When Clay Tryan and his horse backed into the box back in 2000, he was a young man just starting his professional rodeo career.
He was roping with his father, Dennis, at the annual MontanaFair Rodeo in Billings, then sanctioned with the Northern Rodeo Association.
“It always seemed like it was the biggest rodeo of the year,” recalled Tryan, now 35 and the married father of three sons. “I started roping there when I was 15.”
“I remember it was out on the track. Boy, that was a long time ago,” he finished with a soft chuckle.
He would qualify for his first National Finals Rodeo the next year and rope in Las Vegas 12 of the next 13 Decembers. Since that last time he swung a rope at MontanaFair, Tryan has won two world titles (2005, 2013) and earned more than $1.8 million dollars.
Tryan returns to MontanaFair to compete in team roping at the PRCA Yellowstone River Round-Up on Friday night.
“It’s coming full circle now,” Tryan said. “I was a nobody when I last roped there and now you’re kind of known.
“A guy always remembers where he started and it means a lot to rope where you came from. It’s been a long time since I’ve roped in Billings. Billings is important. You always want to do well at your hometown rodeo and represent your home state. It would mean a lot to win Billings.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Tryan, who now lives in Texas, leads the world team roping heading standings with $93,088 won. He and Jade Corkill, of Fallon, Nev., have won team roping titles at Redding, Calif., San Angelo, Texas and Clovis, Calif.
“It’s been good,” Tryan said of his 2014. “We did really well early in the season. It’s one of the best starts I’ve ever had. We’ve kind of cooled off lately. But we’re still in the lead and you can’t be disappointed with that. We want to finish the year the way we started.”
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Clay Tryan isn’t the only Tryan entered. He is joined by brothers Travis and Brady, along with cousin Chase who entered this weekend. The other Tryans will be team roping in slack during Friday morning.
“We do it more than you would think,” Clay Tryan said of so many Tryans roping in the same arena. “We’re entered in all the same rodeos. We see each other quite a bit.
“It’s pretty cool for Montana.”
Terri Kaye Kirkland, Clay and Travis’ mother, is entered in the barrel racing.
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The oldest of the roping Tryans is one of 17 current or former world champions entered for the Yellowstone River Round-Up.
Trevor Brazile, a 19-time world champion, is scheduled to compete in team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping during Friday’s slack. Brazile’s wife Shada is also competing in barrel racing.
The entry list includes more than 80 NFR qualifiers among the record 536 entries.
With help from the Cowboy Club and Yellowstone County Commissioners, the purse was bumped up to $6,500 added per event, an 11 percent increase from last year.
“If the money is good, cowboys will find a way to get there,” Tryan said.
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Among those entered Thursday night include reigning tie-down roping world champion Shane Hanchey, along with NFR qualifiers J.R. Vezain (bareback), Bennette Little (barrel racing) and Britany Diaz (barrel racing). Nevada Newman of Melstone is entered in the bull riding, along with Kaleb Asay, the 2008 saddle bronc rookie of the year.
Hunter Cure, the 2013 world steer wrestling champion, is entered for Friday night.
The Sankey Rodeo Company of Joliet is the stock contractor. His pen of horses for Billings includes six that were selected for last year’s NFR, along with a handful that could be chosen for Las Vegas this year.