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