LAS VEGAS – A year ago, Tanner Aus waited until the final night of the season to win a round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
He made it happen in a hurry at this year’s championship with an 85.5-point ride on Cervi Rodeo’s Control Freak during the first round on Thursday night. He earned $26,231 and moved to No. 2 in the world standings after just one night of ProRodeo’s grand championship.
“It’s great, but I’m just going to take it one night at a time like I always try to do,” said Aus, a two-time NFR qualifier from Granite Falls, Minn., who entered the finale fourth in the bareback riding world standings. “There were a lot of jitters in the locker room, at least for me. It feels good to get that first one out of the way. The fact that it went my way just feels great.”
He had his way in the arena primarily by the spurring motion he made to match moves with the horse. With every special twist Control Freak had, Aus continued to make solid moves through the eight-second ride.
“I’ve never been on Control Freak,” he said. “I was thankful to see him next to my name because I’ve seen him plenty of times and thought he was great, electric. He’s sure a standout in this pen, and I’m glad it went my way.”
It also pushed his season earnings to $148,915 with nine more of the richest go-rounds remaining. He is living a dream season that he has held tightly to through every night’s sleep since he was a toddler, and he understands the family support that must come his way if he is to be successful in the game he loves.
“That’s phenomenal to me,” said Aus, whose father, John, also rode bareback horses. “I know they enjoy being here, but when you’re hauling your 9-year-old kid to Little Britches rodeos, you never think you might get the opportunity to pack your bags and head to Vegas. You always kind of hope for it and dram about it, so I think it’s great for the whole family together.”
Although he sits second in the standings, he trails the leader, Tim O’Connell, by more than $55,000. But with rounds paying more than $26,000 a night, he has a chance to catch up quickly. The ultimate goal, of course, is to finish atop the money list at the end of the season to earn that coveted gold buckle.
“Everybody’s goal at the top of the list is to win the world championship, and I’ve been chipping away at it my whole life,” Aus said. “This might be as close as I ever get, and I won’t take it for granted.”