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Derek Kolbaba rides DAM Cattle Co's Whiskey Trip for 86.5 during the first round of the Little Rock Built Ford Tough series PBR in Des Moines, IA


Sep 012016

If you didn’t know better, talking to Derek Kolbaba is like talking to fellow Monster Energy bull riders J.B. Mauney and Guilherme Marchi. No. He’s never won a world title. Mauney did so twice in 2013 and again in 2015. Marchi won the title in 2008. Both are also closer to the end of their respective careers, while Kolbaba, 20, is only in his second year on the elite televised PBR tour.

““I’m fired up and excited.””

But you wouldn’t know it by the way he talks.


He isn’t cocky. He’s simply more focused than riders his own age and already well aware of what’s at stake.


Kolbaba isn’t talking about gold buckles. He’s in pursuit of winning one.


“I think the biggest thing is not letting any bull get away from you,” said Kolbaba, who understands the importance of seizing every opportunity when it presents itself. “You look back and you see little things you should have done different, but you have to make the best of what you have underneath of you. If you can do that with every bull—take advantage—and get some of those short round bulls rode more often, that’s when the winning really starts occurring.”


The young gun has certainly done his share of winning this season.


He won an elite PBR event in Des Moines, Iowa, and early on in the season he won a 15/15 Bucking Battle in Anaheim, California, that also happened to be televised on CBS and led to his endorsement with Monster Energy.


Prior to that he won three consecutive lower level events back in January – Denver, Colorado; Pueblo, Colorado, and Reno, Nevada – and had previously won in Bakersfield, California.


He’s claimed 13 Top 10’s at all levels of PBR competition this year – thanks in part to a riding average that is closing in on 50 percent – and 45 of them over past 24 months.


But this summer, he did something else most young riders don’t.


He got away from the PBR.


Ranked inside the Top 15 – he’s currently 12th in the world – he hit the rodeo trail and cleared his mind of all things PBR.


“Coming back for this second half,” said Kolbaba, who competed among the Top 35 PBR riders in Nashville, Tennessee, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, the past two weeks, “I’m fired up and excited.”


He added, “I got away and did something different.”


Kolbaba is second highest ranked Monster Energy rider behind only Mauney, who is third in the world standings. Robson Palermo is 15th, while Gage Gay – another relative young gun – is 18th and Marchi is 20th.


Chase Outlaw, who is ranked 30th, returned to competition, but dislocated his left shoulder and is out until the World Finals.


Kolbaba is considered to be one of the elite newcomers to the PBR. A list that also includes Kaique Pacheco, Cooper Davis and Jess Lockwood.


“I had a great first half,” said Kolbaba, who is focused on performing the “basics” every time he nods his head, “so if we can finish the second half off as good, all the better.


“You have to work just as hard as you did the first half, if not harder, and when it all comes down to it, it’s getting your bulls rode.”