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Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill 2014 World Champion Team RopersClay Tryan

2014 Team Roping (Header) World Champion

Protecting regular-season lead key to ultimate success

Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill were the best team ropers in the world in 2014 – start to finish. The cowboys not only captured their second consecutive world championship as a team – it was each man’s third gold buckle overall – but they were the top pair in both the regular season and the 10-night Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Sometimes you have to leave no doubt,” said Tryan, who won the 2005 world title with Patrick Smith before capturing the last two with Corkill. “All three times I’ve won the world, I’ve come into the NFR with the lead. We always want to be the best team in the regular season, because that’s what all the practice is for.”

As Tryan said, there was little doubt as to who the best team roping duo was. At no point during the season did it appear that Tryan and Corkill were going to let anybody deny them another gold buckle; they ended up breaking the single-season earnings record for their event with $220,058 apiece, breaking the records set by Trevor Brazile ($201,392) and Patrick Smith ($202,189) in 2010.

“If you win one (world title), you’re in an elite group of people who have won it, and then the more you win, the smaller the group gets,” said Corkill, who started his run of three straight titles with Kaleb Driggers in 2012. “At the end of the day, to even be categorized with the guys that I looked up to, and still look up to – that part doesn’t seem real.”

Corkill’s three consecutive heeling gold buckles put him into an elite class. Since 1994 – the first year in which both header and heeler world championships were declared – only one heeler has won as many as three consecutive world titles: Rich Skelton, who had eight in a row from 1997-2004.

The magnitude of the achievement is something that even a great roper like Corkill has a hard time grasping.

“When you’re young, you watch the other teams do it and think, ‘Man, that is unbelievable,’” Corkill said of having so much Wrangler NFR success. “And now, we’re the guys out here doing it, and I don’t think of myself as being that guy now at all.

“I still feel like the little kid watching other guys do it, which probably helps, because I don’t think of it as me out there winning. I’m watching what we’re doing on paper, but it doesn’t feel like it’s actually me doing it.”

Tryan, a 35-year-old native of Billings, Mont., sported a huge smile as he held his third gold buckle on Dec. 13. He says winning never gets old, and having the ultimate success in the sport only drives him to want more.

“Winning a third title gives you more motivation, and it gives you that extra motivation you need to keep improving your game,” Tryan said. “It gets tougher to win every year; there will be some kid out there right now working on his game and trying to one-up you, so that’s something you have to remember.”

The way Tryan and Corkill have roped the last two years, it’s going to take quite an effort to knock them from their perch atop the event. Each man is quick to credit the other for the team’s success. Specifically, Corkill says his partner’s mental strength is as important as his roping ability.

“I look up to him, and I look to him for advice because he’s as mentally tough as someone can get,” he said of Tryan. “Any time I get to falling off track as far as my mental game, he’s right there to help. If he sees something, he’ll tell me, and if not, he’ll just leave it alone. It seems like a pretty good balance, and he’ll tell me the truth, which is the only way you’ll get better.”

Tryan was quick to praise his 27-year-old partner.

“Jade roped well, and he roped smart,” Tryan noted. “We drew terrible (at the Wrangler NFR) this year, so I think this is pretty rewarding. We had some tough steers to catch, and we got by them. Sometimes that’s just what you have to do to win a gold buckle.”

Although the 2014 Wrangler NFR turned into a disappointment for many of the elite team roping pairs in the field, Tryan and Corkill held steady the whole way, becoming the only team to record times on all 10 of their steers; they earned checks in seven rounds.

With an average championship check worth $48,732, they each departed Las Vegas with $109,877 in Wrangler NFR earnings – more than $24,000 ahead of the next-best team, Aaron Tsinigine and seven-time World Champion Clay O’Brien Cooper ($85,511).

“Winning the average means a lot to me,” said Corkill, of Fallon, Nev. “Coming in with the lead, and then winning the average and most money here – that’s as complete as it gets for a season, and it’s a dream come true. This is the first time I’ve ever won the average; I always wanted to win it, but in my previous six tries, the best I ever did was third place.”

With the help of Tryan – who had won the average once before, with Michael Jones in 2004 – Corkill added his first average buckle to a collection which now includes three straight world titles.

[ Click here for Clay Tryan's full bio ] 

– Justin Shaw, ProRodeo Sports News

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