HOMETOWN BOYS: Bunch, Rogers get local support during PBR Unleash the Beast

Jan. 22—Over the weekend at the PBR's Unleash the Beast event in Tulsa, the crowd got noticeably louder whenever two riders' names were mentioned: Caden Bunch and Wyatt Rogers.

The duo from Cherokee County regularly got the loudest roar from the crowd throughout the two-day event. Just an hour away from their homes, Bunch and Rogers had plenty of fans behind them this weekend.

"It's always a great feeling to hear a crowd cheer for you and even better close to home, makes me smile for sure," Bunch said. "It feels great to be at home with your hometown crowd. The BOK is a big event center and it means a lot to be there competing where I've watched several of my mentors ride."

For a pair of riders getting to compete at the BOK Center has been years in the making.

Both riders have been coming to the yearly PBR for most of their life. During this time they got a chance to see their idols and mentors compete and eventually moved into that slot.

"It is just great, I have been coming here since I was eight or nine," Rogers said. "Going from being in the stands watching my idols and then possibly being some kids' idol, is a dream come true. It is the ultimate dream and it is such a small percentage of people it is truly blessed. Truly just the back of my neck stood up, it was an unreal moment."

Despite having the hometown crowd behind them, the duo could not post a qualified ride and advance to the finals.

Bunch posted an eight-second ride on his first ride, but opted for a re-ride when his bull didn't score high enough on his second ride to qualify.

While Bunch put up a fight in his re-ride he wasn't able to stay on for the full eight seconds. Bunch matched up with a tough bull — Mr. Nasty — and was knocked off prematurely.

Rogers was also booted in both of his rides on Friday and Saturday. Rogers' second ride was delayed thanks to his bull being uncooperative forcing him to wait another round before completing his second ride.

"It makes you want to work harder and perform better for your home crowd. I was sure hoping for a qualified ride," Bunch said.

After the weekend, Bunch's rank fell from 16 to 18. Rogers now finds himself ranked 32 in the Unleash the Beast standings.

Youth Movement

At just 20 years old, Bunch is one of the many young riders making a difference in the PBR right now. While the nearly 40-year-old Joao Ricardo Vaerai took the event, the youth were well represented coming into the event. Going into Tulsa, two top Riders were under 22 and 23 years old.

Along with the younger riders leading the standing, they made a difference this weekend. Going into day two, the No. 2 rider in the world, Austin Richardson, was leading the event. During day two, the youngest rider Clay Guiton was the first to post a 90-point score and the first to post a qualified ride on Saturday. Guiton rounded out the top five and put himself in the rankings after being unranked.

Seeing the younger riders succeed wasn't surprising to Bunch. The 20-year-old said he has been competing with this group for most of his life.

"I've known and grew up with most of those guys since we started riding sheep and we've competed with each other off and on at different associations," Bunch said. "It feels great to all be together on the same tour, means we've all reached our goal from when we first started. We all have new goals and I think we'll keep making a big impact going forward."

Bunch won the first event of the year in Tuscon, Arizona after three qualified rides. The win put him in first place in the Unleash the Beast standings for some time.

"Winning that first event meant a lot to me and I've struggled a little since but I just keep thanking god that I'm healthy and trusting his plan and keep going and moving forward and maybe I'll be blessed with another win," Bunch said.

Bunch, Rogers and the rest of the PBR Unleash the Beast field will be back in action at 7:45 p.m. in Austin, Texas at Toyota Center.

Follow live sports coverage @JakeSermershein on Twitter