Clayton Hass, of Terrell, Texas, competes in the steer wrestling competition on the third day of the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 05, 2015. Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal Follow @bleblancphoto
Ty Erickson, of Helena, Mont., competes in the Steer Wrestling competition on the third day of the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 05, 2015. Brett Le Blanc/Las Vegas Review-Journal Follow @bleblancphoto
NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
WHEN: 6:45 p.m. daily today through Saturday
WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center
TV: 7 p.m. daily today through Saturday, CBSSN (333)
TICKETS: Sold out (For Mad Dash tickets, go to UNLVtickets.com)
EVENTS: Top 15 contestants in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping (headers and heelers), saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding.
By Todd Dewey
Las Vegas Review-Journal
It was fitting that steer wrestlers Clayton Hass and Ty Erickson finished first and second in the third round of the National Finals Rodeo on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
They've been by each other's side all year as traveling partners on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit.
"Ty and I rodeoed all year together and pushed each other to do better and win," Hass said after his winning run. "It didn't matter if he won first and I won second, or if I won first and he won second, we were tickled to death about tonight."
True to his word, when Erickson took over first place in the steer wrestling world standings in the NFR's opening round Thursday, nobody was happier than Hass, despite the fact Hass dropped from first to fourth in the round.
"A lot of people don't understand that I probably spend more time with Clayton than I do with my family," said Erickson, 25. "You want to see your friend do good. I'm not really competing against Clayton, I'm competing against the animal they drew me."
After failing to place in the first two rounds and sliding to sixth place, Hass bounced back with a 3.6-second run to win $26,230.77 and climb to third in the world. The 31-year-old from Terrell, Texas, is less than $9,000 behind Erickson, whose 3.8-second run netted him $20,730.77 and propelled him back into first place after dipping to second Friday.
Less than $39,000 separates the top seven steer wrestlers in one of the closest gold buckle chases ever.
"Man, it's going to be a battle through 10 rounds," Hass said. "It's going to be a three- or four-guy race come (Dec. 12, the NFR's final round)."
Along with lending each other support on the long, arduous rodeo trail, Hass and Erickson also shared each other's horses — Erickson's Shakem, the reigning AQHA steer wrestling Horse of the Year, and Hass' Cadillac, the 2014 AQHA steer wrestling Horse of the Year.
"That's what has worked out so great for me and Clayton this year. We could send Cadillac somewhere and Shakem somewhere else if we had to fly," Erickson said. "We were getting on great horsepower wherever we went. That's what helped me finish near the top of the standings this year."
Finishing near the top was a welcome relief for Erickson, who claimed the 15th and final qualifying spot for last year's NFR by a mere $63.
"It was pretty hairy there at the end. I really don't want to be in that position ever again," he said. "That was the most stressful two weeks I've gone through."
Shakem is a former racehorse.
"There are so many good guys that can bulldog, if you're not riding good horsepower, you're going to have a hard time winning," Erickson said. "It's pretty much whoever gets their feet on the ground first is going to place. When you're riding a fast horse, it dang sure helps.
"Some of the best horses have come off the (race) track."
On the subject of going off track, the horse trailer Hass and Erickson were hauling on a 26-hour drive from Puyallup, Wash., to Amarillo, Texas, this year blew out a couple of tires at a most inopportune time.
"We were 12 miles outside of Amarillo and had two blowouts on our trailer," Hass said. "We got the horses out on the side of the road, feeding them and giving them water. Four hours later, we get back on the road. All we could think about coming in was that we wanted to get to Whataburger. We ain't had Whataburger for a long time. The first thing we did was stop in a Whataburger at 3 (a.m.)."
NOTES — Timber Moore took over the top spot in the tie-down roping world standings from Tuf Cooper, who recorded a no time. Moore tied for third with a run of 7.70 seconds, pocketing $13,326.92 to take a lead of almost $9,000 over Cooper. ... Saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss, a record five-time world runner-up, reclaimed first place by winning the round, and $26,230.77, with an 84-point ride on Summit Pro Rodeo's Big Fork. DeMoss leads Jacobs Crawley by more than $6,000. ... Bareback rider Steven Peebles won his second straight round with an 86.5 point ride on Andrews Rodeo's Cool Water to close within less than $7,000 of four-time defending world champ Kaycee Feild, who didn't place. With an NFR-leading $71,875 in winnings, Peebles has climbed from 14th place to second. ... Defending bull riding world champ Sage Kimzey took second place, and $20,730.77, to extend his lead to more than $46,000 over Parker Breding. In his first successful ride at the NFR, Kimzey scored 84.5 points on Andrews Rodeo's Mellow Yellow. ... Reid Barker took third place with a 74-point ride on Pete Carr's Classic Pro Rodeo's Lonestar, but he paid the price for his $15,653.85 check. Barker was stomped in the back by the bull and taken out of the arena on a stretcher. The 23-year-old from Comfort, Texas, was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.