Tyler Craig Parlays First PBR Canada National Finals Qualification with 2023 Event Title
By: James Youness Tuesday, November 21, 2023 @ 12:34 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. – When the starting lineups for the 2023 PBR Canada National Finals, presented by Command Tubular Products, were announced some two weeks back, Crossfield, Alberta, native Tyler Craig saw his name featured for the third-straight year.
Drawing into the lineup in both the 2021 and 2022 iterations of the season-culminating event as an alternate rider, he managed identical 14th-place finishes in both sessions as he continued to get his bearings at just 20 and 21 years of age, respectively.
As the tour’s 2023 finale rolled into Edmonton’s Rogers Place Nov. 17-18 this fall, there was a different vibe surrounding the tour and event in general.
And perhaps a different cowboy in Craig, who entered the home of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers ranked No. 10 in the nation, which officially represented his first qualification to a PBR Canada National Finals event.
“It’s pretty crazy seeing how things progress in just a few years. It’s kind of like climbing the ladder you could say, taking it one step at a time and one bull at a time,” Craig offered.
“It’s pretty cool to look back at … where you started at comparing it to where I’m at now. It feels really good.”
Foreshadowing aside, self-reflection can be an important part of becoming not only a great professional bull rider, but a better man. A better link in the chain of brotherhood.
Typically travelling with and competing against the likes of fellow countrymen Ashton Sahli (23 years old) or Tanner Skene (20 years old), a little bit of comfortability and camaraderie can go a long way when traversing a country like Canada by van.
Especially within a group of youngsters who are still figuring out some of the big picture aspects of the tour, and hell, life itself.
All of the guys are good to hang with,” Craig shared.
“Ashton Sahli, I travel with him quite a bit. Tanner, he was hurt quite a bit this year, but he’s normally my main travel partner. He tore his bicep in August, so I’ve just been hopping in with whoever is going.”
But when the road trip is complete and guys like three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, 2022 World Champion Daylon Swearingen, defending 2022 Canada title-holder Nick Tetz and beyond are in the lineup, it didn’t take long for Craig to realize exactly where he was.
Becoming one of four riders throughout the two-day, four-round event to produce a flawless 4-for-4 showcase, Craig willed his “Third times a Charm” campaign into the most successful showing of his young career.
Going the distance in Round 1 aboard Black Mamba, the young talent was scored 87 points for his round-winning efforts. Accepting the limelight, alongside an opportunity to choose his next matchup, Craig’s momentous streak had begun.
“The first bull I drew, he was good. Well, he pretty much fit my riding style. Out and around to the right,” he shared.
“Winning that first round really sets it up for you. You pick the bulls that you want to get on. All of the bulls after that kind of fit me perfectly, around to the right, so they were all good. I couldn’t ask for a better set of bulls to get on.”
Literally, and figuratively, eh?
Meeting the requisite 8 in Round 2 dancing with Times A Tickin for 86.75 points, Craig made it known that it wasn’t beginner’s luck for the first-time qualifier. He was there to COMPETE.
Making it three-straight after besting Moonwalk for a quality 84.25-point score, his ticket to the short round was punched. A first for Craig, after going 1-for-3 in both 2021 and 2022.
The home-province competitor didn’t show up to qualify for the exclusive go, though. He came to win it. And so, he readied for his final matchup of the weekend.
Positioned to clinch his first-ever National Finals event title, Craig knew exactly which bovine opponent he wanted a date with, too.
The eventual 2023 Canadian Global Bull of the Year.
“That was the only bull that I had in mind that I wanted to pick and I knew that if I rode him I’d get a pretty big score,” Craig offered.
“I had never been on him before but I’d seen him all year, so I kind of had an idea that was the bull I wanted even before the event started.”
Climbing aboard the chutes for his final showdown against Built Tough, there were only two things left to do. Nod his head and survive until the buzzer sounded.
Checking both boxes and sending the crowd into an uproar, Craig completed his season. In the ride column, sure, but more importantly, atop the 2023 PBR Canada National Finals event leaderboard.
“Yeah, it felt really good. It was unreal, actually,” he shared.
“It kind of solidifies it all, right?
Earning a check inked for $29,380, the youngster needed a few moments to collect his thoughts on how he’d utilize his winnings. With his win in Tofield, Alberta, earlier this season awarding his previous top earnings ($2,825) across three seasons of competition, this was a huge night for not just his confidence, but his bank account the same.
“Nothing crazy. I think I’ll just keep it in the back account for a while. It will set me up to do some rodeo and bull riding come winter,” Craig shared.“Maybe go south a little bit, and that will help a lot. No big plans on spending it right now.”
Competing against, and later defeating, PBR World Champions is always a good notch on the measuring stick, but after last weekend’s success, he’s hoping to battle against more and more athletes south of the border this winter.
“I’d like to go south, compete at some Velocity events (Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour), stuff like that. I’ve gone south, but never to any Velocity events or anything like that, so I’d like to try a few of those out. Kind of get out of my comfort zone.”
“Going against the tour’s top talents and international guys like that … That helps a bunch.”
“I was rodeoing as I was doing PBRs throughout the year. My biggest goal was pretty much to maintain being in the Top 10 in each of them and I kind of just picked away at both of them. I attended all of the ones I could and come Finals, I was feeling good and wanted to ride all of my bulls and it worked out.”
Unafraid to regularly log reps competing within the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association while balancing his time in the PBR world, his health has been more than a blessing considering his action-packed schedule.
“I was lucky enough to stay pretty healthy all year. After this weekend I’m pretty sore, but nothing is hurt or anything like that,” he said.
“I have to go to the Maple Leaf Circuit Finals here on Wednesday, so I’ll take a couple of days off and just rest, heal up the body a little bit and we’ll get right back at it again. But I was pretty fortunate to be healthy all year.
“It was a good season. Got on a lot of bulls.”
Finishing the 2023 circuit ranked No. 4 overall in Canada, there was of course still some meat on the bone for Craig. Noting some possible appearances at Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour events mixed in with an even better finish in the National standings, he’s taking some time to soak it all in before turning the page to 2024.
“I don’t have any goals yet for next season, I haven’t really thought about it yet,” the humble 22-year-old admitted.
“I guess after winning the Finals, now I have to go for winning Canada (a Canadian National title). That would be the next one.”
Regardless of where his journey takes him next, there was one last night he wanted bull riding fans around the world to know.
“Just like in the short round on Saturday, I’m going to pick deep,” he concluded.
“I’m going to pick to win.”