LAS VEGAS — Montana steer wrestlers Bridger Chambers and Ty Erickson thrilled visiting Treasure State fans Sunday night, finishing first and second in Round 4 of the National Finals Rodeo inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
Chambers, who originally hails from Stevensville but now makes his home near Butte, tied the fastest time of the rodeo with a 3.6-second run to win the round. He has won money in three of the first four rounds and climbed up to No. 5 in the PRCA world standings.
"It was awesome. I got a really good start, thought I broke the barrier," Chambers said after the run. "I had a good steer, did my job and it worked out.
"I came in (to the NFR toward the bottom of the top 15 standings), so to kind of have a chance at the end, the game plan was to run at it before (Friday's broken barrier), and now with the one broken barrier, the plan is still the same. There are so many good guys here, you have to be on top of it."
Chambers has cashed in $51,756.41 through four rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center, already guaranteeing a joyful Christmas back home.
"I hope so. We've got some bills," laughed Chambers, "but we're going to enjoy it."
World No. 1 Erickson meanwhile earned his first 2019 NFR paycheck Sunday with a 3.7-second run. The Helena bulldogger broke the barrier in the first two rounds to send him spiraling down the NFR average standings, but he still maintains hold of the World No. 1 spot thanks to a large lead coming into the rodeo.
"Ty is such a good guy. All these guys that have made it worked hard to get here, and they deserve it," Chambers said. "I'm kind of partial to the Montana guys, so we'll stick with it."
Montana's best current chance at a world title lies in team roping, with Helena heeler Chase Tryan. He and partner Brenten Hall lead the NFR average by seven seconds after a 4.4-second run Sunday, good for sixth. Tryan leads the Projected World Title standings, a measure that takes the average payout into account if the rodeo ended Sunday night.
Twenty-one-year-old tie-down roper Haven Meged is also in a serious contention. The Miles City native split fourth- and fifth-place money Sunday with an 8.1-second run to move up to third in world and third in the average. He trails Taylor Santos by about $7,000 in the Projected World Title race.
In bareback, Corvallis' Caleb Bennett scored 87 points to split third and fourth place, his third check of the rodeo. Stevensville's Richmond Champion didn't place with an 84-point ride, but remains third in the average.
Wyoming saddle bronc rider Brody Cress is second in the average after scoring 81.5 points Sunday, good for fourth place. He and Rusty Wright are the only two to cover all four rides so far. Deer Lodge's Chase Brooks was bucked off after winning Round 3 with 90 points.
Circle cowgirl Lisa Lockhart also had a tough night Sunday. Her 14.06-second run didn't place, and knocked her to third in the average. But she remains third in the world in the chase for her first gold buckle.
Round 5 begins Monday at 8 p.m. MDT. Click here for full Wrangler NFR results.