DUNCAN, Okla. – The nice thing about rodeo is the many chances at redemption that cowboys can get.
Take steer wrestler Tanner Brunner as an example. He battled all year, but he didn’t have the kind of success he’s used to. A year ago at this time, he was preparing to compete at the National Finals Rodeo for the fourth time. This year, he’s looking to make a hot streak at the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.
During Thursday’s first go-round at the Stephens County Arena, he knocked his steer to the ground in 4.2 seconds to win the day and collect $2,149.
“It’s a good way to end the year and start the new season at the same time,” said Brunner, 30, of Ramona, Kansas. “We’re competing in a good facility and are running good steers. It all came together.”
He’s made it work before. He won the aggregate title in 2019 in the same arena, so he’s hoping that solid history will repeat itself. He will have two more nights to cash in. It’s all important. He doesn’t have a chance to win the year-end championship, but an average title is just as valuable. Both the year-end and average winners in each event will advance to the national circuit finals rodeo, now dubbed the NFR Open, which takes place next July in Colorado Springs.
“Winning the average would be awesome,” he said. “That gives you a spot into Colorado Springs, and that would be really nice. It would be an honor to win it.”
He’s also doing all this work by utilizing horses he owns. The two sorrel siblings with similar genetics came together, Brunner on one and his traveling partner, Tyler Ravenscroft, hazing on the other.
“I have no complaints about that run,” Brunner said. “I may have let that steer clear a little bit more, but the horses were good, and Tyler has been doing well. It just came together the way it needs to.”
The 2023 regular season came to a close Sept. 30, and the new campaign began the next day. That means money earned in Duncan will count toward the 2024 NFR. By kicking off the circuit finale with a win, he gives himself the needed money necessary to advance to ProRodeo’s grand championship. In rodeo, dollars equal points, so the top 15 contestants on the money list in each event battle for rodeo’s gold each December.
It’s always a tough spot to earn. Only that year’s elite make it to the NFR, and it’s even tougher when it comes to steer wrestling. Only $26,000 separates the 10th-place man in the world standings from the cowboy at No. 15. In the Prairie Circuit, it’s even tighter.
“I firmly believe we have one of the toughest circuits as far as bulldogging goes,” said Brunner, who qualified for the NFR in 2018-20 and 2022. “There are a couple of guys that got hurt and weren’t able to be here. It’s still stiff competition even with those guys out.”
Over the years, circuit titlists and average champions have advanced the NFR the next year. Brunner did it, and Jacob Edler parlayed his circuit-finals success into a world championship. Brunner is ready to do that, too.”
Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Jayco Roper, 84.5 points on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Family Traditions, $2,149; 2. Yance Day, 78, $1,612; 3. Ty Blessing, 76, $1,074; 4. Colt Eck, 75.5, $537.
Steer wrestling: 1. Tanner Brunner, 4.2 seconds, $2,149; 2. Travis Munro, 4.4, $1,612; 3. Cody Devers, 4.5, $1,074; 4. Jerek VanPettan, 4.9, $537.
Breakaway roping: 1. Taylor Munsell, 2.7 seconds, $2,149; 2. (tie) Chayenne McCartney and Ari-Anna Flynn, 2.9, $1,343; 4. Sierra Heinert, 3.0, $537.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Ean Price, 85 points on Big Rafter Rodeo’s Cheap Sunglasses, $2,149; 2. Weston Patterson, 81, $1,612; 3. Jacob Benham, 77.5, $1,074; 4. Caleb Newell, 72, $537.
Tie-down roping: 1. Riley O’Rourke, 8.6 seconds, $2,149; 2. Tom Crouse, 8.9, $1,612; 3. Denton Oestmann, 9.0, $1,074; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 9.1, $537.
Team roping: 1. (tie) Bubba Buckaloo/Gavin Foster and Brye Crites/Rance Doyal, 4.9 seconds, $1,880 each; 3. Andrew Ward/Buddy Hawkins, 5.7, $1,074; 4. Curry Kirchner/Billie Jack Saebens, 5.9, $537.
Barrel racing: 1. Emily Beisel, 16.02 seconds, $2,149; 2. (tie) Tracy Nowlin and Emma Charleston, 16.17, $1,43; 4. Ivy Hurst, 16.38, $537.
Bull riding: 1. Cody Hazelton, 85 points on New Frontier Rodeo’s Fire Code, $2,955; 2. Fulton Rutland, 83.5, $2,417; no other qualified rides.