LAS VEGAS – Tyler Pearson knew when he arrived in the Nevada desert that he was going to have to go full speed if he intended to catch the No. 1 man in steer wrestling, Montanan Ty Erickson.
Pearson entered the National Finals Rodeo No. 3 in the standings, more than $53,000 behind Erickson. During Thursday’s opening go-round, Pearson made a solid move by grappling his steer to the ground in 3.9 seconds to finish second in the round.
“To even place here in the first round is a good start,” said Pearson, 32, of Louisville, Miss. “If you miss the barrier at all, you might not catch your steer, so the start is everything.”
Pearson and round winner Tyler Waguespack – the reigning world champion – were the only two cowboys to post times of less than 4 seconds. Five bulldoggers finished in a tie for third place with 4.3-second runs, so that cushion on time was beneficial to Pearson.
The last time the Mississippi man competed at the NFR was 2013. That year he finished with $40,000 by placing in one round and finishing fourth in the 10-run average race. Through one night of the 2017 campaign, he has earned nearly $31,000 – that includes the $20,731 for being runner-up and the $10,000 bonus each contestant earns for qualifying.
He now has pushed his season earnings to $140,649, just less than $500 ahead of Waguespack. But he is within $23,000 of Erickson. He will need to remain speedy and steady if he has hopes of adding a gold buckle to his trophy case. Of course, he has a lot of help, primarily in the form of his horsepower: Scooter, the steer wrestling horse of the year, and Metallica, the hazing horse.
“Scooter did good,” Pearson said of the horse, a 12-year-old sorrel gelding he co-owns with fellow bulldogger Kyle Irwin, also a traveling partner. “Kyle was the first one out on him, and he missed the barrier just a tick. He still made a good run, and Scooter just got faster.”
Pearson and Irwin aren’t the only ones that ride Scooter. Waguespack also rode the talented sorrel to the top. Erickson, the man they’re all chasing, also is riding the horse of the year. That’s how rodeo works; the competition with each other follows that of man vs. beast. In order to beat the field, the winner must handle the steer first.
“We got that first one over with, so now we can just go play,” Pearson said. “I was glad to get that one under the belt, so now we can go try to win something.
“It’s a relief to sin something in the first round. Now we can let our hair down a little bit.”