The Dean of all Wrangler NFR Competitors

Dec 9, 2021

The Dean of all Wrangler NFR Competitors

By Patrick Everson

Team roper Clay Tryan is competing in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the 19th time. Starting in 2001, he’s made the trip to Las Vegas almost every year of this century, save for 2008 and 2016.

That makes Tryan the dean of all Wrangler NFR competitors. Nobody who qualified this year has spent more time on the Thomas and Mack Center dirt than the veteran rodeo cowboy from Billings, Mont.

“I guess that means I was good for a long time,” Tryan said Wednesday night, after he and Jake Long split first place with Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves in the sixth go-round. “It is a little weird when you’re the oldest guy around. And I’m not that old, but there are a lot of young guys in the team roping. Times are changing, whenever young guys start wiping out all the old guys. The sport’s getting faster.

“I’m trying to be young still. I’ve got a little left in the tank.”

Tryan, a 42-year-old header, certainly proved that as he and heeler Long clocked 3.70 seconds Wednesday for their first go-round victory of the week. The two pocketed $24,167 each and added to a solid little run they have going: the duo took third Monday night at 4.1 seconds and tied for second Tuesday night at 3.9 seconds.

Clay Tryan and Jake Long during seventh performance the National Finals Rodeo. Photo by Christopher Thompson

So they basically climbed the ladder over the past three go-rounds.

“That’s why I rope, is to make it here, the NFR. That’s why we all do it,” said Tryan, who has now pocketed $78,146 for the week, as has Long.

That has Tryan at fourth in the world header standings, with a total of $172,396. Long is third in the heeler standings at $173,371 for the year.

There are three more nights to go, and Tryan said he never gets tired of riding at the Thomas & Mack.

“The fans and the atmosphere of this place are unbelievable. It’s unmatched anywhere else,” he said.

With all the years he’s spent at the NFR, Tryan would certainly know. Some of the younger ropers give Tryan a little ribbing, and even the 37-year-old Long – while being grateful for his partner’s longevity – will take a shot here and there. As he did Wednesday night, while they celebrated the go-round win.

“It’s been fun. I’ve roped with Clay for five years. It’s nice to have a guy who’s got experience,” Long said. “And I get to make fun of him for being older than me!”