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LAS VEGAS — Ty Erickson was frantic.

During his drive from Bozeman to Las Vegas, the Helena cowboy realized he was missing an assignment for class at Montana State University.

“I was working my cellphone, trying to get it done,” Erickson said with a big grin.

Erickson should be shown some leniency for missing some class work this week.

He was at the National Finals Rodeo, being honored for being the PRCA Rookie of the Year in steer wrestling.

Professional rodeo celebrated its next generation of talent during Tuesday night’s performance.

Among the others honored included J.R. Vezain, of Cowley, Wyo., for bareback riding and team roping header Joshua Torres, of Bell City, La. Vezain is the reigning Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit all-around champion, while Torres spent some time among the top 15 of the team roping standings for the Northern Rodeo Association.

Justin Miller of Billings finished third among bareback rookies, while Augusta’s Ace Mills was seventh in saddle bronc. Taylor Williams of Volborg was 10th for rookie team roping heelers.

Erickson is the 11th cowboy from Montana to earn the rookie of the year award and second steer wrestler. Daniel Yates of Red Lodge was the PRCA’s top rookie steer wrestler in 2006. The PRCA began dividing the award by event in 1977.

“It means a lot to me,” said Erickson of the buckle he was awarded. “There is only one guy in the country who gets that award and that’s me. It makes me feel very fortunate.”

The 21-year-old Erickson used an early-August surge to pass Glen Chape of Australia and South Dakota’s Kody Woodward in the rookie standings. Erickson edged Chape by $4,000.

“When the year first started, I didn’t even think about rookie of the year,” said Erickson, a business marketing major at MSU. “I wanted to make the circuit finals again and the Canadian Finals.”

Erickson won the 2010 MPRC year-end circuit title in January and has a lead of more than $5,200 over Shawn Downing of Silver Star in the 2011 standings. He didn’t earn his first circuit check until early July.

Erickson won more than $9,000 in Canada, but didn’t have enough rodeos entered to qualify for the Canadian Finals. “You need 15 and I just had seven,” Erickson said.

He said two big weekends carried him to the coveted buckle. He earned more than $8,000 at Ponoka and Airdrie, Alberta, along with Red Lodge and Livingston. Erickson placed fifth among the world’s best at Red Lodge and tied for seventh at Livingston.

A month later, he used wins at Great Falls, Libby and Glasgow, along with a big check at Strathmore, Alberta, for another $8,000.

He and his 19-year-old horse Cisco, earned $22,007 in the PRCA this year. Erickson traveled most of the summer with Nick Stubblefield of Choteau.

“It wasn’t until August that I thought it (rookie title) might be possible,” Erickson said. “That weekend of August put me past those other guys and it gave me the lead. I kind of coasted from there.”

Erickson has been in Las Vegas since Monday, soaking up the high-charged atmosphere of his sport’s Super Bowl.

“It really didn’t sink in that I won it until I got here,” he said. “Being here motivates me even more. It makes me want to practice even more to get to the next level. I would love to rodeo for $17,000 for 10 rounds.”

Erickson’s 2012 plans will be similar to his 2011. “I’ll stay close to home,” he said. “I will make an effort to make the Canadian Finals.

“I want to finish school before trying to make the NFR. Family and friends have stressed to me that school is really important. I know there is life beyond rodeo.”

And when he returns to Bozeman, school will be waiting.

“Once I get back, I know I’ve got to study for finals,” said Erickson. “Being here, though, makes me really want to make the Finals some day.”

National Finals Rodeo 

Wednesday

Las Vegas

Seventh Round

Bareback Riding

1. Kaycee Feild, Payson, Utah, 85.5 points on Big Stone Rodeo’s Gold Dust, $17,885; 2. (tie) Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, and Casey Colletti, Pueblo, Colo., 84, $12,404 each; 4. Bobby Mote, Culver, Ore., 83.5, $7,500; 5. Royce Ford, Briggsdale, Colo., 83, $4,615; 6. Clint Cannon, Waller, Texas, 80.5, $2,885; 7. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., 80; 8. Ryan Gray, Cheney, Wash., 78; 9. Tilden Hooper, Carthage, Texas, 77.5; 10. Brian Bain, Culver, Ore., 77; 11. (tie) Wes Stevenson, Lubbock, Texas, and Cody DeMers, Kimberly, Idaho, 76 each; 13. Jason Havens, Prineville, Ore., 74; 14. Matt Bright, Azle, Texas, NS. Steven Peebles, Redmond, Ore., did not compete.

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Steer Wrestling

1. Olin Hannum, Malad, Idaho, 3.8 seconds, $17,885; 2. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., 3.9, $14,135; 3. Mickey Gee, Wichita Falls, Texas, 4.0, $10,673; 4. Shawn Greenfield, Lakeview, Ore., 4.1, $7,500; 5. (tie) Luke Branquinho, Los Alamos, Calif., and Jason Miller, Lance Creek, Wyo., 4.3, $3,750 each; 7. (tie) Trevor Knowles, Mount Vernon, Ore., and Jake Rinehart, Highmore, S.D., 4.4 each; 9. Billy Bugenig, Ferndale, Calif., 4.7; 10. Seth Brockman, Wheatland, Wyo., 4.8; 11. Blake Knowles, Heppner, Ore., 5.1; 12. Sean Mulligan, Coleman, Okla., 5.4; 13. Casey Martin, Sulphur, La., 5.5; 14. Dean Gorsuch, Gering, Neb., 6.8; 15. Stockton Graves, Newkirk, Okla., NT.

Team Roping

1. Erich Rogers, Round Rock, Ariz./Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, 3.7 seconds, $17,885 each; 2. Brady Tryan, Huntley, Mont./Jake Long, Coffeyville, Kan., 3.8, $14,135; 3. (tie) Luke Brown, Stephenville, Texas/Martin Lucero, Stephenville, Texas, and Brandon Beers, Powell Butte, Ore./Jim Ross Cooper, Monument, N.M., 4.0, $9,087 each; 5. (tie) Spencer Mitchell, Colusa, Calif./Broc Cresta, Santa Rosa, Calif., and Colby Lovell, Madisonville, Texas/York Gill, Memphis, Tenn., 4.1, $3,750 each; 7. (tie) Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas/Patrick Smith, Midland, Texas, and Derrick Begay, Seba Dalkai, Ariz./Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson, Ariz., 4.3 each; 9. Kaleb Driggers, Albany, Ga./Brad Culpepper, Poulan, Ga., 4.6; 10. Jake Barnes, Scottsdale, Ariz./Walt Woodard, Stephenville, Texas, 5.6; 11. Chad Masters, Cedar Hill, Tenn./Jade Corkill, Fallon, Nev., 9.3; 12. Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont./Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 12.7; 13. (tie) Matt Sherwood, Pima , Ariz./Cory Petska, Marana, Ariz.; Turtle Powell, Stephenville, Texas/Jhett Johnson, Casper, Wyo., and Riley Minor, Ellensburg, Wash./Brady Minor, Ellensburg, Wash., NT.

Saddle Bronc Riding

1. Taos Muncy, Corona, N.M., 86.5 points on Korkow Rodeos’ Blew Apart, $17,885; 2. Bradley Harter, Weatherford, Texas, 85.0, $14,135; 3. Jesse Wright, Milford, Utah, 84.0, $10,673; 4. Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D., 82.5, $7,500; 5. (tie) Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, and Wade Sundell, Boxholm, Iowa, 82, $3,750; 7. Sam Spreadborough, Snyder, Texas, 79.5; 8. Chad Ferley, Oelrichs, S.D., 79; 9. Ty Atchison, Jackson, Mo., 78; 10. Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., 77; 11. Jacobs Crawley, College Station, Texas, 74.5; 12. Jesse Kruse, Great Falls, Mont., 73; 13. (tie) Cody DeMoss, Heflin, La.; Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., and Tyler Corrington, Hastings, Minn., NS.

Tie-Down Roping

1. (tie) Clint Cooper, Decatur, Texas; Ryan Jarrett, Comanche, Okla., and Tyson Durfey, Colbert, Wash., 7.6 seconds, $14,231 each; 4. Jerrad Hofstetter, Portales, N.M., 7.7, $7,500; 5. (tie) Cody Ohl, Hico, Texas, and Adam Gray, Seymour, Texas, 7.8, $3,750 each; 7. Timber Moore, Aubrey, Texas, 8.1; 8. Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, 8.3; 9. Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, 8.8; 10. Matt Shiozawa, Chubbuck, Idaho, 8.9; 11. Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., 10.1; 12. Tuf Cooper, Decatur, Texas, 10.4; 13. Hunter Herrin, Apache, Okla., 11.4; 14. Scott Kormos, Teague, Texas, 14.4; 15. Clif Cooper, Decatur, Texas, NT.

Barrel Racing

1. Lindsay Sears, Nanton, Alberta, 13.56 seconds, $17,885; 2. Sherry Cervi, Marana, Ariz., 13.71, $14,135; 3. Brittany Pozzi, Victoria, Texas, 13.76, $10,673; 4. Carlee Pierce, Stephenville, Texas, 13.82, $7,500; 5. Sue Smith, Blackfoot, Idaho, 13.94, $4,615; 6. Britany Fleck, Mandan, N.D., 13.99, $2,885; 7. Angie Meadors, Blanchard, Okla., 14.00; 8. Jody Sheffield, Ogden, Utah, 14.01; 9. Jeanne Anderson, White City, Kan., 14.12; 10. Tammy Fischer, Ledbetter, Texas, 14.23; 11. Brenda Mays, Terrebonne, Ore., 14.45; 12. Christina Richman, Glendora, Calif., 14.55; 13. Lisa Lockhart, Oelrichs, S.D., 19.05; 14. Jane Melby, Backus, Minn., 19.08; 15. Jill Moody, Letcher, S.D., 19.16.

Bull Riding

1. Clayton Savage, Cheyenne, Wyo., 85 points on D&H Cattle’s Early Bird, $17,885; 2. Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Wash., 77, $14,135; 3. (tie) Jacob O’Mara, Prairieville, La.; J.W. Harris, Mullin, Texas; Wesley Silcox, Santaquin, Utah; Trevor Kastner, Ardmore, Okla.; Bobby Welsh, Gillette, Wyo.; Clayton Foltyn, El Campo, Texas; Chandler Bownds, Lubbock, Texas; L.J. Jenkins, Porum, Okla.; Tate Stratton, Kellyville, Okla.; Tyler Willis, Wheatland, Wyo.; Seth Glause, Cheyenne, Wyo.; Steve Woolsey, Payson, Utah, and Cody Whitney, Asher, Okla., NS.

Ram Truck Top Gun Award standings

1. Kaycee Field, bareback riding, $96,346; 2. Luke Branquinho, steer wrestling, $83,798; 3. Jesse Wright, saddle bronc riding, $83,077; 4. (tie) Turtle Powell and Jhett Johnson, team roping, $73,990 each; 6. Sherry Cervi, barrel racing, $71,683; 7. Brittany Pozzi, barrel racing, $66,779; 8. Lindsay Sears, barrel racing, $61,587; 9. Ryan Jarrett, tie-down roping, $61,250; 10. Jason Miller, steer wrestling, $60,288.

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