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Matt Triplett celebrates

Matt Triplett of Kalispell will be competing when the Professional Bull Riders open the 2019 season in New York City. Triplett used a frenetic climb to finish 13th in the 2018 PBR world standings.

BILLINGS — If all goes according to plan and barring a major injury, Matt Triplett’s travel itinerary for 2019 will be a little more relaxed than the previous year.

Triplett is starting his 2019 Professional Bull Riders season in New York City this weekend.

He earned an automatic berth by finishing 13th in the final 2018 PBR world standings. How Triplett got there is one of the most incredible climbs in PBR history.

Coming off two major shoulder surgeries, the 27-year-old Kalispell cowboy did not return to competition until late April of last year.

Triplett started his 2018 PBR season at ground zero. His goal was simple: To reach top 35 and qualify for the PBR World Finals.

“I knew I could sneak up there,” said Triplett. “It was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.”

And a lot of planning.

Joining fellow bull rider Lachlan Richardson in their pursuit of the PBR World Finals, “I told him, ‘I’m coming with you,’ “ Triplett embarked on a frenzied schedule that took him to 29 cities in three different countries.

In a span of 169 days, Triplett climbed aboard bulls in 16 different states, five Canadian provinces and Australia.

“I wasn’t sure what it was going to take or what I got into,” he said. “I just had to keep my hand in there and keep moving.”

Triplett and Richardson broke their schedules into two-week segments for advanced planning.

“We tried to be in a different place every night,” Triplett said. “Some we drove to, some we went to by plane. There was only a few times we had to drive all night to get from one bull riding to another.”

Triplett rode more than 50 percent of his bulls as he slowly ascended the standings. Among his checks were wins at lower-tier events in Eureka, Big Sky and Livingston.

“I never had any trouble with my shoulders,” said Triplett. “I just had to keep grinding and keep on moving.”

Triplett didn’t watch the standings, letting others do that for him. He just kept his eye on the prize.

Plus, he was riding for more than just money.

“That feeling of riding again is indescribable,” Triplett said. “It’s why we do it. It’s why we love it so much.”

Triplett guaranteed himself a spot in the PBR World Finals by winning Greensboro, North Carolina, for $37,200. The points earned vaulted him into the top 20 of the standings.

“Greensboro took the pressure off,” he said.

It was also his final event of the regular season because of a wrist injury.

Triplett returned to ride in Las Vegas, winning the first round of the PBR World Finals, placing fourth in the fourth round and third in the championship round. He won $106,500 in the final event of the year and earned $143,700 in his final two events of 2018.

With a hectic 2018 behind him, Triplett is ready for a stellar 2019.

“It was a big relief qualifying for the world finals,” said Triplett, who was third in the PBR world standings in 2014 and fifth in 2015. “But I’m still not done.

“I’m selfish. I want to get a world title. And I’m still busting my butt to get that goal.”

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Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

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