LAS VEGAS — Twenty-nine might not seem that old, but for Ty Erickson, Saturday night was a lifetime in the making.
"This is what I've been dreaming about since I was a little kid, being a world champion," the newly crowned PRCA world steer wrestling champion said. "For the last 10 years, this is all I've thought about, and now that it's been able to come true, I couldn't be more happy."
The National Finals Rodeo had been Erickson's kryptonite. 2019 marked the third time he'd come to Las Vegas No. 1 in the world, but he had never left that way, and that luck continued in Rounds 1 and 2.
"I didn't have the week that I wanted when it first started - I broke the first two barriers and that put me way behind," Erickson said. "We just persevered and kept going at them every night. Started doing a lot better, and the last couple rounds were awesome."
Erickson will particularly remember Round 9. He finally timed his run perfectly to win it in 3.6 seconds, but he still needed traveling partner Ty Waguespack to miss his steer, which almost never happens to the two-time world champion. But Wags' steer stopped right out of the chute, and suddenly, all Erickson had to do in Saturday's finalé was not miss himself - easier said than done.
"Sometimes, when all you have to do is tip over a steer, that's the hardest part about it, rather than when you have to go at one," Erickson admitted. "Everything worked out and I couldn't be more happy."
A clean 4.4 gave the Helena bulldogger all he's ever wanted.
An hour later, Montana's attention turned to a 21-year-old rookie who acted like anything but. Haven Meged came into the finals second in the world and led the NFR Average almost the entire way as the steadiest calf roper in Sin City. But it wasn't always that way.
"I had one of the worst 4th of July rodeo years - 20 rodeos, won $800. I wanted to quit after that," Meged said. "I told my mom I wanted to go home, so without them pushing me, I wouldn't be here."
He turned a bad Cowboy Christmas into a great actual one after locking up the Average Saturday night. But then Meged had to wait - the longest wait of his young life. Former world champion Shane Hanchey could still pass him in the world standings with a 7.0-second run. When the clock stopped at 7.1, Meged could finally exhale.
"I knew how close it was, but I didn't know I won it by $1,200," Meged laughed after the buckle presentation. "They said if my traveling partner's calf didn't get up, I would have lost the world title. I'll go buy him $1,200 of stuff."
A small price to pay for one of the best rookie seasons in PRCA history.
"Just to get to win the college finals, the rookie of the year, the Average title and the gold buckle, it's an awesome year," Meged said.