Saskatchewan’s Blake Smith Converts for Austin Gamblers in Defeat to Oklahoma Freedom as Preseason Competition for the PBR Team Series Begins in Bismarck, North Dakota

By: Rachel Tighe  Saturday, June 18, 2022 @ 11:16 AM

Blake Smith was one of three Canadians that competed in the opening games for the PBR Team Series preseason event in Bismarck, North Dakota. Photo: Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media.

BISMARCK, N.D. – History was made last night in Bismarck, North Dakota, when bull riders joined teams to compete in five-on-five bull riding games in four preseason matchups in the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Team Series – a new league of eight bull riding teams from across the country competing for a national championship.

The preseason for the inaugural PBR Team Series season got underway at Bismarck Event Center, with high-scoring rides in each game yesterday evening. Among the eight teams competing, two featured Canadian riders. Blake Smith (Abbey, Saskatchewan) and Griffin Smeltzer (Claresholm, Alberta) rode for the Austin Gamblers, while Cody Coverchuk (Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan) competed for the Texas Rattlers.

The league’s two preseason exhibition events in June do not affect the PBR Team Series championship race and standings – a 10-event regular season that begins July 25 with neutral site games in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and culminates in the championship tournament in November. Night two of Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding Challenge continues Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET, available to fans LIVE on Pluto TV (channel 720).



Eli Vastbinder Secures Oklahoma Freedom Victory Against Austin Gamblers in Game 2 of the PBR Team Series Preseason Event in Bismarck, North Dakota

Oklahoma Freedom: 260 points                             
Austin Gamblers: 172 points  

The Oklahoma Freedom began their inaugural season on a high note, going 3-for-5 to defeat the Austin Gamblers 260-172. Following an Austin Gamblers buck off to open Game 2 of the first day of competition for the Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding Team Series preseason event, the Oklahoma Freedom’s Briggs Madsen (Tremonton, Utah) lit up the Bismarck Event Center with 83.5 points aboard Soup In A Group (Wilks Ranch/Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger). Kyle McDaniel (Fort Worth, Texas) then conquered Skeeter Peter (Dakota Rodeo/Mark Baker/Clay Struve/Chad Berger) to bring the Freedom an additional 89 points. While the Freedom briefly held a 172.5-point lead, Alex Marcilio (Macaubal, Brazil) got the Gamblers on the board when he covered PBR World Finals bovine athlete Gambini (Julie Rosen/Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) for 85.5 points. Halfway through Game 2, Connor Halverson (Gordon, Nebraska) received a re-ride aboard Dennis the Menace (Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) but couldn’t convert for the Gamblers. Blake Smith (Abbey, Saskatchewan, Canada) gave the Gamblers hope in earning 86.5 points against Dagger (Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger), briefly positioning the Austin team within a half point of the Freedom. While fellow Canuck Griffin Smeltzer (Claresholm, Alberta, Canada) also competed for Austin, he was bucked off by Born To Sin (Logan Clancey/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) in 2.13 seconds. As the penultimate man to lead the chutes for the Freedom, 2021 Rookie of the Year Eli Vastbinder (Statesville, North Carolina) secured the team’s 260-172 victory with an 87.5-point ride aboard Off Campus (Dakota Rodeo/Brian & Ashley Pintar/Clay Struve/Chad Berger). The Freedom will attempt to earn their second consecutive victory when they compete against the Kansas City Outlaws (1-0) in the team’s second preseason game on Saturday, June 18. The Austin Gamblers will look to rebound when they go head-to-head against the Nashville Stampede (0-1). The Gamblers roster, however, will feature new faces in the showdown, with both Smith and Smeltzer returning home to Canada to compete at the PBR Canada Cup Series, presented by Wrangler, event in Brandon, Manitoba.


2022 PBR World Champion Daylon Swearingen Propels Carolina Cowboys to Victory in First Game of New PBR Team Series

Carolina Cowboys: 256 points
Texas Rattlers: 173.5 points

After a back-and-forth battle with the Texas Rattlers, the Carolina Cowboys emerged the more dominant team Friday evening, winning the first preseason game as the much-anticipated PBR Team Series got underway in Bismarck. As competition started, the first three outs of the game between the Rattlers and the Cowboys began with qualified rides.  Game 1 of the preseason’s Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding started off strong as the Carolina Cowboys’ Mason Taylor Maypearl, Texas) opened the night with an 86.25-point ride against Delbert Sr. (Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger/Paula Gregory). The Texas Rattlers, however, were quick to respond, making their PBR Team Series preseason debut with an 85.25-point ride from Jake Morinec (Mokena, Illinois) atop Quickfire (Heald Pro Bulls/Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger). Continuing their momentum, the Cowboys returned to a one-ride lead over the Rattlers as 2022 PBR World Champion and 2019 PBR Canada Champion Daylon Swearingen (Piffard, NY) dominated Cold Shot (Jeb Fredericks/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) for 88.25 points, putting the Carolina team 89.25-points ahead of their Texas opponents. As the game progressed, Ednélio Almeida (Cacoal, Brazil) was next to deliver for the Rattlers, scored 88.25-points on Sam I Am (Heald Pro Bulls/Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger). With one ride remaining for each team and one point separating them, Wingson Henrique da Silva (Navirai, Brazil) then made the 8 on Short Nights (Ken Barnhart/Clay Struve/Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger) for 81.5 points to elevate the Cowboys to a 256-173.5 lead. With the fate of the game resting in the hands of newly signed Rattlers free agent Cody Coverchuk (Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada), the reigning PBR Canadian Champion was unable to convert, bucked off by Oilfield Outlaw’s Yellow Feather (Chad Berger/Oilfield Outlaw’s Bucking Bulls). When the dust settled, the Carolina Cowboys won the game by one score, besting the Rattlers 256-173.5. Entering the second day of competition with momentum at their back, the Carolina Cowboys (1-0) will next compete against the Missouri Thunder (1-0). The Texas Rattlers, who will lose Coverchuk as he returns home to compete at the elite PBR Canada Cup Series stop in Brandon, Manitoba, will next face the Arizona Ridge Riders (0-1).


WEEKEND TEAM STANDINGS: Here are the current Team standings for the weekend after Day 1 of Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding Team Series preseason event:

  1. Missouri Thunder, 1-0-0-261 points
  2. Oklahoma Freedom, 1-0-0-260 points
  3. Carolina Cowboys, 1-0-0-256 points
  4. Kansas City Outlaws, 1-0-0-177 points
  5. Texas Rattlers, 0-1-0-173.50 points
  6. Austin Gamblers, 0-1-0-172 points
  7. Arizona Ridge Riders, 0-1-0-83.75 points
  8. Nashville Stampede, 0-1-0-0.00 points


DAY 2 MATCH-UPS: Here are the game matchups for Day 2 of the Dakota Community Bank & Trust PBR Bull Riding Team Series preseason event on Saturday, June 18:

Arizona Ridge Riders (0-1) vs. Ariat Texas Rattlers (0-1)
Carolina Cowboys  (1-0) vs. Missouri Thunder (1-0)
Kansas City Outlaws (1-0) vs. Oklahoma Freedom (1-0)
Austin Gamblers (0-1) vs. Nashville Stampede (0-1)


DAY 2 STARTING LINE-UPS: Here are the starting lineups for the games on Saturday, June 18. (Note: Each rider and bull’s name are hyperlinked to their bio page with additional competition stats and history.)

Missouri Thunder:

Oklahama Freedom:

Carolina Cowboys:

Kansas City Outlaws:

Ariat Texas Rattlers:

Austin Gamblers:

Arizona Ridge Riders:

Nashville Stampede: