Dec. 29 update: Ty Erickson finished second in steer wrestling at the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas earlier this month. The performance helped him finish the year seventh in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, or PRCA, world standings.
Three cowboys who once wore the blue and gold vests of the Montana State University Rodeo Team are competing in the 2014 National Finals Rodeo, regarded as the country’s leading rodeo event, which began Thursday and runs through Dec. 13 in Las Vegas.
Ty Erickson of Helena, the youngest of the trio, competes in steer wrestling. Cort Scheer of Elsmere, Neb. and Jake Vold of Ponoka, Alberta, are both competing in roughstock events of saddle bronc and bareback riding, respectively.
“Three (NFR competitors) is a lot out of any one college,” said Mike True, MSU’s head rodeo coach, who will be watching the competition closely along with thousands of other rodeo fans. “I imagine we (MSU) have had three before, but it’s a pretty good representation. MSU has a glorious history of good rodeo hands.”
To qualify for what is often called the “Super Bowl of Rodeo,” cowboys must finish in the top 15 in their event at the end of the rodeo season. Each qualifier will compete each night of the 10-day rodeo, which is attended by thousands of rodeo fans at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Millions more will watch it on CBS Sports Network.
True said that Erickson, whom he calls “tremendously talented,” just barely qualified for the 15th spot in his event. Nonetheless, he expects Erickson, who graduated from MSU two years ago with a degree in business, to compete well.
“He got kind of cold there for a while and slipped in there by about $64, but I’m sure he will be good,” True said. “Ty is just a young kid getting going. I think he’ll have a great career.”
True has high praise for Erickson, not only as a cowboy, but also as a person.
“Ty was the best leader I have ever had, and one of the greatest talents,” True said. “He had as good of a work ethic of anybody, he stayed in school in four years and graduated with a good grade point average in business marketing.
“He is the model we want our kids and recruits to look at. He is the one who has done the whole job.”
True said that Scheer and Vold both left MSU after their junior year to compete professionally. True said they wanted to “leave while they were hot,” mostly because the nature of their events favors younger athletes.
True said that Vold was the top cowboy in the college region when he competed for MSU in 2008. He said while Vold has often struggled with injuries, he was the Canadian national champion in bareback riding this year, and is going into the NFR in the 11th position.
Scheer is ranked third in the saddle bronc standings. True said Scheer is “really just a good cowboy. He won this region in all-around when he competed here.” True said Scheer has a legitimate chance to end the season as the world champion in bronc riding.
True said the trio competing this week are just the latest in a long line of great professional rodeo athletes with MSU connections. He said MSU graduate Dan Mortenson is probably the biggest rodeo name to come out of MSU, winning the world championship in saddle bronc riding six times. A couple of other professionals with a large Montana following were Rod Lyman and Bo Clark. Neither competed in rodeo at MSU, but were both MSU Bobcat football players before becoming professional cowboys in the steer wrestling event. Clark is now an assistant rodeo coach at MSU.
True said that it won’t be the last time that MSU cowboys will compete in Vegas.
“We get good people in this program and we always have,” he said.
To learn more about Erickson, Vold and Scheer at the NFR, go to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys of America website.
Mike True (406) 994-2403, firstname.lastname@example.org