The list of accomplishments continues to grow.
Gold buckles, money earned, rodeos won … something is added every year to the expanding list.
But among all the achievements, one thing has remained steadfast.
Clay Tryan’s roots.
“I’m proud of that fact,” Tryan said of being a PRCA champion team roper from Montana. “It’s cool to be where I’m from. Everybody else is from Texas or California, from warm weather states. I remember roping when I was 16, I don’t know if it was for an interview or a video, but it was 20-below. I couldn’t feel my hands.”
Now those hands have earned Tryan three team-roping world championships as a header and more than $2 million in earnings in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competition.
Tryan and partner Jade Corkill have won the last two gold buckles and have the inside track for a third in a row at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Tryan also won a title in 2005, and Corkill did so in 2012.
The NFR, with an $8.8 million purse this year, is scheduled to run from Thursday to Dec. 12 at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Under the new contract, each qualifier is given $10,000 along with the go-round and overall money substantially increased. First place in a go-round is now worth $26,230 and first place in the aggregate is worth an additional $67,269.
Tryan enters his 14th NFR with $130,497 won for 2015. It’s the fifth time in his career he’s earned the most money for the regular season.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “I think it’s harder than winning the gold buckle. It shows how well you roped all year. Anybody can get hot and rope well at the finals.”
Tryan and Corkill won team-roping titles at 11 rodeos this past year, including the Wrangler Champions Challenge events at Rapid City, South Dakota; Redding, California; Spanish Fork, Utah, and Kissimmee, Florida.
“It was kind of a weird season,” he said. “We did well at the beginning, didn’t do much in the summer and won the most money of anybody in the fall.”
Tryan said there was no panic during the long stretches between checks.
“You know you’re going to have your dry spells. That’s roping,” said the 36-year-old father of three boys. “When you’re younger, guys blame everybody but themselves. They’ll blame their horse, their partner, their draw … anything. You have to take accountability of what you’re doing. And we have the ability to do that.
“You just have to keep roping through it.”
Tryan is only one of five cowboys from cold-weather states to win PRC team-roping titles. The others are: Peter Grubb, Idaho, 1940; Dee Pickett, Idaho, 1984; Bobby Harris, Wyoming, 1991; and Jhett Johnson, Wyoming, 1991.
Tryan is also the second Montana cowboy to surpass $2 million in career earnings, joining seven-time world champion Dan Mortensen on that list.
The Shepherd High School graduate could pull himself a little closer to Mortensen with another strong NFR.
Last year, he and Corkill placed in 7 of 10 rounds, winning $109,000 and the NFR average title. Tryan earned a PRCA team roping record $220,057 for 2014.
“It’s the same game plan,” Tryan said of this year’s NFR. “Catch as many as we can, hopefully win a round or two. The thing with the Finals is you have to be ready for anything. You might be in a situation where you have to be fast or in a situation where you just have to catch. But you’ve got to catch them to make something happen.
“Oh yeah, I’m looking forward to the NFR. This is why we do it. The best guys are there. Roping is what I do. Roping is what I love.”