LAS VEGAS — The Super Bowl of Rodeo is back, and as usual, Montana and Wyoming are well represented.
Eight Montanans qualified for the 2022 National Finals Rodeo, including six in the top three of their respective events, while another three from Wyoming will cowboy up when Round 1 of the NFR kicks off Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. You can watch each performance live on The Cowboy Channel at 6:45 p.m. MDT from Dec. 1-10.
Here are the 11 competitors we'll be tracking throughout the 10 nights as they vie for a piece of the record $10.9 million prize payout:
Cole Reiner - Buffalo, WY
Rank: No. 1 ($160,970.51)
Cole Reiner is a rising star in bareback riding. The 23-year-old from Buffalo, Wyoming qualified for his 3rd straight NFR this year, after finishing 5th in the world standings in 2020 and 7th in 2021. He comes into 2022 with a slim world lead of $1,711.
Caleb Bennett - Corvallis, MT
Rank: No. 3 ($147,290.19)
Originally from Utah, Caleb Bennett relocated to the Bitterroot Valley after marrying his wife Savannah. The 34-year-old is no stranger to the NFR — this will be his 10th trip in 11 years. His best year in the world bareback standings came in 2016, when he finished 4th. He enters this year in third, about $13,700 behind World No. 1 Reiner.
Ty Erickson - Helena, MT
Rank: No. 6 ($107,784.30)
The 2019 steer wrestling world champion is back at the NFR after a two-year hiatus. Ty Erickson is now 32 years old, cemented as one of the best in the world over the last decade. The Helena native and Montana State University alum is making his 7th appearance at the National Finals. He'll begin in 6th, about $27,000 behind the world leader.
Timmy Sparing - Helena, MT
Rank: No. 14 ($81,312.40)
You don't often make your NFR debut at 33 years old. Helena Capital grad Timmy Sparing will have lots of fans in Las Vegas. He won the 2022 Montana Circuit Finals to kick off a career year, entering the NFR 14th in the world. He previous best finish was 36th in 2017. Not bad for someone who didn't start steer wrestling until he was 17.
TEAM ROPING - HEADERS
Clay Tryan - Billings, MT
Rank: No. 2 ($144,663.14)
One of the greatest headers in history is still going strong. 2022 marks Clay Tryan's 20th NFR appearance - he made his debut as a 22-year-old in 2001. Now 43, the three-time world champion enters the Finals in second. He's $83,214.71 behind world leader Kaleb Driggers, but no one should ever count the Billings native out.
Sage Newman - Melstone, MT
Rank: No. 1 ($253,190.84)
Sage Newman has quickly become one of the best saddle bronc riders in the world. The 24-year-old from Melstone made his NFR debut in 2021, finishing 11th in the world. Then he made a massive jump this year, entering the 2022 National Finals with a $60,000 world lead. The Montana State alum has a big opportunity ahead of him.
Brody Cress - Hillsdale, WY
Rank: No. 3 ($182,645)
Brody Cress knows all about early success. He's making his 6th straight NFR appearance at the ripe old age of 26. Cress has been agonizingly close to winning a world title for years, finishing 2nd in 2017 and 2019 after winning the NFR average each year. He won the average again in 2021, tying him for the second-most saddle bronc average wins in National Finals history. He's finished 3rd in the world each of the last two years.
Chase Brooks - Deer Lodge, MT
Rank: No. 13 ($113,991.70)
Chase Brooks seems to be getting better every year. The 28-year-old is making his fifth straight trip to the NFR and recorded his highest world finish ever (4th) in 2021, including placing second in last year's NFR Average race. Brooks is a Montanan through and through — he graduated from Powell County High School in Deer Lodge and attended Montana State.
Tanner Butner - Daniel, WY
Rank: No. 15 ($103,739.32)
Tanner Butner will be an NFR rookie in 2022. The 25-year-old doubled his 2021 earnings after winning nine different rodeos this year.
Haven Meged - Miles City, MT
Rank: No. 3 ($156,027.42)
When you win a world title in your NFR debut at 21 years old, it's hard to keep getting better, but Haven Meged is trying. Now 24, the Miles City cowboy is making his 4th straight NFR start after finishing second in the world and in the NFR Average in 2021.
Lisa Lockhart - Oelrichs, SD
Rank: No. 14 ($84,870.91)
Death. Taxes. Lisa Lockhart at the National Finals Rodeo. Some things are guarantees. The Circle native is back for her 16th straight NFR, just three weeks after her 57th birthday. No matter what position she enters in, Lockhart always seems to shine when the lights are brightest. She won the NFR Average in 2014 and '16 and has finished as high as second in the world standings twice (2014-15).