Mind Games

How Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill are mak­ing men­tal ad­just­ments to dom­i­nate the World Stand­ings for the third year in a row.

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Contents - by Chelsea Toy

Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill have sim­ply dom­i­nated the reg­u­lar sea­son through the win­ter and spring runs. They’ve been par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful at the Wran­gler Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges, win­ning three of the five held so far. Their ag­gres­sive yet in­tel­li­gent one-header style has put them ahead of the pack, but they’re not rest­ing on their lau­rels. They’re mak­ing men­tal changes to get even bet­ter and look­ing for­ward to a sum­mer of big pay­checks.

Clay Tryan’s and Jade Corkill’s part­ner­ship be­gan in 2013 af­ter in­jury side­lined Chad Mas­ters. It also just so hap­pens that the Pro­fes­sional Rodeo Cow­boy As­so­ci­a­tion’s one-header, 11team Wran­gler Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenge se­ries kicked off in 2013 in Red­ding, Calif. Those Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges have been the for­mat in which the reign­ing world champs have show­cased their dom­i­nance, earn­ing some $34,340 over the 15 events, in­clud­ing their most re­cent Red­ding Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenge win for their time of 5.2 sec­onds worth $5,440 a man.

2015 has been a ban­ner year for Tryan and Corkill at the Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges, where they won three of the four in which they com­peted. Their $5,440-aman wins at those three rodeos have helped put them in a spot they’ve been in the last two years at this time—in both 2014 and 2015, Tryan and Corkill have won more than any team in the history of the sport by mid-May, ex­clud­ing the two years where RodeoHous­ton’s $50,000 counted to­ward the PRCA World Stand­ings. Last year as of May 18, Tryan and Corkill had earned $53,113. This year, they’ve bested that to­tal by about $2,000 to each have $55,621 in the bank.

“We’re try­ing to be ag­gres­sive but we’re re­ally try­ing to just make a good run,” Corkill ex­plained of their Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenge strat­egy. “A clean run can win ffth. It’s hard to tell be­cause po­si­tion means a lot. Some are re­ally easy. We were fourth out and 5.2. The last team out was Coleman (Proc­tor) and Jake (Long) and they knew a 6.1 would win sec­ond place. If you’re to­ward the be­gin­ning, you need to make the best run you can. It’s been su­per easy un­til the ffth or sixth team and then ev­ery­one catches. It’s hard to strate­gize un­less you’re at the end.”

Tryan made a men­tal com­mit­ment in 2015 to stop try­ing to just place at the Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges. He wants to win ev­ery chance he gets this year.

“I’ve been more ag­gres­sive at them this year than last year. It’s easy to get money, at least win fourth. Last year we prob­a­bly won $16,000 for the year. I thought this year that if I get the chance I was go­ing to try to win frst or sec­ond ev­ery time. That means rid­ing Cate where I can, like at Kis­sim­mee and Rapid City. I rode my third-string horse, Sadie, at Red­ding, but she’s a good horse, too.”

For both part­ners, this ag­gres­sive but solid strat­egy isn’t just how they rope at the Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges—it’s how they’ve ac­cu­mu­lated three gold buck­les each.

“I ex­pect great­ness out of my­self, and I didn’t do it for a few years,” Tryan said. “Jade is ob­vi­ously the best there is. I want to be one of the best head­ers that’s ever done it. Some­times, hav­ing dom­i­nant years is what it’s all about. I un­der­stand how good Jade is and how good his horses are. In my opin­ion, we need to be do­ing good like this. We’ve won at the right spots to do this.”

They’ve spent the last three years cap­i­tal­iz­ing when it counts—from their 2013 win at Cheyenne Fron­tier Days to their con­sis­tency in the Thomas & Mack that won them last year’s aver- age ti­tle.

“That’s how you win rodeo­ing,” Tryan said. “If you can’t catch the good ones, you’re not go­ing to win enough to mat­ter. The good teams, if you give them a good steer, they’re go­ing to win.”

Tryan out-caught much of the com­pe­ti­tion for years, but that only trans­lated into rodeo suc­cess re­cently. He’s been one of the best jack­pot­ters his en­tire ca­reer, but there were years that Tryan strug­gled on the rodeo road. It’s those years, though, that he at­tributes to chang­ing his game for the bet­ter to­day.

“I did well for a long stretch of time,” Tryan said. “My younger years were de­cent, I had a good stretch where I headed good for a few years. Then I didn’t make the Fi­nals in ’08 and made it in ’09 at 15th. My jack­pot­ting was good but my rodeo­ing was ter­ri­ble. I was too slow. I had to re-eval­u­ate and evolve. I started tak­ing more chances, and I win a lot more be­cause of it. Tee Wool­man, Jake Barnes, they did that. I adapted past just catch­ing. That lull made me so much bet­ter now. If I hadn’t had it, I might not have been rop­ing like this the last few years. I’ve tried harder, tried new things. Look­ing back, it was a good thing. The time I was do­ing it, it didn’t seem like it. But now it was a bless­ing in dis­guise.”

Corkill, too, has ad­justed his game to ad­dress his most hated strug­gle: rop­ing legs. If you ask him how he re­mem­bers this year, the win­ningest of his ca­reer so far, he’ll tell you he didn’t rope very well. He frst rat­tles off where he was im­per­fect—Red Bluff, where he slipped a leg, Oak­dale and Clo­vis, where he missed, Guy­mon, where he roped a leg. But then, in his an­a­lyt­i­cal fash­ion, he’s gained a keen aware­ness of what he’s do­ing when he’s slip­ping a leg.

“I will get in a mode or mind frame where I see it so slow and so clear that I feel like I have too much time to

“If you can’t catch the good ones, you’re not go­ing to win enough to mat­ter.” -Clay Tryan

change my mind where I see some­thing last minute that I don’t like,” Corkill said. “So in­stead of just go­ing off, I’ll see the steer change and I try to read­just when I should have just re­acted how I’m sup­posed to. I had it so slowed down that it had time to get ahead of me if I let it. I’m try­ing to stay more in real-time speed rather than slow mo­tion. Now I’m try­ing not to con­cen­trate so in­tensely be­fore I rope and I’m try­ing to chill a lit­tle. As it gets closer to time, I just try to con­cen­trate for the amount of time that I need to and re­act to what I see and not over­think it.”

Look­ing for­ward to the rest of the sea­son, Tryan has a more than $14,022 lead on the num­ber-two man, Derrick Be­gay, and a $24,107 lead on num­berthree man, Erich Rogers. Corkill leads Clay O’Brien Cooper by $8,582, and Travis Woodard by $22,872. With the horse­power Tryan has on the trailer— Dew and Cate, his two great ones—and Corkill’s seem­ingly end­less steam of great heel horses—2012 AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year Cave­man for West Coast rodeos, his new grey mare Whisky, his bay Ra­zor, the leg­endary Switchblade when he gets sound enough this sum­mer and even his great Ice Cube (who is blind in one eye) for oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ances—it’s safe to say, Tryan and Corkill aren’t slow­ing down any time soon.

BOB CLICK PHOTO TR­ISHA MILLER PHOTO JAMES PHIFER PHOTOS PEGGY GAN­DER PHOTO

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