Tahlequah Daily Press


June 16, 2012

One tough Kid

Hulbert’s own Ryan Dirteater has overcome injuries and obstacles to be one of the world’s premier bull riders.

His injury report is longer than his list of career victories. He knows what it feels like to tear a tricep, fracture a femur, dismantle a knee.

Ryan Dirteater knows if he had pursued any other kind of athletic endeavor his career could be in peril. But that’s the beauty of bull riding; there’s always an opportunity for another ride.

“When I dislocated my knee, I tore my ACL, MCL, PCL; I pretty much tore up everything in my knee,” said the Hulbert native known as the “Cherokee Kid”. “If it were any other sport, I’d probably be done with. But bull riding is a little bit different.”

With the help of Dr. Tandy Freeman, Dirteater has persevered injury upon injury on the Professional Bull Riders Tour. And at the young age of 23, he continues to be one of the elite riders on the Built Ford Tough Series — otherwise known as the major leagues of PBR.

Dirteater admitted the injuries are tough to deal with, but overcoming the mental side of getting back on the bull is difficult, too.

“Mentally and physically, it’s tough going through an injury like that,” he said, talking about rehabilitating his knee. “It can really work on a guy, because in bull riding the risks are high and you always have that in the back of your mind.

“Bull riding is a mental sport. It’s more mental than physical.”

However, there is one obstacle that trumps them all, according to Dirteater.

“Just getting on a 2,000-pound animal,” he quipped.

“It’s a dangerous sport. It’s just eight seconds — of course, I say it’s only eight seconds. But really, you just want to get in there and just hang on.”

That’s what Dirteater dreamed about as a youngster. Then, not long after he received his diploma from Hulbert High School, he got his shot at the big time.

“I made my first PBR finals in ‘08, and I graduated from high school in ‘08, also,” said Dirteater, who competed in seven events in 2007, where he racked up 1,262 cup points, two top-10 finishes and one top-five performance.

Currently, Dirteater is 11th — out of 64 riders — in the Built Ford Tough Series this season. In 17 events, he’s ridden 20 bulls in 46 attempts to record 3,953.75 points, which is 4,263.25 points behind the current leader Valdiron de Oliveira.

“I hope I just keep climbing that ladder,” said Dirteater, who capped his 2011 season with 5,489.75 points to finish the year 15th.

Luckily for Dirteater, when the PBR Tour resumes from its current summer break, two of the next three stops will be in Oklahoma. The Express Classic will be at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Aug. 10-11 while the Winstar World Casino Invitational will be in Thackerville on Aug. 31.

“Seems like every time we’re at my home state I do really well,” Dirteater said. “I don’t know if it’s the fans or the atmosphere I’m in, but it just seems to help me ride a little bit more. I’ll have a bunch of friends and family there; it’ll seem like all of Cherokee County is there cheering me on.”

Other stops before the Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas from Oct. 24-28 include Nashville, Tenn., Springfield, Mo., San Antonio, Philadelphia, Tampa, Fla., Greensboro, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

“This is every kid’s dream,” Dirteater said. “Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, this is where I’ve wanted to be. Now, I’m there. You just have to keep working at it and not forget where you came from.”

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