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Montana bull riding champion Jess Lockwood to return to PBR circuit for season opener

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BILLINGS — The Professional Bull Riders are back this Saturday to start the 2022 season.

And so is Montana favorite Jess Lockwood.

Late last season on Oct. 23, Lockwood announced he was going to shut down his 2021 campaign due to a groin injury.

He had returned that weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska — the last of the 2021 UTB regular season — from core muscle surgery in May. Lockwood had been sidelined with a separated pelvis since competing at the Wrangler Invitational at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark May 14-16.

Lockwood, a two-time world champion, is scheduled to compete on the Unleash The Beast tour Saturday in Indianapolis at the PBR Monster Energy Invitational.

Lockwood, of Volborg, has drawn Lil 2 Train according to daysheets on the PBR website.

The 2021 season was filled with injuries for Lockwood, starting with the first event of the season when he suffered a broken jaw in Ocala, Florida. He also sustained an injury to his free hand and a left-thigh bruise that caused him to miss time on the circuit

The 2019 and 2017 PBR world champion and 2016 PBR Rookie of the Year was in 48th place in the standings last year when he shut things down to focus on 2022. He totaled $21,219.20 in earnings. It was the first time in his six years  on the circuit that Lockwood didn’t qualify for the World Finals.

Former MSU cowboy Chase Dougherty, who finished his rookie season 13th in the world standings last year, has drawn Lil Boy Blue for the competition in Indianapolis.

Dougherty earned $112,796.42 last year and finished his first World Finals in 16th place.

PBR Insider Justin Felisko earlier reported that two-time defending world champion Jose Vitor Leme will miss the season opener with a core muscle injuries. Leme has won the Billings UTB tour stop the past two years.

Felisko also reported Lockwood will have five injury exemptions on the UTB in his comeback. Through competing with the exemptions, the Montana bull rider can work to earn his full-time status on the elite tour back.

This year, the PBR champion will be crowned six months earlier than normal as the World Finals have moved from November to May. The grand finale also will be  in Texas instead of Las Vegas.

The World Finals this year are set for May 13-22 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The next stop after Saturday’s event will be the traditional season opener of the Monster Energy Buckoff at The Garden in New York on Jan. 7-8.

The annual Billings stop will be the last performance of the regular season. The PBR UTB will be in the Magic City at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark April 29-May 1.

The PBR will also be instituting a Team Series this year from June through November. The Team Series Championship will be Nov. 4-6 in Las Vegas.

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