Since childhood, Matt Triplett has dreamed of earning money in the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series. He just never dreamed it would happen so early.
Neither did his father, Pat Triplett, a former bull rider who is in awe over his 19-year-old son’s rapid rise to the sport’s highest level. The younger Triplett is one of two Montanans on the PBR circuit, along with family friend and mentor Beau Hill of West Glacier.
“We knew he could make it but when it comes so soon, it’s kind of overwhelming,” Pat Triplett said. “You stand back and go, ‘Oh my God, he made it. He did it.’”
“That dream that we all dreamt for him – his dream, my dream, my whole family’s dream – it’s come true. You couldn’t make a father any prouder.”
After graduating from Columbia Falls High School last year, Matt Triplett planned to attend the University of Montana but quickly saw that college didn’t fit in with his professional bull riding ambitions, even if he was already participating in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) events.
Triplett wanted to make it to the big leagues – the PBR Built Ford Tough Series – and he knew it would take complete dedication. He moved to Texas and began practicing as often as he could.
Since last fall, Triplett has participated in two Built Ford Tough Series rodeos and a number of other PBR qualifying events. He is ranked 31st out of 257 riders listed in the standings for the Touring Pro Division, considered the PBR minor leagues. And he’s ranked 59th in the Built Ford Tough Series – the major leagues of bull riding.
“I wanted to pursue my dream,” Triplett said. “And I figured you can only ride bulls until you’re 30, maybe, so I figured I wanted to ride while I’m young and still can.”
“I didn’t think I was going to get on (the PBR tour) this early at all,” he added. “It was actually pretty surprising. I’m only 19.”
If Triplett had stayed in college, he could have continued working his way up the PRCA standings while balancing both the social and academic demands of university life. He would be considered a professional bull rider. But now, he is truly a professional bull rider in every sense.
Triplett has no other job nor does he really even have a permanent residence, though he spends much of his free time – while still training – at his parents’ place outside of Columbia Falls. His father raises bulls for rodeos and operates a training arena for bull riders on their Columbia Falls property.
“I’m never at home,” Triplett said. “I leave on Wednesday and get home Sunday.”
Pat Triplett watched his son ride at the U.S. Air Force Invitational in Pueblo, Colo., in late May. It was one of two Built Ford Tough events that Matt has participated in and it was the moment when Pat truly realized his son had made it to the big time.
“It kind of brought tears to my eyes when they were announcing him,” Pat said. “It was very emotional for me. That’s when it sunk in that he was the real deal – that he’s in the top 50, top 40, in the world.”
Matt Triplett won multiple state bull riding championships in high school and has continued his winning ways at the professional level, though not yet in a Built Ford Tough event. In early May, he took first place at the PBR Halifax Invitational in Nova Scotia.
A YouTube video shows Triplett riding a bull in the championship round for a full eight seconds and then performing an acrobatic back flip off the arena rail in celebration. He earned $6,630 for the victory and has earned a total of $14,123 on the PBR tour.
“Now I’m just trying to win a Built Ford Tough (event),” he said.
Triplett will continue entering qualifying events to raise his point and money total in the hopes of becoming eligible for more Built Ford Tough Series rodeos. One event on his radar is the Stanley Tools and Security Invitational presented by Cooper Tires in Billings Aug. 5-7.
And then he’ll set his sights on the big one, the granddaddy of all professional bull riding events: the World Finals on Oct. 26-30 in Las Vegas.
No longer is bull riding a hobby for Triplett. It’s now his life.
“If you ride good enough,” he said, “you should be able to live off it.”