GREAT FALLS – When the 39th annual Montana Circuit Finals kick off Friday night in Great Falls, one of the state’s top cowboys won’t be competing.
Defending circuit saddle bronc champ Tyrell Smith had his season derailed by a pelvic injury in July, while sitting top-10 in the world standings, but didn’t win enough money in Montana to qualify for the finals at the time.
“It’s just rodeo, really,” Smith said of the injury. “It was by far the best start to a year that I’ve ever had and I was riding everything. My consistency went up to about 75 percent. Just had a little mishap and got tore up. Had to sit at home and just kind of foam at the mouth and wish I could get back out there.”
Though Smith won’t be riding this weekend, the Great Falls native will be in attendance anyway. Smith is the director of saddle bronc riding for the Montana circuit and will be working behind the scenes with the riders and stock contractors.
“I can’t get away from it,” he laughed. “I live here, so I got to be a part of it in one way or another. It’s kind of a bummer not to be riding. This year is going to be one of the best pens of saddle broncs we’re ever going to see.”
Smith is not just a competitor, though. He’s a big rodeo fan, as well, and will be rooting on several of the guys in the running for a year-end title.
“Sage Newman jumped out as one of the standouts in that high school roughstock challenge a few years ago,” recalled Smith. “He’s right up there, No. 2 or 3. Jesse Kruse is coming in leading. You put Jesse in that barn and you can’t hardly beat him most of the time. Top five guys all got a shot at it. It’s going to be pretty action-packed I think.”
Smith sought the advice of Kruse when he suffered his injury.
“Me and Jesse have always been pretty competitive together,” Smith said about the Great Falls native and 2009 world saddle bronc champ. “He went through a very similar injury and I talked to him a little bit about it, and his opinion was go get it fixed. I was being a little stubborn and didn’t and then had to. It’s just one of those things where, you watch a guy like him come back from some of those injuries he’s had and it gives you quite a bit of confidence that if you do things right and are patient, then you’ll come back stronger than you ever did before.”
Smith said his recovery is going well and, though he’ll miss the checks at the Circuit Finals, he’s looking forward to jumping back in the saddle full-time in February, starting with the San Antonio Stock Show in Texas.
“I’ve had all fall and a good portion of the summer to get healed up and prepare, so it’s just a lot of hours in the gym and a lot of hours doing what doctors told me,” he said. “It’s going to hurt a little bit not getting to ride here, because I’ve always had a little bit of luck in that barn.”
Smith turned 31 year old in September, which doesn’t seem all that old for a cowboy, but he looks around at all the young talent in the arena these days and can’t help but chuckle.
“Me, Jesse, JC Desaveur and Josh Reynolds are some of the older guys going now,” he smiled. “I remember when I first started riding against Jake Costello and Shane Moran and all them guys were the old guard, the old tough guys that you couldn’t hardly beat. Now you go to these rodeos and you show up and we’re the old guys! There’s a lot of young talented kids, but sometimes that experience and being a veteran will give you a little bit of an edge just because you can handle the pressure better.”
The 39th Annual Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals begin Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. The second performance is Saturday at 7 p.m., with the final round and awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.