Will Centoni would have been cool with a 60.
“I mean, any score is better than nothing in bull riding,” Centoni said. “So I was happy with it.”
Sixty was the score announced after Centoni’s ride Tuesday during slack at the College National Finals Rodeo, much to the Casper Event Center crowd’s confusion.
Then, the big screen showed his actual score: 78.
“I was like, ‘That sounds a lot better than 60,’” Centoni said.
In fact, that score was better than any other ride in the second go-round. In addition to some pocket change, it gave Centoni a 73-point lead at the end of two rounds as the first rider of the rodeo to cover two bulls.
Impressive, given that Centoni doesn’t even consider himself a bull rider first and foremost.
“I haven’t really been thinking about the bull riding much,” the junior said. “I really focus more on the bronc riding, because I like it a little more. So I haven’t really practiced much bull riding coming here.
“I entered a few rodeos, so I haven’t even really thought of it. I just think of three basic things: leave with them, stay over the front end, keep my toes out, and that’s all I think about. I don’t overthink it at all. I stay simple. I don’t think there’s much more to it than that.”
Easy enough. Centoni, who is also competing in saddle bronc riding and team roping at the college finals, leads the men’s all-around with 220 points.
In slack Tuesday, he found himself tilting dangerously to the left atop Harry Vold’s Yikes.
“I talked to a kid earlier, he said he had some moves to him,” Centoni said. “He had him in the practice pen, and he said he was pretty tricky to ride. It felt like I started him pretty good. Then he started going all different directions. He kind of had me pull off my rope, and I just kept my chin down and tried to get to the front end and finished my ride pretty strong, I felt like.
“... I’ve always been taught just to keep my feet down and turn my toes out and keep them moving forward. Stay up on my bull rope and keep my chest out, which is going to keep weight down on my feet. I was just trying to keep to the front end. If I can stay over the front end, then they’ll pack you around.”
It was a contrast to Frontier Rodeo’s Hooch, the bull Centoni rode Sunday for a 77.
“He was just a nice, honest bull,” said Centoni, who had failed to cover any bulls in his first two college finals. “Didn’t have any tricks to him. Went right around to the left, and he was just a super fun, super nice ride. And then today’s bull, just the level of difficulty is way harder. You’ve got to really ride the front in and track him. Don’t make too big of moves or else you’ll buck yourself off.”
The latter earned Centoni an extra point. But he’d rather have the “nice bull.”
“But you’ve got to get on all of them,” he said. “Everyone gets a different bull here.”
In Tuesday night’s performance, Mid-Plains Community College’s Garrett Wickett became the second rider of the rodeo to cover two bulls.
His score was just a 50.5, but he’ll take it. Actually, he chose to take it despite having a re-ride option.
“For me, it was a pretty easy decision just to keep my score,” he said.
Southwick’s Outlaw lost his flank during the ride, which created the choice of a re-ride. Wickett, who rode to a 74 on Monday, was content to take the points and second place for now.
“I just figured, take my chances with the scores,” he said. “Last year, they won it on two head. I’d rather get two rode going into the short round, get my third bull covered in the short round and go from there.
“I thought maybe (the score) was going to be a little bit more. I didn’t realize the flank had come off. The bull started out good, felt good. I got a little scared at the end. He got me lifted up a little bit, but I feel good.”
Wickett will head to a pro rodeo in North Platte, Nebraska, on Thursday.
“I’m feeling good going into there and coming back Saturday for the short round,” he said.
His 126 points, now 29 behind Centoni, mark a nice turnaround from Sunday, when Wickett was bucked and his bull stepped on his back.
“I’m feeling really good after Sunday,” he said. “I’m really not sore at all from that. My back’s feeling good, head’s feeling good, so I’m excited to be coming back Saturday, hopefully.”