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Sports

Columbia Falls Bull Rider Seeks Slot in World Finals

'Do-or-die time' at Billings PBR stop with World Finals approaching says Matt Triplett

By JOHN LETASKY with 406mtsports.com
Matt Triplett rides Loose Lips for 86.5 points during the second round fo the Professional Bull RIders Unleash the Beast tour stop in Nampa last weekend. | Photo courtesy Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media

Matt Triplett isn’t taking a position in the Professional Bull Riders World Finals for granted.

The Columbia Falls native is ranked 28th in the standings with the top 35 in the world qualifying for the season finale May 13-22 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The PBR stops in Billings Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the PBR Cooper Tires Invitational presented by Ariat at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark. It is the last event of the Unleash The Beast series regular season.

Thus, Triplett — a seven-time World Finals qualifier — has all the inspiration in the world to ride well in the Magic City. Triplett is seeking his first World Finals berth since 2019 as he didn’t qualify the previous two seasons due to injuries.

“I’ve got a good chance of making it (the World Finals), but I still need to get some points,” Triplett told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com.

Due to the format of the Billings event, Triplett said he is scheduled to ride Saturday and Sunday.

“I’m always excited to compete there. It’s a fun event and a big crowd and this is the last event before the Finals. It’s do-or-die time for guys getting close to the Finals,” Triplett said.

“It will be a good weekend to come watch bull riding.”

Triplett, 30, who lives in Canton, South Dakota, with his wife Cierra and 9-month-old daughter Evelyn, has another opportunity besides Billings to score points and put himself in good position for the World Finals. He is sixth in the Velocity Tour standings, just five points behind the leader, Brandon Davis.

The Velocity Tour Finals are May 6-7 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“I’ll ride there,” Triplett said. “I’m sitting sixth in the standings and will try to win the year-end deal there as well.

“They have a bonus ($50,000) at the Velocity Finals at the end of the year if you win it.”

The past couple of years have been trying at times for Triplett, who has career earnings of nearly $1.5 million since first joining the PBR in 2011.

The 2010 Columbia Falls High School graduate injured his left hip at an event in Salt Lake City on Aug. 21, 2020. Triplett missed the World Finals that year with the injury. When news broke late that October that Triplett would miss the 2020 World Finals, he was ranked 21st in the world standings and had earned $122,496.48 that season.

After having hip surgery and going through the recovery process, Triplett once again returned to the Unleash The Beast tour in March 2021 in Glendale, Arizona, for the sixth event of the season. However, he later missed the Billings stop for a second straight season that year as a right-groin strain sidelined Triplett for four elite series events. The groin injury occurred in the first round in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he didn’t compete the rest of the event, effectively leaving Triplett grounded for five tour dates with the injury.

Triplett said the hip injury was difficult to overcome for a bull rider. Triplett credited therapy, running and yoga in helping him work his way back to the PBR circuit, but said eventually climbing on practice bulls during the recovery process was important, too — “You have to get on bulls to get in bull riding shape.”

“(Hip surgery) is tough to bounce back from,” Triplett said. “We use our hips so much bull riding. It took a while to get the rhythm back.”

In working his way back to the UTB tour this season by climbing into the top 35 of the world standings, Triplett competed on the Velocity Tour. Triplett won the Spokane, Washington, Velocity Tour event this year and was third at the expansion series stops in Reno, Nevada, and Portland, Oregon.

“You just, once you get in the top 35 of the world standings you get the call back up,” Triplett explained of once again competing on the premier series.

At the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 25-27, Triplett tied for fourth. It was his best elite series placing in two years.

“Now I’m feeling good,” Triplett said. “My hip is feeling good and I’m able to compete again.”

This will be the first time for Triplett to compete in Billings since tying for seventh in the Magic City in 2019. Triplett said his mom and dad will be at the Metra cheering him on and he has several friends who live in the area that plan to attend. Triplett added his father is a stock contractor and will have three or four of his bulls bucking in Billings.

“I’m riding good and feel good and excited to come to Billings and compete there before the World Finals,” said Triplett, who tied for 12th last weekend in Nampa, Idaho, and is 669.5 points behind world No. 1 Joao Ricardo Vieira. “It will be awesome to compete there.”

Triplett is hopeful that the Billings performance this weekend, along with the Velocity Tour Finals, will springboard him to the World Finals.

In his last World Finals in 2019, Triplett placed second at the event to Volborg’s Jess Lockwood, who claimed his second world championship after winning the season-ending event.

After a no-score in the first round at the 2019 World Finals in Las Vegas, Triplett posted scores of 89.25, 86.75, 89.25, 86.5 and 89.25. His aggregate score was 441 and he amassed 720 aggregate points and 1,000 total event points. Triplett was awarded a check for $172,166.67 for his performance. He finished seventh in the world standings with 2,533 points and totaled $263,457 in earnings.

Now, Triplett is aiming to end this year on a high note and to also put himself in a good position for the 2023 season. The first step will be a successful weekend in Billings, followed by what he hopes are strong performances in Corpus Christi and Fort Worth.

“Once I get to the Finals, I’m comfortable there. I’m just excited to be able to compete there again,” Triplett said. “I love the Finals. It’s a good accomplishment getting there.

“I love competing at that level. I thrive at it.”

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