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16Sep/20

Meet Bryan Titman: a star of Syracuse’s professional bull riding return

first_imgMore than half an hour before they let the bulls loose, a few men in different colored 10-gallon hats swarmed the cages that enclosed their enemy and their ally. In The Oncenter Friday, where there usually sits an ice hockey rink, the darkness gave the dirt a reddish tint. Aerial lights cut through the ground.Amidst the chaos, one of the bull riders at the Professional Bull Riders Velocity Tour: Syracuse Showdown, Bryan Titman, popped five peanut M&M’s into his mouth. He doesn’t know when his pre-ride snack started, but at some point it parlayed into significant results.Even as a star in a sport at the pinnacle of spectacle, introduced Friday by fire shows, blaring music and moderated by a wise-cracking man in clown makeup, Titman is dedicated to his routine, his training, his preparation. A good day and a bad day both end launched to the dirt by a disturbed animal. But he knows he can’t slow down, so he maintains the same mindset on the ground as on the bull: Those who hang around the longest go the furthest.“If you can’t push past it,” Titman said, “you better stop.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJoe Hostetler grips onto his bull rope as his bull launches out of the bucking chute.Corey Henry | Photo EditorOn Friday, 39 bull riders hoped to conquer the eight-second threshold set for the night of competition. A lively Syracuse crowd experienced an event that hasn’t graced the city since 2008. They were introduced to the new stars of the sport, including Titman, who has been riding for 28 years.Titman, now 31, was born into a lineage of bull riders. So at three years old he hopped on his first sheep, worked his way toward a small bull and became a professional rider in 2011. Titman was compelled in the same way many are: Breaking down how something so chaotic can be so well kept. He had seen his family do it, but he thought he could be better.“They were nowhere near as good as I am,” Titman joked the day before the event.In 2006, a woman named Kaitlynn noticed Titman at a club dancing in a different way. He asked her to dance and the two of them exchanged phone numbers. She didn’t want to tell him at the time, but when she was 10, she told her parents she’d marry a bull rider.They rarely texted in the two years that followed, many of the exchanges developed the same way.“Who is this?” Kaitlynn would text.“It’s Bryan, the bull rider,” he responded.Alex Jenks slides off the bull’s back as he loses his grip.Corey Henry | Photo EditorBut in 2008, he and his future wife Kaitlynn Titman went on their first date. She was introduced to many of the quirks and superstitions Bryan has. He doesn’t lift weights, keeps his hat on his bed during competition season and washes his clothes based on his performance in training. The night before matches, he sits in front of his TV and remains totally still, making sure to stay clean and neat.Those superstitions help him stay invested even as things go awry, he said. Since Kaitlynn and Titman have been together, Kaitlynn has been at every match when he’s gotten majorly hurt. In 2012, he broke his hip and pelvis. Titman required an airlift to Houston after traveling in an ambulance was deemed too dangerous.Doctors said he should sit out a year. But Titman returned in six months. Now, wear and tear of some weekends have morphed his training into idle time and Epsom salt baths. He does the occasional cardio, but strength has never been an issue.“When he’s able, he’ll go get on practice bulls,” Kaitlynn said. “But that’s really it.”Dakota Louis removes his helmet after his ride that gained him an 8 ranked spot.Corey Henry | Photo EditorWhen it comes time for the event, Titman tries to relax. Friday, he waited on the peak of the wall as the bull riders entered the arena. Titman, along with three others, were featured riders of the night. In a sport littered with inconsistencies and bad showings, he was one of the must-sees.Titman said when things are going good on the bull, everything feels slow. He can breathe, hear the music, take in the crowd. But after Titman’s bull let loose Friday, for both he and the crowd, it went fast. He bucked off in 5.17 seconds. As the bull continued to pounce, Titman crawled away from danger. When the scene settled, he placed his hands on his hips.He peered up toward the video board and watched a replay. Kaitlynn said he does a lot of analysis of bulls and techniques. When the video ended, his head tilted down. Titman has had better days, and every time he fails he knows he’ll have better days in front of him. It’s that assurance that compels him each time to jump on the back of an animal that doesn’t want him there: When it’s time to perform, he just has to do it.He nodded his head, walked off the concourse and started his preparation to get back up on the back of a bull again. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 26, 2019 at 12:05 am Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcClearylast_img read more