For the first time in four months, Brazilian bull rider Marco Eguchi feels confident he is close to 100 percent.
A second-career event win last weekend propelled the 23-year-old to third place in the overall Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) rankings – 926.37 points behind Shane Proctor’s leading total of 4,062.62 – going into the Dickies Iron Cowboy IV today at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
But the ride there has been arduous for the injury-riddled Eguchi, who resides in Decatur during the U.S. PBR season. In his five years of professional competition, he has broken his hand twice, multiple ribs on three separate occasions and fractured facial bones three times.
Although he dismisses a handful of those injuries as “not too serious,” keeping him out of competition for two weeks at most, the most recent ailments have slowed his headlong climb to the top.
In the long go at the Brazilian PBR Brahma Super Bull Finals last November, a bull rammed its horn into the right side of Eguchi’s face. The multiple breaks required surgery to insert two plates and nine screws and left the entire right side of his face paralyzed. Only now – three months later – is he regaining feeling and movement.
Last week’s win at Kansas City lifted not only his points and rankings, but also his morale.
“The face is the worst because when you’re back riding in the arenas, you need a long time to not be scared,” Eguchi said. “When I first started riding bulls again, I would want to slap the bull to drop off. I needed a long time to get back to riding 100 percent.”
Prior to the injury, Eguchi led all riders in his native country’s 2012 Super Bull Finals, the equivalent of American PBR’s World Finals.
“But the injury knocked me out there,” he said. “If I didn’t break my face, I had a good chance to win.”
Although his doctor initially said he couldn’t ride for three months, Eguchi was released in January, a few days prior to the start of the 2013 American PBR season Jan. 4 – 5 in New York City.
But since he had not mounted a bull since the accident in November, Eguchi opted not to compete, instead opening his season the following week with a third-place finish at the Chicago Invitational.
“It was a good start, but I was still not 100 percent,” he said. “I needed more concentration. There was still a lot of [fear].”
After not placing the next week at the Winston-Salem Invitational in North Carolina, Eguchi landed back-to-back ninth-place finishes at the WinStar World Casino Invitational in Oklahoma City and Sacramento Invitational in California – where he recorded his first-ever BFTS event-win last year.
At the Liftmaster Invitational in Anaheim, Calif., Eguchi finished fifth. He followed that with a third-place finish at the Kawasaki Invitational in St. Louis the next week, aiding his slide into the top five in the overall standings.
“It’s good, but the season is just starting,” he said. “We have a lot more events to go. Arlington is the ninth event only. Last year was good in the beginning, too. But then things change; I got hurt.”
Midway through the 2012 season, the young cowboy injured his hand while practicing at Guilherme Marchi’s ranch. The nagging injury hindered what had otherwise been a world-title contending season, which included 11 top-10 finishes – 10 before the hand injury – and his first career BFTS win at Sacramento.
“That was bad for my (run),” Eguchi said. “I was in third or fourth place (throughout the season) but I finished ninth. I tried to do different things – I tried using my left hand, I tried a different hold, but I didn’t make good rides.”
This season, he hopes for a more favorable outcome, one more reminiscent of his career’s beginnings.
OPENING GATE ON CAREER
Eguchi was born Aug. 22, 1989, to Marcia Viviani and the elder Marco Eguchi. The young bull rider and his sister – Maria Eduarda, now 20 – and brother – Eduard Augusto, 13 – grew up in the Decatur-sized Po on the outskirts of Sa Paulo, Brazil, but spent the summers on his uncle’s ranch.
It was his time there that cultivated the passion for the sport of bull riding.
“I always watched the PBR a lot, and I had the idea that I’d like to do that,” an enthused Eguchi said. “Since then, it’s always been what I want to do and what I’ve worked hard to do.”
At 18, he began competing at smaller rodeos and bull riding events, before stepping into PBR Brazil arenas a year later.
In his breakout season, Eguchi rode his way to 36 championship rounds enroute to being named the 2008 PBR Brahma Super Bull Series Rookie of the Year.
The following year, injuries again plagued his hold on second-place going into the finals.
“Then I broke my hand two weeks before,” he said. “I did not do good.”
During the 2010 season, a rising Eguchi split his time between mainstream and the equivalent of American PBR’s Touring Pro series events, ending in seventh-place overall.
In 2011, a 21-year-old Eguchi trekked to the United States for his shot at big wins.
“Everything is better in American PBR – better events, better arenas, better contestants,” he said.
During the summer break in the American season – mid-June to mid-August – and at its conclusion in October, Eguchi returns home to be with his family and compete in the Brazilian series.
“The best rodeos in Brazil are in June, July and the championships are in November, so it works out perfect,” he said. “So when we have a break here, I can compete over there, too. And I get to see my family. It’s hard to be away from them.”
But, he said being among the band of about a dozen other fellow Brazilian bull riders – who were mostly recruited to the area by Paulo Crimber, a former bull rider who returned to Brazil to become a PBR judge last year – relieves some of the homesickness.
“This is my family here,” he said. “We practice together, travel together, compete together. If a guy was here by himself, they wouldn’t stay here. They’d go back to Brazil. It’s too hard.”
A strict regime of swimming, tennis and gym workouts, along with visits to Robson Palermo’s ranch in Tyler or Marchi’s in Ferris for practice rides or to go hunting, not only keep Eguchi distracted but also lays the foundation for the success he desires.
With that practice and experience under his belt, Eguchi is determined to reach his ultimate goal.
“Every rider’s dream is a World Championship, and we come here for a chance to do that,” he said. “I need to stay concentrated, give it my all and hope for the best. I’m feeling good.”
Eguchi will be one of five Wise County cowboys vying for a share of the $150,000 purse at the fourth installment of the Dickies Iron Cowboy Saturday.
He, Silvano Alves, Mike Lee and Eduardo Aparecido of Decatur and Valdiron de Oliveira of Boyd will be among the 24 competitors in the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS), single-elimination, bracket-style event.
Riders face off in pairs, and the one with the highest score – or longest riding time if neither holds on for eight seconds – wins $1,000 and advances to the next level. The matchups continue until one cowboy prevails and is declared the Iron Cowboy. The winner receives $50,000 and the opportunity to win an additional $50,000 if he can ride the event’s bonus bull.
Top-seeded Alves, who won back-to-back PBR World Championships in 2012 and 2011 and currently sits at second in the overall BFTS standings, will face the winner between Canadian Ty Pozzobon and Jory Markiss of Longmont, Colo., in the second round.
Fourth-seeded de Oliveira, who like Alves has a first-round bye, will face either Billy Robinson of Galax, Va., or fellow Brazilian and Wise County resident Eduardo Aparecido in his first go. De Oliveira has competed in only two events this season following back surgery in November.
Eguchi will face either fellow Brazilian Agnaldo Cardozo or Cody Nance of Paris, Tenn., in the second round. He takes a spot originally filled by Renato Nunes of Boyd. Nunes, who is nursing a right shoulder bruised at the Liftmaster Invitational in Anaheim, Calif., in early February, will miss his third-consecutive BFTS event.
In the first round, Decatur’s Lee, ranked eighth in the standings, will go head-to-head with ninth-ranked Aaron Roy.
The Iron Cowboy is the ninth of 26 stops in the BFTS, which culminates at the PBR World Finals Oct. 23-27 in Las Vegas.
WISE COUNTY AT PBR IRON COWBOY IV
8 p.m. Saturday, March 2
Cowboys Stadium in Arlington
Local riders include Silvano Alves, Valdiron de Oliveira, Marco Eguche, Eduardo Aparecido and Mike Lee.
For ride-by-ride coverage of local riders, visit the Wise County Messenger Facebook page or follow @WCMessenger on Twitter.
Round 1 and 2 will be broadcast 9 p.m. Saturday on CBS Sports Network, and the conclusion of the event noon Sunday on CBS.