Clay Tryan has won $3,057,644 in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competition—a new ProRodeo record for team ropers.
This puts him inside the top 10 all-time PRCA money earners behind Trevor Brazile, Cody Ohl, Fred Whitfield, Joe Beaver, Kaycee Feild and Tuf Cooper, surpassing eight-time World Champion Rich Skelton who’s won $2,990,270 and seven-time World Champion Clay O’Brien Cooper, who’s won $3,009,776.
“Passing Clay Cooper and Rich Skelton, man, those guys are legends,” Tryan, with three gold buckles to his name, said. “I don’t look at myself like that at all. I try to keep things in perspective, because once I’m done, I’m done, and the younger guys will pass me pretty quickly, too. They need to, because the rodeos need to keep paying better and better for the sake of the future of the sport.”
Tryan, 43, of Billings, Montana, has been a PRCA member since 1997 and made his first NFR in 2001 with Caleb Twisselman, finishing fourth in the world that year. He’s got four California Rodeo Salinas titles, two Cheyenne Frontier Days titles and two NFR average buckles to go with his three world titles. He first won the world in 2005 with Patrick Smith, and followed it up with two gold buckles with Jade Corkill in 2013 and 2014. They also won the Elite Rodeo Athletes World Title in 2016.
“I think Clay Cooper said it best: rodeoing bought him freedom,” Tryan said. “That’s what it feels like to me. I’ve gotten to live how I wanted for 25 years. I’m my own boss, on my own schedule. I’m still playing a kids’ game at an older age. I’ve been able to be a kid for longer than most people get the chance to be.”
Tryan is also perhaps the winningest jackpotter of all-time, with $256,111 won at the BFI alone. He’s also won two George Strait Team Roping Championships, one Wildfire Open to the World title, one Lone Star Shootout and three US Open championships.
Tryan’s mental game has long been the winning standard, with a Muhammad Ali-attitude that’s served him well throughout his career.
“Clay ropes very aggressive,” Skelton said of the man who bumped him down a spot in the record books. “Whether he’s roping at Cheyenne or down in Texas jackpotting or the BFI in the short go, he ropes the same way. He rides his horse good, and his loops are snappy and he gets their heads fast. He can get it on them fast. Or he can run them farther and still be fast because his loop is so sharp. People don’t understand how, if those steers feel like they’re getting away, they do get away. At Cheyenne, he made those medium steers look better than the rest. It’s because he got a good start and roped so aggressive. With somebody else those steers wouldn’t have looked so good, because he roped going to them and got their heads fast.”
Tryan split his earnings between some of rodeo’s best horses. He made his first Finals on Precious Speck, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame head horse owned by his brother Travis. Tryan won the largest portion of his earnings on Thumper, the black, nub-eared Dash For Cash-bred Dockalickin, including that first gold buckle in 2005. He won his second two world titles on Dew The Cash, another Dash For Cash-bred head horse. During the regular season those years, he spent most of his time on his mare, Bears Cash Partner, known as Cate. As of late, Tryan has ridden Johnson, a big sorrel he got from Trey Johnson registered as Cee How Nifty, and JLo, a bay mare that came from Montana’s Bud Williams.
“I won the most on Thumper and Johnson, just because I had Cate and Dew at the same time so they shared a lot of the work,” Tryan said.
Far From Done
What’s more, Tryan is having one of his best years ever in 2022. He won RodeoHouston with Jake Long worth $54,500, and then teamed up with Jade Corkill to get his second Cheyenne title in July worth $16,400. So far in 2022 he’s won $126,493, unofficially.
“He never backs down because his mental game is so sharp,” Skelton added. “Right now, he’s roping better than I’ve seen him in four or five years. I watched him this spring just jackpotting and thought that. And now that he’s back with Jade, they’re as good of a team as they’ve ever been. They remind me of Speed and me, because Speed could get it on them fast and let me just come around and heel, or he could run them farther down and I could throw fast. And to top it off, they’re consistent doing it either way they need to.”