
“He obviously has shown us he can come back from an injury, and he can ride through the pain,” Lambert said. “That is the things it takes to win. At some point, the mental crosses over with the physical ability. I don’t expect J.B. to be as consistent as he was, but I still think he might win another World Championship. He is that much of a competitor.”
That competitiveness was on display inside the locker room in Glendale.
Mauney is never going to ramble off a series of stats or point deficits, but his awareness of opportunity is always very keen.
He is well aware that this year’s title race is far from over, which only adds to his frustrations when he hits the dirt.
Mauney was hard at work during the Easter Break with Stormy Wing. The two worked out at Mauney’s ranch and attempted practice bulls with tennis shoes this week.
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Mauney has made a career out of riding through pain, injuries and all of the above.
He admitted in Glendale that not being able to mentally convince his body to do something has been frustrating this season.
Mauney would be the first to admit he isn’t riding up to standard, and he knows injuries are a part of it.
But he also refuses to ever use them as an excuse.
Excuses are outside of his bull riding DNA.
“I have always been able to deal with the crap I have had going on and pushed through it,” Mauney said. “I have always said if you can’t deal with pain, you might as well not ride bulls; and once you hit 30, that shit starts catching up with you.
“Everything else has started snowballing on me because I didn’t really listen when I was younger taking care of things, which is no excuse.
“I should still be able to ride them.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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