BILLINGS — Travis Tryan thinks he still has the jacket.
He’s just not sure where.
“I’ve moved four or five times since then,” said the Billings team roper of earning his 2000 Northern Rodeo Association Finals jacket. “I’ve seen it about two houses ago. I still remember what it looks like. It was blue.
“I have to go find it. But I’m not sure if it fits me anymore. I’ve gotten a little bigger since then.”
That blue jacket represented a transition in his roping career. Tryan competed at the 2000 NRA Finals in Billings in February of 2001. Nine months later, he was roping at his first National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Tryan would go on to be an 11-time NFR qualifier and earn more than $1.5 million in PRCA events.
After living in Texas most of his professional career, Tryan and his family — wife Hillary and daughters Riley and Payton — returned to Billings in 2017.
And this week, he returns to his rodeo roots to compete at the NRA Finals in Kalispell.
The NRA/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals at Majestic Valley Arena Thursday, Friday and Saturday will determine the 2019 year-end champions.
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“I’m going back to where I started,” said Tryan. “All those memories come back. It brings back good memories.”
Tryan, now 38, competed at his first NRA Finals at the age of 16, finishing sixth in the standings. He was second in 1998 and punctuated his final NRA Finals appearance by winning the year-end gold buckle in 2000 by just $331 over Rob Kountz of Bozeman.
“It’s kind of where I learned to win and how to lose, too. I didn’t like the losing part so much,” he said with a chuckle. “At high school rodeos, you’re going against people more your level. The NRA guys, for whatever reason, are closer to home. Some had been in the NFR or could be.”
That group included his roping partner at the time, his father Dennis, a former NFR competitor and multi-time champion in the state of Montana. Dennis Tryan was the first team roper from Montana to compete in Las Vegas. Older brother Clay, who has won three PRCA world titles, also roped, along with Bill Parker, Kory Mytty and Sam Bird during that era. Parker qualified for the NFR in both team roping and tie-down roping. Mytty, now the head rodeo coach at the University of Montana, qualified for the NFR in 1994.
“You learn to raise your game to the level of competition,” Tryan said of his rodeo education. “Sam Bird was as good a roper out there. He had a horse, Jet, was the best horse going. I rode him a couple of times … it was like stealing.
“The NRA, it’s really a good place to learn. Any time you go and compete, going up against guys who are so talented, that’s going to help you. I got to go against good competition, rope with my dad and compete against my brother (Clay).”
Tyran is fourth in the team roping heading standings, trailing Dallas VonHeeder of Thompson Falls by just $623. Tyran's brother Brady has also qualified for the NRA Finals.
Roping with Justin Viles of Cody, Wyoming, the two won at Townsend and were also second at Big Timber and Boulder. The pair also leads the PRCA Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit standings
“The first step is to make it. The next step is to go out and win it,” Tryan said of the NRA Finals. “I’m excited to go.”