HASTINGS, Minn. – The 2013 ProRodeo season has been nothing shy of spectacular for saddle bronc rider Tyler Corrington. He’s hoping it just gets better.
Corrington will get his shot during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, set for Dec. 5-14 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It’s the sport’s grand finale, where the purse is $6.25 million.
“This has been the best year of my career by far,” said Corrington, who returns to the NFR for the second time in his career – he also qualified in 2011, where he won a round and placed in four others. “I’m trying to be a little more focused going in this year and not be so overwhelmed by everything that goes on there.
“The last time I was there, I was just glad to be there. Going into this year’s finals, I’m focused on what I need to do.”
Corrington is fourth in the world standings, having earned $97,929 through the course of the regular season. How does that compare? He’s less than $1,000 away from surpassing his previous best from two seasons ago, and he’ll have 10 opportunities to do so in the City of Lights – the NFR will pay go-round winners $18,630 each night, so there is plenty of money up for grabs.
“I missed the NFR last year because I just wasn’t riding well,” he said. “I had a much different focus than I had. I when I got to the Canadian Finals last year, that helped my confidence a lot.”
It did, indeed. Corrington won the average championship at the 2012 Canadian Finals Rodeo, posting the best six-ride cumulative score. He finished the season with nearly $60,000 in Canadian earnings. That confidence rolled into the 2013 ProRodeo campaign, where the Minnesota cowboy earned eight titles.
One of his biggest came in February, when he rode the Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo horse Big Tex for 85 points to win the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. He won more than $16,000.
“San Antonio was a confidence-builder for me, and it was a good rodeo,” he said. “It paid really well, and I got a fuel card and a sweet buckle.”
So what’s the key?
“I’m a lot more confident, and I’m trying to stay in better shape,” said Corrington, who spends a good portion of his time away from the rodeo trail in Gruver, Texas, where he works on the Holt family’s ranch. “I’ve also had great traveling partners.”
That’s as important as anything. A rodeo cowboy spends the majority of his time in a vehicle getting from one rodeo to another. The people with whom he travels those miles become brothers, and the friends he sees at each stop along the way are a close family. In Corrington’s case, windshield time was spent with Cort Scheer and Chet Johnson, both of whom return to the NFR this December.
“I think it’s awesome that we all three made the finals,” Corrington said. “Having your traveling partners there with you is going to be amazing, because you’ve been through so much together all season long.
“We all try to stay real positive and have a lot of fun. We all have the same goals with the Canadian Finals and the NFR. We all really feed off each other, and that’s cool, too.”
Corrington will lean on those partners when it’s time to compete in Las Vegas. With the large purse comes great pressure. Standing behind the golden bucking chutes can be intimidating, especially with more than 17,000 fans packed into the stadium every night.
“Even for guys that have been there a lot, they’ll tell you the first night always feels like the first time you go,” he said. “The NFR is a nerve-wracking deal, but I think having been there before will be a big help because I think I can handle it a lot better.
“My goal is to try to win first in every round.”
That type of effort can pay off quickly in the Nevada desert. It’s just the next step for the ranch-raised Minnesota cowboy. His father, Doug, was a three-time Great Lakes Circuit champion saddle bronc rider who also worked as a pickup man in rodeo. His brother, Dillon, is also involved in the sport as a pickup man and roper. His mother, Stacey, is the main supporter.
In fact, his Minnesota friends and family will conduct a watch party during the NFR. The party is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Dan’s Bar in New Trier, Minn., where those interested can watch the NFR’s third go-round.
“I always had all the help and supported I needed, and they gave me all the opportunities,” said Corrington, who also credited his girlfriend, Morgan McSweyn, with providing to his success. “She’s been awesome. She teaches at a community college, so she had the summer off. She came out a lot over the summer and got to come with me to Calgary (Alberta) and Cheyenne (Wyo.). The rodeo in Logandale (Nev.) was her first rodeo.”
Having opportunities and taking advantage of them can be separate things. He rides bucking horse because he loves it.
“When you get tapped off on one, there’s just no other feeling in the world like it in the world,” he said.
That positivity is contagious, which is why Corrington, Scheer and Johnson rode at the Canadian Finals and will ride together again at the NFR.
“This is the best life you can have,” Corrington said. “You get to do what you want every day. The travel, while it can get old, is really cool, because you get to see a lot of cool places. I’m pretty blessed to do what I do and live the live I do.”
Of course, leaving Las Vegas with the world champion’s gold buckle would just be a great symbol of a life well-lived.