LAS VEGAS – The City of Lights has been good to Tanner Aus.
Just a year removed from earning nearly $84,000 in Las Vegas, the Minnesota bronc buster is back to his winning ways at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. On Saturday night, Aus matched moves with C5 Rodeo’s Virgil for 88 points to share the third-round bareback riding victory with Clayton Biglow of Clements, Calif.
“That horse has a reputation,” said Aus, 26, of Granite Falls, Minn. “All the horses out tonight have a reputation, because it’s the E Pen.”
The “eliminator pen” features the hardest-to-ride bareback horses in the game, and Virgil was every bit of a handful as imagined. The Canadian horse was just recognized as the No. 2 bareback horse in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. For every jump and powerful kick the gray gelding gave, Aus remained in perfect rhythm.
“The atmosphere in the locker room was amazing,” he said, noting that oftentimes the group of bareback riders remains stoic and concerned as they prepare to battle the best of the beasts. “We were cranking tunes, and everyone was just feeling the electricity. To be among a group of guys like that just feeds the fire.
“I was ready; I was focused. Virgil, of course, put on an amazing performance. I was happy to stick with him.”
Virgil was voted as the runner-up Bareback Horse of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and he lived up to everything anyone expected. For every jump and powerful kick, Aus was able to remain in rhythm with the talented gray gelding.
But he’s been pretty sticky all season, and he has already surpassed his 2015 earnings with seven of the richest nights remaining in the ProRodeo season. A year ago, the Minnesota cowboy earned more than $169,000. Thanks to the $59,712 he’s earned over three nights at the NFR, Aus has pushed his rising salary to $172,396.
“It’s a confidence-booster, and hopefully it’ll carry me through the week,” he said. “We just rest up and look forward to the next one.”
As he prepares for Sunday’s fourth round, Aus knows he must remain focused if he hopes to continue his success. But he wasn’t the only man from Minnesota to have success Saturday: J.D. Struxness of Appleton was 3.9 seconds to share the steer wrestling round title. Both men have known each other for a number of years, and together they pocketed nearly $47,000 in Round 3 alone.
“We grew up only 45 minutes from each other,” Struxness said. “We started out wrestling and playing football. He was a little older, but we saw each other out there a lot, and we just got closer. Now we’re great friends, and our families are good friends. It’s great that we can have this kind of night together.”
It must be something in the water, so it’s a good thing they’ve been drinking it.