He rides like a world champion.
He wins like a world champion.
He’s even got his likeness on T-shirts like the world champions.
So why can’t Jess Lockwood be a world champion?
No rookie has ever won the Professional Bull Riders world title.
Jess Lockwood has the opportunity to be the first.
“A lot of people think I am too young and a little inexperienced to win it,” Lockwood told Justin Felisko of the PBR in mid-October. “I am just going to go out and ride my bulls, but I believe fully I can win the world title.”
The Volborg teenager – he celebrated his 19th birthday in September – will be competing at the PBR World Finals this week at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The total purse is $2.3 million.
Lockwood is fifth in the world standings, trailing leader Kaique Pacecho by 2,077 Built Ford Tough Series points, which determine the year-end standings. There are 3,300 points available at the Finals.
Lockwood has earned $172,278 this year and has ridden 46.6 percent (48 of 103) of his bulls.
The 40 qualifiers will compete in five rounds, with the top 15 advancing to the championship round. The rider with the highest total from the six rounds will win the PBR Finals and $250,000.
The year-end champion receives a $1 million bonus.
J.B. Mauney, who has won two of the last three PBR World titles, is third in the world standings. Cooper Davis, the PBR Finals winner in 2015, is second. Pacheco, who was second in the final 2015 standings, and Cooper were rookies last year.
Lockwood is one of three bull riders with Montana roots. He is joined by Nevada Newman of Melstone and Mike Lee of Decatur, Texas, who is originally from Billings. It is also Newman’s first PBR World Finals. Lee swept the PBR World Finals and world champion titles in 2004. In Billings this past April, Lee became the second rider in PBR history with 500 qualified rides for his career.
It was in Billings that Lockwood showed his championship talent.
He qualified for the BFTS tour two weeks earlier in Sioux Falls, S.D.
At Rimrock Auto Arena, Lockwood won his first BFTS title and $40,330. He was still a senior in high school.
The former Class B-C state wrestling champion for Powder River High School also placed second at BFTS events in Colorado Springs, Colo., Eugene, Ore., and Springfield, Mo. He has 12 top-10 finishes this year.
Lockwood also leads the PBR Rookie of the Year standings.
Since joining the PBR last September, right after he turned 18, Lockwood has also won BlueDef Tour events in Bismarck, N.D., and Wheeling, W.Va., and the Touring Pro Division event in Perkins, Okla.
NOTES: Shane Proctor, who began his collegiate rodeo career at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., is 10th in the standings. Proctor won the PRCA world title in 2011. ... Nathan Schaper, of Grassy Butte, N.D., qualified for the PBR World Finals by placing second at the BlueDEF Finals that finished Monday night. Schaper won the PBR Billings event in 2015. ... Lockwood skipped the BlueDef Finals because of a sore riding hand.