Lostroh fending off Mauney's challenge

The Professional Bull Riders has been using J.B. Mauney somewhat as a poster boy.

He's young, brash and not from traditional cowboy territory.

Before the 22-year-old rider from Mooresville, N.C., rides, everyone watching is alerted that he could become the first PBR world champion from east of the Mississippi.

But before the PBR begins printing his image in mass quantities, it had better wait until Sunday night.

The 16th annual PBR World Finals is shaping up to be a two-man race, with Mauney riding on the boot heels of points leader Kody Lostroh, who won the fifth round Friday night before a crowd of 15,510 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It was the second consecutive round win for Lostroh, who leads Mauney by 732.5 points in the championship race with two full rounds of 40 riders left, including today's that begins at 6 p.m.

Lostroh took the winner's check of $25,000 after scoring 91.25 points on Troubadour of Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls.

It's the bull Lostroh selected for the round, but it made a move he wasn't expecting midway through the ride.

"It's the fourth time I've ridden him, and this was the first time he spun to the left," he said. "But every time he delivers."

Not even the best of the night's three 90-point rides allowed him to pull away from Mauney, who placed sixth in the round.

Lostroh and Mauney are among three riders who have covered each of five bulls. The other is Brazilian Valdiron de Oliveira, who is a distant fourth in season points, 4,378 behind Lostroh.

The other two in the top five have been all but eliminated from championship contention.

Reigning champion Guilherme Marchi's chances of becoming the first to successfully defend the season title virtually ended when he failed to cover his bull for the fifth straight round.

Another contender, Ryan McConnel of Colgate, Okla., started the night fifth in Built Ford Tough Series points but suffered his second serious wreck in two weeks.

The first was a crash in his truck two days before the Finals opened Oct. 30 when he was hit by an alleged drunk driver and left with a punctured lung.

That injury was compounded Friday night when he was stomped by his bull after being bucked off one-tenth of a second from completing his fourth ride in five tries. McConnel suffered a contusion to his lung. He was advised not to ride tonight but insisted he be listed as "probable" to compete.

After Sunday's round of 40, the field will be narrowed to the top 15 in Finals points, and they will return for one more round.

It's almost certain to come down to Lostroh vs. Mauney.

"J.B. is really charismatic and has an attractive personality," said Lostroh, 24, of Longmont, Colo. "I prefer (the spotlight) be on his shoulders, not mine.

"I try to find some hiding spots where TV (cameras) can't find me."

They've been hard to miss once they have left the chutes.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.