Ty Erickson, Orin Larson big winners at American Rodeo
Billed as the biggest one-day rodeo in the world, RFD-TV’s The American Rodeo is over, and nine cowboys and cowgirls are depositing big checks in their accounts.
Several The American contestants from the Tri-State Livestock News area competed in Arlington, Texas for a share of the big money.
Steer wrestler Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., won his event, as did bareback rider Orin Larsen, of Gering, Neb.
For the first time in its six-year history, The American included cowgirls breakaway roping, and South Dakota cowgirl Sawyer Gilbert made it to the “big show.” This was also the first year for the Junior American, featuring contestants ages nineteen and under, which Gilbert qualified for as well.
And this was also the first time that earnings from the American counted towards the PRCA world standings. A contestant can count up to $50,000 in the world standings, which jumps both Erickson and Larsen to the top of their respective leaderboards.
For Erickson, it was the fourth time to compete at AT&T Stadium, but not his first win. He won the event three years ago. This year, he got to enjoy it. In 2016, after winning, he had to travel to a PRCA Champions Challenge event, jumping on a plane to get there. This year, his wife, Ciera, was able to celebrate with him. “It was a lot more fun this year,” Erickson said. “I got to sit there, enjoy it, and soak it all in with my friends and my family.”
Erickson rode the two-time AQHA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year, Scooter, owned by steer wrestlers Kyle Irwin and Tyler Pearson. Pearson hazed for him. Erickson was 4.6 seconds on his first steer, on March 2, to win second place. The top eight competitors came back for the rodeo on March 3, where Erickson made a 4.3 second run to place third. The top four men, in the average, ran a second steer in the four-man sudden death competition on March 3, where Erickson made a run of 4.2 seconds to win it.
He won $100,000, with half of that counting towards the PRCA world standings. The addition jumps him from fourth place, where he was before The American, to first place. It won’t change how he rodeos, though. “Winning (the money) is great, and it will give me a jump start to making the National Finals (Rodeo) again. But I’m not going to change the way I rodeo. I’ll keep going to the same rodeos I was planning on going to. I’m (traveling) with three other guys, so I’ll keep going everywhere they’re wanting to go and keep helping them out as much as I can as well.”
Nebraska’s Larsen had something good going before climbing on his first bronc at The American on March 2-3.
He won San Antonio’s rodeo February 23, then last weekend, took first place at The American.
Larsen, who was invited to The American (the top ten from each event from the 2018 PRCA year-end standings are invited and do not have to qualify), made an 85 point ride on Fri., March 2, on the Pickett Pro Rodeo horse Scarlet Bell. In the eight-man competition on March 3, he scored 87 points on Calgary Pro Rodeo’s Special Delivery, and in the four-man round, was 91 points on Pickett’s Top Notch.
Last year, Larsen won second at The American, but money won in Dallas didn’t count for the PRCA. This year, the $50,000 catapults him from fourth place in the world standings to number one, with about $80,000 won for the year. The earnings “definitely give me freedom to pick and choose (the rodeos he will compete at), but honestly, I’m not going to change the way I’ve rodeoed the past five years. It’s worked for me and my traveling partners, and I don’t think I should change it by any means,” he said.
However, the extra earnings do give him some peace of mind. He hopes next fall he’s not a “bubble rider,” the name given to the cowboys “on the bubble” – in thirteenth, fourteenth or fifteenth place in the world standings towards the end of the rodeo season, who have to work hard to stay in the top fifteen, to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “That’s something we all try to avoid,” Larsen said. “To not have to worry about that aspect is great, but you still have to be at the top of your game, because there are still guys hungry for that (world title) buckle.”
Larsen’s wife Alexa was with him in Dallas, during The American, as were his parents, Kevin and Wanda, from Inglis, Manitoba. His wife “was pretty thrilled” with his win, “and my folks were, too. I’m lucky to have a really good support system.”
Sawyer Gilbert was making history at the AT&T Stadium.
She was part of the inaugural group of breakaway ropers to compete in their event for the first time at The American.
The seventeen-year-old cowgirl qualified for The American Semi-Finals at two qualifier events, in Bowman, N.D. and in Arthur, Neb. She also qualified for the Junior American at a rodeo in Las Vegas, during the WNFR, and at her family’s breakaway roping event, held in November.
At the semi-finals, held in Ft. Worth February 25-29, she was not able to advance to The American, but Gilbert and fellow Junior American competitor Madison Outhier did advance by taking second and first place, respectively, in the Junior American, held on March 1. Gilbert won the long go with a time of 2.22 seconds, which advanced her to the short go (top 8). She roped her calf in 3.29 but broke the barrier putting her out of the running for the $100,000.
Roping with some of the best breakaway ropers in the world was a thrill to her. “It was amazing to get to rope against Jackie Crawford and Lari Dee Guy and J.J. Hampton. All those big names like that, they’re just good people who will help you do anything.”
Roping in the same place where the Dallas Cowboys play was also exciting. “I’ve been to a lot of places, but never to a building that big, and I’ve never competed in a building with so much energy. You could feel the power in there. It was amazing.”
Gilbert wasn’t intimidated. “You look at it as positive energy to keep you focused, to do your job. Once you’ve made it there, you know what works, and if you stay focused, you know it will end well.”
The junior in high school is home schooled through the Western Christian Academy. She is a contestant in the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association, competing in the breakaway, goat tying, team roping and cutting, and is a two-time and current SDHSRA breakaway roping champion.
Gilbert lives near Buffalo, S.D. She is the daughter of Lloyd and Patty Gilbert.
Two-time world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright isn’t rodeoing hard anymore, but he took the call when The American phoned him.
The phone call came on Feb. 25, a week before the American started, asking him to compete as an “exemption.” He hadn’t rodeoed much last year, after getting hurt in May, and his sons were using his saddle.
So he made a call to G Bar G Saddles in Riverton, Wyo., to build him a new bronc saddle, and ship it to him. It arrived at his home in Milford, Utah, two days before he left for Arlington.
“It was kind of a rush, rush type of deal,” he said. “But I feel blessed to be able to come and be part of it.”
He didn’t get on any practice horses at home before heading to Texas. “I have practice horses at home, but it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground. I’d have to go to an indoor arena,” he said. He also didn’t want to get sore. “I opted to get my saddle set the best I could on a saddle horse, without practicing, because I knew it would make me sore. I figured, with the amount of time I had, I’d be better off to start cold turkey.”
His son Ryder, the 2017 world champion, won The American. Cody came in fourth. Rusty, another of Cody’s sons, along with Cody’s brother Spencer, and his brother-in-law, CoBurn Bradshaw, also competed in Arlington.
Other 2019 American winners are team ropers Coleman Proctor, Miami, Okla., and Ryan Motes, Fresno, Calif.; tie-down roper Caleb Smidt, Huntsville, Texas; barrel racer Hailey Kinsel, Cotulla, Texas; breakaway roper 16-year-old Madison Outhier, Utopia, Texas, and bull rider Joao Ricardo Vieira, Itatinga, Brazil. All-around winner was Rhen Richard, Roosevelt, Utah. Todd Danley was the Back in the Saddle award winner, and the Up and Comer Award went to Michael Duffie.
Each event winner won $100,000. A $1 million pot was split between the three event winners who were not invitees to The American, but who advanced through the qualification system. Proctor, Motes, and Ricardo Vieira each got an equal share of the million dollars.
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many successes in the arena in 2020.