BILLINGS — Jess Lockwood is feeling “really, really good.”
Along with that, he has his eyes on the prize.
Those two things could make for a fierce combination as the Professional Bull Riders Unleash The Beast tour hits the halfway point with 14 stops remaining, including the World Finals.
The two-time PBR world champion from Volborg returned to the elite series tour Friday at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark after missing two-plus events with a left-thigh bruise that occurred in the first round in Oklahoma City April 17.
The 23-year-old is ranked 25th in the world standings and nearly made the 8-second whistle on Friday night before the home-state fans at the Wrangler Invitational presented by Cooper Tires. On Saturday, Lockwood received a no-score.
While the first two rounds at the Wrangler Invitational didn’t result in scores, that’s bull riding and Lockwood remains confident in his abilities to make up ground in the world title chase. The Finals are set for Nov. 3-7 in Las Vegas.
“I better win it. If I don’t win it this year wasn’t worth a damn,” Lockwood told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com on Saturday prior to the second round. “I don’t expect nothing but than to win it. Everyone has one goal, to win the world title.”
In returning for his home state event, a tour stop he won in 2016, Lockwood said he didn’t do any physical therapy. This year, Lockwood has battled multiple injuries. He suffered a broken jaw during the first round of the season-opening event in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 16 and missed two tour stops.
He later missed time with an injury to his free hand sustained while competing in Glendale, Arizona, March 12.
Lockwood said his body just needed some rest.
“I haven’t had to do any rehab, they were injuries that took time,” Lockwood said. “I took a little time off and let the body heal naturally.”
While healing up at home in Volborg, Lockwood turned to a trusted family friend, Powder River County wrestling coach Frankie Schoonover. In 2013, Lockwood was the State B-C wrestling titlist at 98 pounds for the Hawks.
Beginning wrestling at age 5, Lockwood continued in the sport until he was 17 he said.
“He’s just working me out,” Lockwood said. “He’s a great mental coach and keeps me on top of things. Having another person there, he can push me harder than I can myself.”
While he was a very successful wrestler and was dedicated to the sport, being on tour with the PBR Lockwood really doesn’t have time to keep up with other sports and remains focused on the task at hand.
“I just pay attention to the bull riding world,” he said. “That’s about it.”
While in Billings, or at any tour stop, Lockwood said the goal remains the same — to win. All of the bulls on the premier series are quality and he doesn’t look past any of the bovine athletes.
“Nothing really changes,” he said of his thoughts before a ride. “You have a job to do and that bull has a job to do. You have to be confident in yourself.”
While Lockwood looks forward to competing every year in Billings, which is a staple on the PBR calendar with 26 consecutive appearances, he also loves the opportunities afforded at the World Finals.
“It’s pretty much my home. It’s my favorite. There is nothing better,” Lockwood said. “I like the World Finals, too. It pays well.”
From the chutes
• Browning’s Dakota Louis didn’t compete on Saturday. Louis didn’t score on Friday and the top 30 from the event in round one returned on Saturday.
• Cody Teel is the event leader after scoring an 86 on Saturday. He had an 85.50 in the first round and has an aggregate of 171.5.
• Chase Dougherty, who led after round one with a 90.5 didn’t post a successful ride, but is No. 2 in the aggregate. Defending world champion Jose Vitor Leme, who won Billings last year and leads the world standings, scored an 89.5 on Saturday and is tied for third with Kaique Pacheco, who also posted an 89.5 on Saturday. Silvano Alves is fifth with his score of 87.5 in round one.
• Dustin Bird of Cut Bank, a five-time National Finals Rodeo team roping qualifier, is serving as the safety man (pickup man) for the event. The safety man will rope a bull if needed after a ride and help the bull out of the arena.
• The event concludes Sunday with a 1:45 p.m. performance.
Email Gazette Sports Editor John Letasky at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL