LAS VEGAS -- Championship Saturday at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the most high-pressure night in rodeo. For some, it's a career changer. For others, a life changer.
Three Montana cowboys have a shot a winning world championships Saturday night. None of them have ever done it.
The real twist of fate is for Helena steer wrestler Ty Erickson. He entered the finals as regular-season champion for the third time in four years. But he's come up short every time. He appeared headed that direction again after losing the lead Thursday, but not only is Erickson back in it, he's projected to win after Friday night's winning time of 3.6 seconds.
The second half of that story is Erickson's travel partner and world champion Tyler Waguespack. He missed his steer in Friday's Round 9 and settled for a no-time, which crushed him in the aggregate standings.
That's Erickson's gain and he's hoping to give Montana fans what he's wanted to most of his life.
"I love that I get to carry the Montana flag around (the arena during the NFR's Grand Entry)," he said. "I really take that to heart. It's so enjoyable to have fans in the stands with signs up there supporting me and Bridger (Chambers). I couldn't ask for more from the state we're from. Couldn't be more proud."
Montana also has a change in fate for another Helena cowboy. Team roping heeler Chase Tryan is suddenly projected to win it all. He placed third Friday and sits second in the average money standings. He's earned paychecks in seven of the nine rounds.
Tryan can't emphasize momentum enough. If you catch a quick start at the NFR, that momentum can bail a guy out in later rounds.
"It helps a bunch, man. I mean, you watch guys and they have trouble ... we've been there before," Tryan said. "It's just hard to get going. Once you get going, you kind of get in a rhythm and kind of get tapped off and it seems easier to catch the steers."
The Montana man who's been most likely to win his first world championship is the one who's never been here: Haven Meged, the 21-year-old Miles City tie-down roper.
He has controlled the average lead pretty much the entire time here. His margin entering Saturday's final round is three tenths of a second. According to the PRCA's mathematical equation Meged is also projected to win his first gold buckle
Round 10 starts at 8 p.m. Mountain Time and can be seen on CBS Sports Newtork.