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Helena steer wrestler Ty Erickson competes at a rodeo recently in this undated photo.

Helena steer wrestler Ty Erickson will be the favorite as he heads into the Nationals Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Courtesy of Jackie Jensen

HELENA — Maybe the fourth time is a charm.

Helena PRCA steer wrestler Ty Erickson has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas four consecutive years.

Erickson placed in the top seven year end standings each time, finishing seventh in 2014, fourth in 2015 and seventh last year.

And now could be his time, considering the fact that he heads into the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Thursday as No. 1 ranked in the world, with a new PRCA steer wrestling record of $163,151. He also holds a $52,200 lead over the PRCA’s No. 2 steer wrestler, Olin Hannum (Mallad, Idaho), at $110,951.

Erickson’s season earnings are also the third highest of all competitors in Vegas this week.

But the Capital High alum is fully aware he’ll have to be at the top of his game to capture the title. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Erickson has been here before, when he watched his 2016 regular season lead slip away at last year’s NFR.

Plus, he suffered a setback last month when his regular horse, Cadillac, was injured during training and won’t be at the Finals.

“One of the top steer wrestling horses in ProRodeo won’t be competing at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo due to injury,” according to the prodeo.com web site. “The 2016 PRCA/AQHA steer wrestling horse of the year, Landrys Cadillac (Cadillac), owned by Sterling Wallace, was injured during a practice run with Clayton Hass on Nov. 16.

“Cadillac was the top bulldogging horse of 2014, finished third in the voting in 2015 and placed second in 2017. The 19-year-old horse has been the primary mount for Hass, Tyler Waguespack and Ty Erickson this season.”

So the plot thickens for the Helena cowboy, who will most likely have Tyler Pierson of Mississippi – No. 3 in the standings – doing his hazing.

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During the season, Erickson won eight rodeos. His victories included the Guymon (Oklahoma) Pioneer Days Rodeo, Dixie National Rodeo (Jackson, Mississippi), Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede, Mountain Valley Stampede (Heber City, Utah), Ram Montana (Great Falls) Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals, Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show & Rodeo (Mercedes, Texas), and the Justin Boots' Wrangler Champions Challenge (Rapid City, South Dakota).

He was also co-champ at the Helldorado Days Rodeo (Las Vegas).

When Erickson placed runner-up during the first round of Cheyenne Frontier Day’s Rodeo for a $5,469 payday in August, it vaulted him past Wade Sumpter’s 2008 PRCA regular season record of $130,000.

“If that’s a record, it’s a great achievement,” Erickson said afterwards, “When I started the year I didn’t think anything of it, but after I had such a great winter, I thought, well maybe I have a chance.

“But even if I did (break it), it wouldn’t change anything I’ve been doing. We’re just going to keep going to as many rodeos as possible, and keep doing the best I can.”

Erickson, who has reportedly spent the past several weeks scrambling for a replacement for Cadillac, was unavailable for comment at press time. But anyone who knows the Capital City cowboy knows his competitive heart is as big as Montana, and he’ll be battling hard to bring the title back home.

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