Wrangler National Finals Rodeo

Ty Erickson of Helena wrestles a steer during competition at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — In less than four seconds, a week of frustration washed off Ty Erickson’s large shoulders.

The Helena cowboy made a difficult National Finals Rodeo a bit better by winning the ninth round of steer wrestling on Friday night at The Thomas and Mack Center.

The final performance on Saturday of the 10-round $10 million rodeo will crown the 2018 world champions.

Hailey Kinsel, of Cotulla, Texas, won the barrel racing with a time of 13.4 seconds to clinch her first world title. Kinsel has won three three of the last four rounds for $146,442 at the NFR and $339,276 for her season.

“It’s a lot of emotions right now,” said Kinsel who used Copper Spring Ranch in Bozeman as a home base in August and early September. “We’re just trying to figure out which ones.”

Along with winning the gold buckle, the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo champion, set the WPRA single-season earnings record. The previous record was $323,570 by Canadian Lindsay Sears in 2008.

The 28-year-old Erickson won the round with a time of 3.5 seconds for $26,230. It was Erickson’s first out-right round win in his 49 runs at five NFRs. He shared first place with Kyle Irwin in the eighth round in 2014.

“That was always one of my goals, to win a round buckle outright,” said the Montana State University graduate. “I’m ecstatic right now.”

It is Erickson’s fourth check of the NFR. Prior to Friday night, he had gone four consecutive rounds without earning any money, including a no time in the sixth round when his steer stopped in the sixth round that took him out of the average.

“This eases the pain, a lot,” Erickson said. “This will help with a guy’s confidence. I tried to stick to my game plan as much as I could, but some things you can’t control, like that steer stopping. I just never felt like I could get things going, but I drew one I really like tonight and I made the best run I could.”

Despite the struggles, by his standards, Erickson has earned $65,423 at the NFR and is sixth in the world standings.

“That’s rodeo,” said Erickson who married Cierra Kunesh of Helena on Oct. 20. “Sometimes you’re going to have good days and sometimes, you’re going to have bad days. You just have to keep going.”

Bridger Chambers of Butte put his steer down in 5.6 seconds. He didn’t place but has moved up to second place in the average — worth another $54,577 — and seventh in the world standings.

Another Helena cowboy, Chase Tryan, and partner Bubba Buckaloo earned their sixth check in team roping. The two posted a time of 4.3 seconds to win $11,000. The two have pocketed $97,083 in nine rounds.

Clay Tryan and Travis Graves took a no time for the sixth straight performance.

After winning back to-back saddle bronc rounds with his first career 90-point rides, Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge was flagged at the gate and took a no score. Brody Cress, of Hillsdale, Wyoming, also got flagged for a no score.

New Montana resident Caleb Bennett — he moved to Corvallis from Tremonton, Utah on Oct. 20 — was 83.5 points in bareback riding and did not place. Reigning world champion Tim O’Connell was 90 points to win the round and regain the world standings lead from Bennett. O’Connell is also second in the average, while Bennett is seventh.

Lisa Lockhart went back to riding Rosa and put up a time of 13.63 seconds, her best of the NFR, to place fourth and earn $11,000. Lockhart has also climbed to eighth in the average.

Parker Breding of Edgar was in trouble early and took a no score in the bull riding.

Other ninth-round winners were: Zeke Thurston, saddle bronc, 90 points; Sterling Smith, tie-down roping, 7.4 seconds; Eli Vastbinder, bull riding, 91 points.

Vastbinder rode SweetPro’s Bruiser, the PRCA and Professional Bull Riders bull of the year in 2017. He was one of three qualified rides for $33,564. Former Montana State University cowboy Chase Dougherty was second in the bull riding with 87 points for $28,064 and has climbed past Breding for second in the world standings. Thurston is a former world and Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit champion.

Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

Sports writer at the Billings Gazette

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