BILLINGS – When the National Finals Rodeo opens Thursday in Las Vegas, Billings team roper Clay Tryan will be chasing his fourth world title. For more than a decade he and brother Travis were fixtures together at the NFR. But now they’re peeling opposite directions down the dusty trail.
“It’s a grind, but I’m kind of a worker, so I love the grind,” said Clay. “And I’ve always told you, sometimes the sport tells you when you go away. Like if you can’t win no more, it’s time to stop. And it hasn’t told me that yet.”
On the flip side, Travis is an 11-time NFR roper but hasn’t qualified in a few years. He’s actually settled down back in the Billings area.
“I still have the itch to compete,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would. I kind of took the winter off and sat back to see if I’d want to, then this spring I wanted to compete at a high level but just wanted to do it locally around Montana and the circuit rodeos and do it for a couple months, and that’s good with me.”
It’s good with him because family time is more precious now to Travis than the wear and tear of a full-time cowboy lifestyle.
“I still have time for the kids (two daughters), coach them and be around for them, and that’s what I want to do now,” he said.
Clay still braves the road — sometimes with his boys, now 10 and 12, who seem to be more into team roping than ever.
“It’s kind of cool to practice with them every day and see how much better they’re getting,” Clay said. “Maybe in a few years you’ll be interviewing them.”
In the meantime, dad is roping in his 16th Wrangler NFR and the boys are right there with him. Clay playfully claims they’re still at an age where they root for him ahead of anyone else.
“I’m No. 1, but they like the young guys that rope good,” he said with a wide grin. “They like Junior and guys like Jade Corkill and whoever I’m roping with. They’ll be roping the dummy with them at the NFR. They do it all year though, it ain’t nothing new.”
It’s good to grow up with a world champ.
Clay, who’s cashed in more than $2 million, says he still feels like he has enough game left to win at least one more world title.
Travis, who’s earned more than $1 million, will catch this year’s NFR on TV. For those wondering whether he’ll miss riding on rodeo’s grandest stage, the answer has been thoughtfully considered.
“People have asked me that, and I don’t think so,” Travis said. “I think once you step away from it and see all the stuff you could possibly miss, if you step away long enough it’ll be hard to go back to it. I mean, I did it for 17 years. … It is a grind. You’re constantly trying horses, you’re getting better, you’re traveling 60,000 miles a year, so that stuff I don’t miss. The big events, you do miss competing at, though.”
The 60th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will air live nightly on CBS Sports Network at 8 p.m. MST.