Steer wrestler seeks 3rd bid to nationals
Kansas cowboys are as taken back by coronavirus as the rest of the world.
Yet Tanner Brunner, a professional steer wrestler from Ramona, is back on the trail and tougher than ever.
After qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo by finishing 15th in the world for two years straight, Brunner is determined to make it three in a row.
”I want to get back to Las Vegas for the run at that big money,” said Brunner, 27. “It’s a big stage, and you learn something every time you are there. I just hope to use everything I’ve learned when I go back.”
According to the Wrangler Rodeo Network, this Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association season has been “bizarre.” With rodeos virtually stopping in mid-March because of the pandemic, professional rodeos restarted full-fledged the third week of May.
“Usually in a normal year I would go to 85 to 90 professional rodeos and another 10 of them would be jackpots,” Brunner said, adding those events offer more money. “This year is different; there are 40 or 50 professional events.”
Despite interruptions to the season, Brunner worked up to 10th in world standings last week with $26,235 in winnings.
His strong move was enhanced by splitting wins at rodeos in Woodward, Oklahoma, and Coleman, Texas, both ending June 13.
Brunner had a 3.8-second run in Woodward and earned $3,266 by tying with Trell Etbauer.
Brunner stopped the clock in 3.7 seconds at Coleman, collecting $1,925 after splitting the victory with Gabe Soileau.
“It was a good feeling to do that well,” Brunner said. “It was good to kick things off and get things rolling again. I wish I could go to rodeos every day when I’m on a roll like that.
“I had good steers at both rodeos and tried to do my job to make good runs.”
Brunner rode Miss Kitty, 13, at the rodeos, with Cole Edge, riding Slick, serving as hazer for both runs.
Brunner comes from a rodeo family. His parents and siblings all competed in rodeo. He competed with Kansas State University’s rodeo team in college after graduating from Centre High School in 2011.
There he met champion steer wrestler Chancey Larson, who inspired him to “rise to the next level.”
“He taught me a lot,” Brunner said. “I am still learning how to make the same run every time.”
Mostly self-coached, Brunner learns from other competitors he travels with — Cole Edge and Sean Mulligan. Both are NFR qualifiers.
Before rodeos started again, Brunner kept busy working at his family’s cattle and farming operations.
“I just tried to help out wherever I was needed,” the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Brunner said. “I practiced a little bit, took some time off and let my horses take some time off.
When things looked like they were going to get started, I began practicing and getting my horses in shape.
“I enjoyed my time at home for sure, but I was ready to go to some rodeos.”
His calendar was filled, competing in rodeos throughout the western half of the country during the run-up to Fourth of July events.
“I want to take everything I have learned and try and pull it together,” Brunner said.
Making NFR every year is a goal, but so is being a champion.
“One of these years I will get a gold buckle,” he said.
He hasn’t come close, yet.
“Just close enough that I can taste it,” he said.
Free-lance writer Frank Buchman contributed to this story.
Last modified July 8, 2020