RED LODGE — Glance at Sage Newman these days and, aside from his unassuming smile, the first thing you notice — is his mustache.
"Well, we have a little bet going in the rig, so all of us have a mustache going and whoever shaves first has to buy a steak dinner and a day of activities," Newman confided to MTN Sports before recently riding saddle bronc at the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo.
Losing that bet could be pretty spendy in a truck filled with four guys. Newman is traveling with Chase Brooks, Tanner Butner and Kolby Wanchuk.
But, rightfully so, he's betting on himself.
"I think mine's staying," he said of the 'stache. "It's been pretty good to me, also"
The combination of superstition and confidence is a snapshot of how Newman is tearing it up this season, and not by accident.
Leading your saddle bronc standings nearly wire-to-wire this season, the Melstone kid says he's rodeoed the hardest of his life these last two years. He blazed through Cowboy Christmas run ranked No. 1 in the world with a lead of over $40,000, and currently sitting on $174,635.59 in season earnings. Newman leads Utah's Stetson Wright by almost $50,000.
"I've been drawing great horses... I'm healthy as ever," he said.
Newman is also motivated by the thrill of returning to the mighty National Finals Rodeo after his first appearance last December in Las Vegas.
"The energy in that building was unreal," he recalled. "You felt it running through your body and had the hair stand up on the back of your neck."
On the heels of that adrenaline rush, Newman placed 11th in the world with over $125,000 in season earnings. Right now, he's blown that number out of the air while also cashing in the biggest win of his career.
"Definitely Houston, that was my biggest win. It got me kick started this winter and I've just been rolling on since," he said.
Newman says his theory on every ride is "at least 90 points" or bust.
As for his mustache — by the time this year's NFR wraps up, we may see handlebars wrapped around his ears.
"I don't think so," he said with a laugh. "I'm hoping one of these guys will give in and shave theirs."
Even if that happens, you know how superstitions go. Like he said, the mustache has been good to him.