Aus off and running at NFR

Ted Harbin, Special to USA Today
Tanner Aus at Western Fest 2021.

The National Finals Rodeo is always a testament to great athletes with a strong will.

Every cowboy in the mix has earned the right to compete at ProRodeo’s grand championship. Once they arrive in Las Vegas for the most popular 10 nights of the year, there are more challenges that come their way. In bareback riding, that comes with being matched with one of the 100 best bucking horses in the game this year.

“It’s as tough as it’s ever been here,” said Tanner Aus, 31, a six-time NFR qualifier from Granite Falls, Minnesota. The guys are ready to ride, and the horses are looking good.

“I think I’ve drawn well, and I feel good. It’s just a matter of putting it together at this point.”

Aus earned his first payday of the 2021 NFR by riding Calgary Stampede’s Zig Zag Cherry for 84.5 points to share a sixth-place tie with Louisianan Taylor Broussard. They each pocketed $2,177.

It was a good way to start a big week of big-money opportunities in Las Vegas, home to the finale since 1985. A year ago, however, Aus competed at the NFR in Arlington, Texas, which hosted the championship because of pandemic restrictions. This is a great challenge, but that’s not news to Aus, the 2012 intercollegiate bareback riding champion while competing at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri.

“It’s supposed to be this way,” he said. “I’ll g et to come through the draw here soon that’s going to compliment my style a little more. That’s just the way it is. I’ll get one soon that’s going to come along and help me out.”

Aus just missed out on placing on Night 1 after posting an 83-point ride on Powder River Rodeo’s Two Buck Chuck. He’s been consistent, and he has the fifth-best two-ride cumulative score of 167.5 points. It’s a long 10 days in Sin City, but he knows not to get overhyped about one move or another.

“There are some tough young guys coming up that have never been here before, and it’s charged up the locker room,” Aus said. “It’s as fun as it’s ever been. It’s the best place to be this time of year.

“The horse I got on (Friday) was a big, strong Calgary horse, and our (Saturday) pen is really tough with the (eliminator) pen of horses. I’m healthy leading into tomorrow night. I’m ready to go.”