PUEBLO, Colo. – Jose Vitor Leme made headlines in 2017 when he stole the Rookie of the Year title away from the rest of the rookie class by walking into T-Mobile Arena and going a perfect 6-for-6 to win the 2017 PBR World Finals.
Leme stunningly earned enough points (2,532.5 points) in that one event to surpass an extremely talented rookie class, featuring the likes of Luciano de Castro, Dener Barbosa, Cody Teel and Claudio Montanha Jr. to win the rookie title.
It was an impressive feat, and all Leme did in 2018 was show that despite competing in only one premier series event (2017 World Finals) that he was indeed the real deal.
Leme finished 2018 – his first full season in the PBR – runner-up in the World Championship race and only 422.5 points behind Kaique Pacheco.
The 22-year-old was unable to follow in the footsteps of Jess Lockwood or Silvano Alves and become just the third Rookie of the Year in PBR history to win the World Championship the following year, but Leme was able to post one of the best sophomore seasons by a ROY winner in PBR history.
Leme’s 53.95-percent riding average in his second season is the third highest among Rookie of the Year winners in the last 18 years. His PBR-best 12 round wins is also the most by a Rookie of the Year in their second season.
The Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil, bull rider went 41-for-76 with five 90-point rides, an event victory, a 15/15 victory, four second-place finishes and 13 Top-10s on the Unleash The Beast.
The only two Rookie of the Years with higher riding percentages then Leme in their second seasons are two future first-ballot Ring of Honor inductees – three-time World Champion Alves (68.32 percent) and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney (60.87 percent).
2013 Rookie of the Year Joao Ricardo Vieira is tied with Leme for the third-most qualified rides by a Rookie of the Year in their sophomore season.
Leme concluded his season with a second-place finish at the 2018 PBR World Finals for a $251,000 payday.
He has earned $667,000 in two World Finals appearances, which is also a PBR record for non-World Champions.
If not for a torn ACL in the spring that cost him two Unleash The Beast events, Leme may have even won the 2018 world title.
“I'm very happy with my first season here,” Leme said. “This year I hope to have a season without injury. I think it had messed up my year a little bit, but I do not think that's why I was not the champion. I think what happened had to happen. God knows the right moment of everything, and this year it was not mine. I hope to continue working in search of this dream and, if God wants, to be the champion in 2019.”
Pacheco earned 482.5 points in Billings, Montana, which was the first event Leme missed because of his torn ACL.
Leme is not waiting long to begin his 2019 season.
The now third-year pro will be competing at this weekend’s Corpus Christi Chute Out in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Fans can watch the Velocity Tour event exclusively on RidePass Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET.
“I'm going to start my 2019 season this week,” Leme said. “I'm not going to Brazil this year. I will stay here and focus on my preparations for 2019.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said during the World Finals that every bull rider has to remember that every event matters in the race to a World Championship.
"Every one of these bull ridings is big, and it’s time to elevate your game when you show up at the PBR,” Lambert said. “And so, because it’s in September or October doesn’t mean it’s any more important than if it’s in March. Every bull matters the same. And a guy’s got to remember that. A guy’s got to be all-in that time of the year too.”
Leme has never enjoyed going long periods without riding, and the Velocity Tour gives him a chance to get a head start on 2019 before the Unleash The Beast series begins on Jan. 4-6 in New York City with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden.
Pacheco competed in seven more events at all levels of competition than Leme in 2019, which Leme realizes played a major factor in his world title shortcomings.
The amount of world points Pacheco earned in those seven events that Leme did not compete in?
“I think in seven events maybe I would have gotten the 423 points that were missing for me to be the champion,” Leme said.
With the PBR’s addition of more world points to Velocity Tour events, Leme could earn potentially 220 points in Corpus Christi with a victory.
Also competing in Corpus Christi are Alves, Fabiano Vieira, Brennon Eldred and Cannon Cravens.
“I feel great,” Leme said. “I have been resting.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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