LAS VEGAS -- Friday the 13th in Las Vegas. What could possibly go wrong?
If there's anybody that can squelch the superstition it's Miles City rookie Haven Meged. He has been Steady Eddy at these Wrangler National Finals. With two nights to go, Meged still leads the average and is still projected to win his first world title.
And it's not like he just got hot. Meged has been in the mix all year. The challenge is holding off four-time world champion Tuf Cooper. But Miles City still holds the cards entering the final two hands.
"I mean, it's something we've dreamt of our whole life," Meged said. "Watching it on TV, getting to come out here and compete. Riding in the grand entry the first night was just awesome."
And we've pointed this out before, but here's Meged's take on being one of the rare tie-down ropers ever to come out of Montana: "I guess the last calf roper here was Bill Parker in 1980 or something, so to be the second guy is just unbelievable and I just hope it lights a fire in all the Montana kids."
Miles City's Haven Meged, two rounds from becoming a world champion.
Helena's Ty Erickson is one of the world's top steer wrestlers. He's been on rodeo's biggest stage multiple times at the NFR. He's led the world money standings most of this regular season and throughout most of this year's NFR, but the big man lost his grip on No. 1 Thursday night -- a testament to just how hard it is to close deal on a world title. And in spite of all the above, Erickson shows the class to put a positive spin on another rough run on rodeo's biggest stage.
"I haven't had the week that I wanted, but there's also a lot of positives that come out of this week," he said after missing money in Thursday's Round 8 performance. "I brought a horse here ... and he's been working outstanding. I've got to be excited about that going into the future because as soon as this is over, we're starting this again."
Erickson will let it fly again Friday and Saturday gambling a quick start out of the gate to win the round. Each night's winner earns more than $26,000. He enters Round 9 ranked second in the world standings and sixth in the NFR aggregate.
Standing shoulder to shoulder in the media room with steer wrestling buddy Bridger Chambers, Erickson smiles and takes pleasure owning at least one edge over the Stevensville native.
Erickson is a die-hard Montana State football fan. Chambers bleeds Montana Grizzlies. The Bobcats recently won their fourth straight over Montana as both enter Friday night's FCS quarterfinals.
"I'm soooo glad Montana State won again," Erickson gloated with a smile.
Chambers, who's climbed from 13th in the world money standings to seventh during the NFR, couldn't say much other than he's looking forward to Friday's Griz playoff showdown at third-seeded Weber State.
"I don't know who Bozeman is playing," Chambers said with a wry smile. "I know the Griz are playing Weber State and we already beat them once. Hopefully they'll go down, but they're a tough team so we'll see."
The subtlety in that statement was Chambers taking a page out of the book of Griz head coach Bobby Hauck -- not referencing Montana State by name.
"Where's it at, that other side?" he laughed. "We don't know."