Helena steer wrestler Ty Erickson may or may not be aware of the old expression, “Plan your work, and work your plan.” But that is exactly what he’s been able to do.
College National Finals Rodeo -- check.
Montana Circuit championship -- check.
RAM National Circuit Finals -- check.
But what about the grand daddy of them all, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo? Yup, check.
When the WNFR opens next Thursday in Las Vegas’ Thomas and Mack Center, Erickson will be there as the PRCA’s 15th ranked steer wrestler.
“This has been my plan since I was in college,” Erickson, 24, told Wranglernetwork.com. “Qualifying for the CNFR and the Montana Circuit Finals, then going to the National Circuit Finals has helped me get ready for this (WNFR).”
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Erickson earned $52,469 this year, edging out Tom Lewis of Lehi, Utah. The top 15 in each event qualifies for the WNFR – which is considered the "World Series of Rodeo" -- with Lewis placing 16th at $52,406.
The Capital High and Montana State University grad had ranked as high as 12th early in the season and had been 13th and 14th most of the year, but did not know he had qualified until after the season was over.
Erickson was driving back to Montana thinking he had missed the cut, when after eight hours on the road he received a text from Tim Sparing. Sparing, a former teammate with the Helena Rodeo Club and a traveling partner on the PRCA circuit, texted the good news that his buddy had "made it" -- by a mere $63.
Just as impressive as making “The World Series of Rodeo,” is the fact that Erickson graduated from MSU in four years with a bachelors degree in business marketing.
At Capital High, Erickson was a two-time all-around state high school rodeo champion. He was an all-state basketball player for the Bruins as well, where two of his older teammates were cousins Clay and Brian Bignell, both of whom went on to standout football careers at MSU.
Also among family members preceding Ty in the athletic arena at Montana State were his mother, Janet (Bignell) Erickson, and uncle Joe Bignell. Janet was a collegiate champion barrel racer and a CNFR qualifier, while Joe was a grid All-American for the 1984 national champion Bobcats.
Ty’s collegiate career included four CNFR qualifications, three-time Big Sky Region steer wrestling champion and a Big Sky all-around title.
On the pro tour, he captured back-to-back Montana PRCA circuit bull dogging crowns and was the 2011 Resistol PRCA Rookie of the Year.
After placing 23rd in the world standings last year, Erickson opened this season with top-3 placings at Denver and San Antonio. He went on to post seven PRCA steer wrestling victories, including Red Bluff, California; Bridgeport and Mineral Wells, Texas; Greeley, Colorado; and Lovington, New Mexico.
His biggest payday was Greeley, where he pocketed $5,930.
Another highlight this summer was the Last Chance Stampede title (his second), garnering $2,054 for his 3.8 second clutch performance at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds.
During the season, Erickson’s main horses were “Bumble Bee” and “Tebo,” and his chief hazers were Sparing and K.C. Jones. At this year’s Stampede, he reunited with his old horse “Cisco,” while one of his mentors, Nick Stubblefied, did the hazing.
At the WNFR this week, Erickson will be aboard “Bee,” and Jones will be his hazer.
Ty credits many folks for helping with his success, but at the top of the list are his parents, Sid and Janet Erickson.
Regarding his thoughts on participating in Vegas, he told the Great Falls Tribune, “What’s really exciting is to be able to represent Montana. It makes me real happy if I can make the state proud.”