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Top-ranked Jose Vitor Leme has big weekend in Bismarck

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Jose Vitor Leme, the No. 1-ranked bull rider in the world, rides Sky Harbor to 90 points during Saturday night's performance at the 21st annual PBR Bull Riding Challenge at the Bismarck Event Center. 

Riding bulls is supposed to be hard work, not fun.

Maybe reigning Professional Bull Riders’ world champion Jose Vitor Leme is far and away the best bull rider in the world because he has fun, like he did Saturday on Day 2 of the Dakota Community Bank & Trust Invitational at the Bismarck Event Center.

One night after claiming a $10,000 bounty by successfully riding the Chad Berger bull The Right Stuff (a score that earned 95.5 points), Leme scored 182 on two head to win the night and the PBR Touring Pro Division points that go with it.

Leme scored 90 in the long go and added a 92 on Safety Meeting on the last ride of the night to overtake 19-year-old Conner Halverson, who had earlier posted a 90 for a two-head score of 176.5 points. Leme earned 38 points and $13,492 – not counting the $10,000 – for the win.

Leme scored 88, 89.5, 95.5, 90 and 92 to win for the first time in three trips to Bismarck. The 95.5-point ride was the second-highest score Leme has ever received

“God is the secret. He gives it to me because I work so hard. I’m just so blessed,” Vitor Leme said.

The Brazilian was so in control of the bull Safety Meeting that he was spurring the bull hard on each jump through much of the ride.

“I try to do my best every time and have fun riding bulls. That’s not only work, I want to be happy riding bulls. That’s what I try every time,” Vitor Leme said.

There were only three qualified rides in the short round. Besides Leme’s 92 and Halverson’s 90, Grayson Cole of New Riggold, Pa., posted an 87 to match his first-round score. Halverson reached the short round with an 86.5.

Halverson, a teenager from Gordon, Neb., who entered the event 38th in the world PBR standings, ended a run of seven straight buck offs to start the championship round by besting Smooth Wreck. To that point, the average ride time was just a matter of seconds.

Cole followed with an 87 but that was it until Leme, the last of 15 finalists, got on his bull.

Halverson said just knowing Leme still had to ride was as tough as his own ride.

“Probably waiting for Leme,” Halverson said. “Those bulls are so good, if you ride them in the middle (of the round) and then wait afterward is probably toughest on a guy. There were a lot of good rides. I can’t complain, I did my job and I can’t ask for a lot more.”

None of the riders reached the 94 points that Muleshoe, Texas, cowboy Dalton Kasel posted to win the championship round on Friday. The 2019 PBR Rookie of the Year had an 84-point ride to reach that day’s finals.

Mandan’s Weston Hartman scored an 86 on Friday but did not complete his ride on Saturday aboard D-Day.

Eight of the top 15 bull riders in the PBR Unleash the Beast Tour competed this weekend, including leader Dener Barbosa, who scored an 85.5 in the first round Saturday and was bucked off early in the short go. The same thing happened to No. 3-ranked Austin Richardson.

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