BILLINGS — Matt Triplett is feeling good.
The Columbia Falls bull rider won for the first time in two season in the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series last week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Triplett rode 3 of 4 bulls to secure the gold buckle last week and is up to ninth in the PBR World Standings.
All it took was a kick in the pants from his dad.
“I was doing good for a little while and then I went to Glendale, (Arizona) right before Sioux Falls and I didn’t do good at all,” Triplett said.
He bucked off twice in less than five seconds of total ride time in the Phoenix suburbs. His dad, Pat, straightened him out.
“My dad had a talk with me and mentally and physically helped me with some things that I needed to work out. It ended up helping a lot. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the weekend. That’s really what a guy needs. When you go ride these bulls you need to be confident that you’re going to show up and win.
“I was overriding bulls and overthinking what I needed to do. He told me to focus on the basics, like I was riding steers, ride them jump for jump. If you ride bulls basic and not think about it, it usually tends to work a lot better and it’s way easier than when you fight with your head. More or less, you have to focus on the things you need to do to be successful.”
Whatever his dad said worked, and it has Triplett riding high into his home state. He missed the Billings event last season after injuring his knee early in the season.
“This is really awesome,” Triplett said.
“I get to carry the momentum into Billings. It’s a huge deal to be able to do that. When you have that kind of confidence, and being able to perform in the home state, it really helps out. I know a lot of my buddies from home are coming. A lot of my buddies from all over Montana are coming. A lot of friends, a lot of family. It really helps when everybody gets behind you and cheers real loud.”
Triplett said he is finally back to feeling full strength after recovering from his knee injury and from a subsequent shoulder injury that knocked him out just three weeks after he returned last season.
“I’m finally feeling like the old me. It took a long time,” Triplett said.
“This dang shoulder I have, it gives me hell every once in awhile. If I really warm it up and really baby it and tender it and take care of it before I get on it, it doesn’t give me troubles. It’s something I had to get used to dealing with each weekend. Sometimes I’d forget to warm it up and it’d get tight. Now I really focus on warming my shoulder up so it’s free to move in the positions I need to move.”
He is starting to show the talent that made him No. 1 in the world before the injury. He has worked his way back slowly, riding on smaller circuits at the end of last season and in Australia to start 2017. He even worked his way back to No. 1 in January before hopping back on the BFTS circuit, the toughest in the world.
Last weekend’s win was his third top five finish of the season, and he’s ridden at least one bull every weekend since mid-February, aside from his lapse in Arizona.
His run of form timed up perfectly with the yearly trip to his home state.
The PBR will ride in Billings beginning tonight at 7:45 p.m. at the Rimrock Auto Arena at the MetraPark. The event goes through the weekend, starting at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday and at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday. All three rounds will stream for free online at PBR.com with the final round broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
“I needed to get timing with these bulls,” he said.
“It’s hard to come back to the best bull riding in the world and just fit right in and get comfortable. The only way to get into good bull shape is to get on the rankest bulls and doing it week in and week out. It takes a little bit to adjust to when you’re not doing it every weekend.
“Going to Australia helped out a lot there. I did a couple of tour pros (events) back here.
“Coming back to these Built Ford Tough (Series bulls), it takes a while to get back into bull shape at this kind of level week in and week out. I finally feel like, since I’ve been going for three or four months now, I’m finally getting more comfortable. I’m finally getting back to the zone I was in when I was 100 percent healthy. It took a while to get my composure back at this level.”