“It was a good year yet a different year for sure.”
Tanner Brunner of Ramona simply evaluated his best regular season steer wrestling standings in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
“With many rodeos canceled due to coronavirus we were lucky that committees did host and put on rodeos,” Brunner appreciated.
Typically going to about a hundred rodeos annually, the Kansas cowboy only entered 58 rodeos in the 2020 season.
“A number of larger rodeos were canceled, so we went to more of the smaller rodeos. That gave us the opportunity to see new country,” Brunner said.
The 27-year-old, six-foot-two, 230-pound steer wrestler made best use of those limited opportunities.
From October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, Brunner won $46,885.30. That put him sixth in the world steer wrestling standings qualifying for his third National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
“I’m pleased to qualify for the NFR again, and quite thankful there’s going to be an NFR,” Brunner said. “After such few rodeos this year and so much discussion about canceling the NFR, I’m sure glad it’ll go on.”
In Las Vegas for a number of years, the 2020 NFR will be in Arlington, Texas, December 3-12. “It’ll be different than at Vegas, but the 10-rounds of competition will be just as tough,” Brunner assured.
With the NFR just days away, Brunner is a “real working cowboy” at his family’s Marion County Cow Camp Feedlot.
“We’ve been building fence today before the colder weather sets in,” he said Thursday. “I’ve been exercising my horses to keep them in shape, but the ranch work is about enough exercise for me.”
He’s also entered a couple of recent rodeos and bulldogs steers two or three times a week at home.
To be a top steer wrestler requires not only cowboy ability but also horsepower. “I’m fortunate to have such a great bulldogging team,” Brunner appreciated.
The 13-year-old mare Miss Kitty is Brunner’s steer wrestling mount and Slick a 13-year-old gelding works the hazing side.
“I’ve been using these horses for three years now. We seem to work well together,” Brunner said. “I’m fortunate to own the team now after buying them from Sean Mulligan and Pride Farms at Durant, Oklahoma.”
His traveling partners Cole Edge, Trever Nelson and Kodie Jang are also important to Brunner. “We’ve been going together with the same horses, and it’s really been great,” he said.
“If the weather cooperates I intend to run a few more steers here at home before heading south,” Brunner noted. “Then I’ll go down to practice with Sean Mulligan before the NFR like I’ve done the past couple of years.”
Highlights of Brunner’s 2020 campaign included winning the Prairie Circuit Finals at Duncan, Oklahoma, and the Mesquite, Texas, Championship Rodeo. He was co-champion at Woodward, Oklahoma; Coleman, Texas; and Gooding, Idaho.
Brunner’s fastest run of the year came at San Antonio, Texas, where he dropped his steer in 3.6-seconds to win $4,153.
“Several of the major Kansas rodeos that I generally compete at were canceled this year,” Brunner said. “But I did have some success in my home state.”
His 4.1-seconds Dodge City run was worth $1,366, while he had 3.9-seconds at Phillipsburg and 4.6-seconds at Pretty Prairie.
With entirely different rodeo conditions in 2019, Brunner completed the PRCA standings 15th after the NFR with $109,912. He also finished 15th in the 2018 PRCA world steer wrestling standings with $98,193.
The three previous years Brunner had been 47th, 28th and 63rd respectively in yearend steer wrestling results.
Growing up in a rodeo family, Brunner started competing when he was nine-years-old. His dad Tracy, mom Yvonne and sister Cat all have successful rodeo careers.
Graduating from Centre High School at Lost Springs in 2011, Brunner competed at the National High School Rodeo Finals two years. On the Kansas State University Rodeo Team, Brunner also qualified for the National Intercollege Rodeo Association Finals two years.
He graduated with an animal science degree in 2016 and has been a fulltime professional rodeo cowboy and working rancher simultaneously.
Evaluating the 2020 rodeo season cancelations and rulings on health issues, Brunner said, “It varied place to place. There were actually only a few rodeos requiring and enforcing masking and distancing stipulations.”
With two previous NFR experiences, Brunner is preparing mentally as well as physically for the upcoming 10-day NFR run. “I’ll be going in ranked higher than ever. But a lot can happen running that many steers with so much money to win,” he said. “With my horses and hazers, I’ll be as ready as I can and hope the steers fall in my favor.”
He’ll still be cautious not putting his hat on the bed, not eating chicken before a go-round, and not wearing a yellow shirt.
Already in the 2021 steer wrestling standings, Brunner was second at the Prairie Circuit Finals this month in Duncan, Oklahoma. He also won $1,723 a few days earlier in Waco, Texas.
“I’m hoping that can get me started on a roll for the NFR,” Brunner commented.
“Hopefully rodeo will get back to a more normal next year. Whatever, I’ll be working for the fastest steer wrestling time every time I nod.”