LAS VEGAS — Helena's Ty Erickson and Miles City's Haven Meged locked up world championships Saturday night at the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Erickson finished No. 1 in the world in steer wrestling despite finishing out of the money Saturday. He was ahead of Butte's Bridger Chambers, who rose to second in the world standings and third in average at the NFR with a third-place finish on the final night for $18,192.
Meged, a 21-year-old rookie, won two buckles -- for finishing first in average and first in the world in tie-down roping. He finished fifth Saturday with a time of 8.00 to win $6,769 and cap a consistent 10-day run.
Also Saturday, Hailey Kinsel Lockwood, who married two-time PBR bull riding champion Jess Lockwood of Volborg in October, is barrel racing world champion after finishing eighth in average. She finished 11th in her final go Saturday with a time of 18.85.
Fellow barrel racer Lisa Lockhart, who grew up outside of Vida, closed out strong in barrel racing by winning the final round in 13.71. Lockhart finished third in average and fourth in the world standings.
Helena heeler Chase Tryan and partner Brenten Hall also had a big finish, getting sixth in team roping with a time of 9.40 and a $4,231 paycheck. Tryan and Hall finished second in the average and third in the world standings.
Erickson came into the NFR as the regular-season leader for the third time in four years. Each previous time he came up short of winning a gold buckle.
That’s not the case anymore.
Erickson earned $234,491 to win the world championship. Matt Reeves won the average with a 48.4-second time on 10 head.
Erickson finished fifth in the average with a 62.7-second time on 10 head. He earned $22,846, which helped him secure the world championship by $17,129 over Chambers.
“Oh, man, that’s better than I expected,” he said of the sound of him being the world champion. “This is a dream come true. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid. Now that it’s happened, it’s pretty surreal.”
Erickson tried to keep his emotions in check before Round 10.
“Today, I was just focused on my job and what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to get a good start and just go make a good run. After I saw what I had drawn, I knew I had a good, honest steer tonight and would be able to do what I wanted. I was just outside (the money) in the round, but that’s OK because I made the run I wanted tonight, and everything worked out.
“I slept pretty well last night, because I was just trying to stay focused and do my job. I tried as best as I could to not let the outside noise affect me too much.”
Erickson was the last steer wrestler out in Round 10, adding to his stress.
“When you have to wait for 14 bulldoggers to go, then you get to go and you know all you have to do is throw one down, that’s pretty hard,” Erickson said. “I think it’s harder to just go throw one down than if you have to go and be 4-flat. That was nerve-racking going last, but it all worked out.”
Erickson acknowledged his world title was a group effort. He was handed the gold buckle by his aunt Judy Wagner, of Montana Silversmiths.
“This means everything,” Erickson said. “This is all we’ve been working for the last seven years. Every morning, this is what we get up and work toward, so now that it’s actually come true and we’ve accomplished that, it couldn’t mean any more to me. My aunt being the one to hand me the buckle made it even more special.
“This makes all the all-night drives, not doing well at a rodeo, all the tears, sweat and blood all worth it now.”
Meged's gold buckle earned him $246,013. He also won the average with an 85.7-second time on 10 head.
Meged defeated Shane Hanchey, the 2013 tie-down roping world champ, by $1,181 for the world championship.
Meged is the first rookie to win a tie-down roping gold buckle since Joe Beaver in 1985. He also became just the fourth person in ProRodeo history to win a college championship and a world championship in the same year, following in the footsteps of Ty Murray (all-around, 1988), Matt Austin (bull riding, 2005) and Taos Muncy (saddle bronc riding, 2007).
“It’s a dream come true,” Meged said. “I hurt myself three weeks before here and have just had faith in God that it would be all right, and this is his plan. To come together, to win Rookie of the Year, the average saddle and this (a gold buckle), it’s unbelievable.”
Meged didn’t have any complex approach to his first Wrangler NFR.
“Honestly, just keeping it simple,” he said. “Coming in here, everybody talks about how cool it is talking to guys who have roped here. To be in the Top 15 in tie-down roping and now the world champion at such a young age is unbelievable.
“I kind of kick myself for not placing better. I let a couple calves get away from me. I went out (Saturday) morning and practiced to slow down, think about why I’m here, and to not overdo anything. To do what we do, focus on why and how we got here, just try not to make it complicated.”
In other events involving Montanans on the final day of the NFR:
• Stevensville's Richmond Champion finished seventh in bareback riding to conclude the NFR third in average and fourth in the world.
• In the same event, Corvallis' Caleb Bennett was bucked and didn't earn a score, leaving him seventh in the world and 10th in average.
• Billings' Clay Tryan and partner Jake Long didn't achieve a time in team roping for the second straight night. Tryan finished 10th in the world and 13th in average.
• Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge had a 10th-place ride in saddle bronc for an 82. Brooks fell to ninth in average and eighth in the world standings.