Long gone are the days of the lone ranger – but now Oklahoma offers something new. Formed in 2022, the Oklahoma Freedom became one of the founding teams to join the ranks of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Team Series, an elite league of eight groups comprising some of the world’s most competitive bull riders. 

“[Bull riding] is so much more of a team sport than we ever thought it would be originally,” says Cord McCoy, head coach of the Freedom and a five-time International Professional Rodeo Association world champion. “In one year, we have felt the effectiveness of what a team can do for each other. We’ve learned faster and better as a team than we did individually.” 

The PBR Team Series touts a new, tournament-style format for one of America’s longest-standing rodeo sports. For 10 weeks, the eight PBR teams square off in five-on-five bull-riding competitions. The highest-scoring teams advance through the bracket – with the hopes of competing in the final PBR Team Series Championship. 

The Inaugural Season

The PBR Team Series was in development for several years before kicking off its first season last year. McCoy, who was born and raised in Oklahoma, was thrilled to receive the opportunity to lead the state’s first official bull-riding team. 

“Oklahoma’s got the best, most loyal fans,” he says. He credits the enthusiasm for the team, in part, to its strong performance during the inaugural season, placing fourth in the final PBR Team Series Championship.

The team, however, fought an uphill battle to secure the spot. The Freedom was nearly eliminated mid-season after losing to the Nashville Stampede. In a glorious redemption, the team delivered four consecutive 90-point scores in the Last Chance Game, beating the Missouri Thunder and Kansas City Outlaws. 

Following this comeback, the Freedom went on to win seven games in a row, including victories at the Freedom Fest in Oklahoma City. 

“We went on the longest-winning streak that has ever been done,” says McCoy. The Freedom was also the first PBR team to score a victory in its hometown.  

The team’s winning stretch earned a spot in the semifinals, where they eventually lost against the Arizona Ridge Riders. 

While they didn’t nab the championship title, the team’s overall performance has built up momentum for next season. 

“We got a taste of success, and now we know what this group of guys can do,” says McCoy. 

This Year’s Roster

The Freedom consists of 12 professional bull riders. Three of them – Deklan Garland, Shawn Bennett Jr. and Trevor Kastner – hail from Oklahoma. 

In putting together a team, McCoy selected riders with different levels of experience. The team’s veteran riders are Kastner, Chase Outlaw and Eli Vastbinder. Sitting on injured reserve is Jess Lockwood, a two-time winner of the PBR World Championship.

Come game time, McCoy selects five riders to duke it out in the ring with the opposing team. Each rider must stay on their bull for at least 8 seconds to score points. 

“There’s always that rank bull – or most dangerous bull – and somebody has to take on for the team,” says McCoy. “We need guys that will step out there for the team and slay the dragon.” 

The Freedom was last in the draft for the 2022 season. However, McCoy has confidence in the team, with plans to keep the roster the same for the upcoming season. The three-day 2023 PBR Team Series Championship will commence on Oct. 20 in Las Vegas.

“It’s awesome that we can go into year two with the same group of guys and throw our three veteran [bull riders] in there,” says McCoy. “I think we’ve got a very good chance to win the whole thing in 2023.” 

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