Ty Erickson, Clayton Hass and reigning world champion Tyler Waguespack are picking up right where they left off at the end of the 2016 season, and that's bad news for other steer wrestlers.
Erickson was the latest to take a victory lap when he won the Wrangler Champions Challenge presented by Justin Boots event on Feb. 1 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
His time of 3.6 seconds edged the rest of the field by two-10ths of a second and earned him $3,944.
"The Champions Challenge events are against the best guys in the world, so it always feels good to win at them," said the 26-year-old from Helena, Montana.
"It was a good atmosphere, and a good crowd. It's a fun rodeo and a pretty cool little community there -- we hung out in Rapid City for a few days, and there were a lot of people who knew the Champions Challenge was in town, and they were excited about going to watch it."Erickson, who represents Team Wrangler, entered the week third in the world standings, trailing only his traveling partners -- Waguespack sat in first, about $5,000 ahead of Hass and $10,000 ahead of Erickson.
Hass is fresh off a huge win in Denver on Jan. 22, and Waguespack has been collecting big checks everywhere in 2017.
The Rapid City WCC win pushed Erickson over the $20,000 mark in season earnings, meaning all three men in the group are having a great winter so far.
"Everybody in our rig bulldogs so well that it doesn't feel like there's a bottom guy," Erickson said. "It really helps having three guys who are always pushing each other to be better. It makes it more fun that way, and when one of us isn't winning, the other two are encouraging him and trying to get him back to winning."
Aside from the immense talent all three men possess, they also own the best horsepower in the business. However, Erickson wasn't riding prized horse Cadillac in Rapid City. Cadillac -- the 2016 PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year -- was resting in Fort Worth, so the trio rode Waguespack's horse, Outlaw.
"When you have three good horses, you can send them to different places and pick ones that fit certain setups," Erickson said. "We knew they were going to run fresh steers here, and Outlaw scores so good and is honest - a lot like Cadillac. You always have a good chance to win."
Erickson finished seventh in the 2016 world standings, a result which has driven him to continue to keep his foot on the gas early in 2017.
"I didn't have the NFR I wanted to, but all a guy can do is go home and start practicing and get ready for the next year," he said. "I had a good (Montana) Circuit Finals, won some money in Denver and now we're trying to win everywhere we go."
Other winners at the $92,800 rodeo were Team Coors bareback rider Orin Larsen (86 points on C5 McDonald's Spit Fire), Team Resistol team ropers Clay Smith and Paul Eaves (4.1 seconds), Team Justin Boots saddle bronc rider Zeke Thurston (87.5 points on Sutton Rodeos' Chuckulator), Team Wrangler tie-down roper Marcos Costa (8.3 seconds), Team Justin Boots barrel racer Tiany Schuster (12.67 seconds) and Team RAM bull rider Cole Melancon (89 points on Burch Rodeo's Alabama High Test).
Courtesy of PRCA