Ryan Mayer

Professional bull riding is one sport guaranteed to give you a jolt of excitement anytime you turn it on, even as the NBA playoffs suffer accusations of being boring and MLB works toward managing its “pace of play” issues.

The PBR Built Ford Tough Series starts its summer season this weekend in Las Vegas with Last Cowboy Standing, part of the Helldorado Days festival. The third of four majors, and one of the season’s biggest events, features the top 40 riders attempting to tame the toughest bulls. The gate opens on the first bull and rider Friday, May 12.

Professional bull riding is basically a test of wills. The rider attempts to stay on the bull for eight seconds, holding on to the bull’s rope with one hand, and the bull, well, attempts to throw him off. If the rider touches the bull, themselves or the ground with the other hand, then the clock stops.

A successful ride (of at least eight seconds) is scored by judges out of 100 points. The bull can receive up to 50 points, depending on how much they buck, move side to side, turn, etc. The rider can also earn up to 50 points, based on how in control he seems and how well he counters the bull. The ride’s score is the sum of the two individual scores. An event’s winner and standings are determined by these ride scores. In multi-round events, scores are averaged together to determine the winner.

Points are awarded for where a rider finishes in an event, similar to golf. The majors, such as Last Cowboy Standing this weekend, offer riders a chance for bonus points.

A full explanations of scoring and judging can be found on the official PBR site.

Matt Triplett is currently ranked seventh in the World Standings, and will be looking to move up this weekend at Last Cowboy Standing. The event will air live on CBS Sports Network, starting at 10:30 pm ET on Friday night. The 25-year-old from Columbia Falls, Montana, who has placed in the top 10 in his last four events, talked with CBS Local Sports about the event.

How did you get your start in professional bull riding, and what made you want to chase it as a career?

My dad, he rode bulls, so I kind of grew up around the sport. My dad was always my hero, and I always looked up to him because he did this and it was wild and crazy. It was almost like he was superhuman and fearless. I asked him one day — I wanted to do the same thing as him. So he showed me the ropes and taught me everything that I know. I took off, went through high school, and I turned professional right after high school.

So this is in your blood then?

(Laughing) Yeah it is, yeah.

Your last event, the Tacoma Invitational, you were bucked off in the second round, can you take me through what went wrong there?

The bull just beat me, got my feet. That whole day — I don’t like to use excuses — but, I was sick all day and I was trying to battle through puking and all that. He (the bull) got me down, and my feet flipped and, it just wasn’t my time that day.

You sprained your right wrist in that event, how has that been healing as you get ready for this weekend?

That was a bit of a bummer, I missed out on the short round. But, I’ve been going to therapy the last couple of weeks and really working on strengthening it. It’s feeling about 100 percent, and I’m just ready to — I’ve been training real hard to just get ready to be back up in the chute again.

Is that going to affect you at all this weekend?

I feel fine, I’ll tape it up good, and it shouldn’t bother me at all.

This weekend, one of the four majors, it’s a Last Cowboy Standing event. For those who are unfamiliar with PBR, can you explain what people will see when they tune in on CBS Sports Network?

This is a major event, so it puts a little bit more pressure on the cowboys. You’re bring the best bulls in the world to this deal, so it’s basically a mini-finals. It’s last cowboy standing wins. It’s a cool format. You ride, you stay on, you move on. If you buck off, you’re out, see you next time. It’s a cool deal because it gives us the opportunity to show off a little bit and say ‘hey, I’m the toughest cowboy here, and I’m going to show you that I can ride the most bulls.’

With that type of format, would you consider this to be the toughest event for the cowboys because of how long it can last as guys continue to get knocked out round by round?

It is because you’re not only moving on to another round, but you’re moving on to another round where there’s going to be a bull that’s better than the bull you got on before. So, each round you successfully move on to, there’s going to be a better bull. Not only do you get a little sore from the number of rounds, but, you’re getting on the next best thing going. You have to not only have your hammer ready to go, but you have to be focused and mentally prepared to get on a better bull for the next round.

Heading into this event, you’re about 1,300 points back of the leader in the standings right now. How do you look to pick up points to gain ground on him moving forward?

This is the best opportunity to do that this weekend for me. You come out with 700 points or 650, somewhere around there with a win. I could almost halve the gap from 1,300 to put me in a position going into the summer where I would feel really comfortable coming into the second half of the season, knowing that I’m only within 600-700 points of the number-one guy.

You’ve gotten some good results so far this season, three wins, one 90-point ride. Does that have you feeling confident coming into this weekend’s event?

I am. Just due to the fact that the last three events leading up to this one I’ve been feeling pretty dominant, feeling pretty strong. My mental game is better than ever. Another thing, it’s nice being healthy coming in. I have the little wrist issue, but it feels fine and just going in healthy, mentally focused and prepared, I should be ready to go.

The PBR Built Ford Tough Series kicks off its Vegas weekend this Friday night with pre-show coverage beginning at 10:30 pm Eastern Time on CBS Sports Network.