BILLINGS — Montana cowboy Dakota Louis knew that the Professional Bull Riders stop at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark would be “special”.

The likeable 28-year-old who lives on the family ranch near Glacier National Park always enjoys competing in the Treasure State and was especially looking forward to the three-day Unleash The Beast Tour Ariat Invitational that concluded at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark on Sunday.

Louis entered the event looking for his first premier series win and hoping to improve in the world rankings. Before the competition began on Friday, Louis was tied for 38th place in the standings and the top 35 qualify for the World Finals Nov. 4-8 in Las Vegas.

A strong start with an 86.50-point ride on Friday in the first round and an 84.75-point ride in round two Saturday had Louis in eighth-place in points earned after the first two days of competition, and in solid contention to qualify for the championship round with an aggregate of 171.25.

While Louis did not post a score in the third round on Sunday, he was one of the top 15 bull riders to qualify for the championship round. Louis had a re-ride in the championship and was the second-to-last rider of the night before eventual winner Jose Vitor Leme, and drew a nice applause from those in the Metra stands. While he did not post a score, it was still an outstanding weekend for the 2011 Browning High School graduate.

In placing seventh overall, the Northern Cheyenne tribal member, who is also of Blackfeet descent, earned 20 total points and $3,525 and is now ranked 33rd in the PBR world standings with five regular-season events remaining.

Louis is confident that come the first week of November, he’ll be competing at the World Finals at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

“I have my mental routine I go through when it comes game time,” Louis told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com Sunday. “I focus on doing my job and being there each jump. I know if I just ride my bulls, the rest will all take care of itself.”

In an interview leading up to the Billings PBR stop, Louis told The Gazette and 406mtsports.com that another reason he was looking forward to the Ariat Invitational was that his grandma, Nathel Show of Billings, would be in attendance cheering him on.

It was his grandmother that took Louis to his first PBR event, at the Metra when he was 8 years old. Louis was looking forward to his grandma’s “lucky breakfast” in the days leading up to the Ariat Invitational.

“I went over and had breakfast with her,” Louis, a three-time Indian National Finals Rodeo bull riding champion, said. “She is having a great weekend.”

During his special weekend at Metra, Louis had several friends and family members cheering him on and overall he was one of the crowd favorites all three days of the competition.

One of those family members cheering Louis on was his father, Greg Louis, a two-time INFR bull riding titlist.

“He’s my biggest hero and someone I always looked up to,” Louis said of his father, who also lives on the family ranch.

While it will always be a special occasion for Louis to compete at the Metra in front of his family, friends and the Big Sky Country fans, his determination to advance to the World Finals played a key part in making the weekend successful on the professional level as well.

Before this weekend, Louis said he’d rode one bull at the Metra in his PBR career. This season marks the third year of Louis competing full-time in the circuit.

With the fans’ help Louis was able to triple that total this past weekend.

“Just riding each bull to have the crowd scream as loud as they do fuels that fire,” Louis said. “Each ride is one you remember — it is bull riding, it’s not just walking down the street. It’s the most dangerous sport in the world and for us to ride the toughest bulls in the world is a statement. It’s not like we are in the NBA and NFL where the guys they are going with have control. We are going against a 2,000-pound bull who doesn’t care.”

It turns out, Louis was right. He’ll probably never forget this “special” weekend.

Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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