LAS VEGAS – Tanner Milan is living a dream.
The Cochrane, Alta., steer wrestler won his second round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Monday night, stopping the clock in 3.8 seconds to add another $26,231 to his 2017 season earnings total. Milan also won Round 2 and has moved to fourth in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings with $146,535 – $62,462 of which has come at the Thomas & Mack Center in the past five days.
“It’s an amazing feeling, and I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Milan, 34. “That little horse I’m riding, Tom Lewis owns him and his name is Maverick. He’s firing and getting my feet on the ground quick.”
Milan, who also qualified for the Wrangler NFR in 2015, is getting extra enjoyment from his Las Vegas success because his younger brother, Baillie, is serving as his hazer at the $10 million rodeo.
“It’s very special because we started out together as little kids wanting to be here (at the NFR),” said Milan, who is fourth in the average race after five rounds. “I’ve got lots of confidence with him over there hazing for me, and I never second-guess anything. I know he’s going to be there, and it’s a great feeling to have him there beside me.”
Milan was the final bulldogger to nod his head in Round 5, and he said going last in the order among the 15 qualifiers has its benefits.
“I think it helps, and you know what you’ve got to do,” Milan said. “You know you’ve got to run (hard) at it every night here because the start’s so fast, and you can’t back off at all. You get guys going ahead of you making good runs, and when they’re throwing them fast, it dang sure pumps you up and gets your blood going.”
Bareback riders Jake Vold and Orin Larsen also have stood out among a nine-cowboy Canadian contingent at this year’s Finals.
Vold earned the go-round buckle in Round 1 and was followed in second place by Larsen, and the dynamic duo has been regular visitors to the pay window. Vold earned third-place checks in the second and third rounds and has banked $65,212 at the midway point, moving to fourth place in the with $167,372 and standing in a tie for second in the average race.
“I’m feeling good and am just taking it one day at a time, having fun and trying to go win money every night,” said Vold, of Ponoka, Alta. “It’s been a hell of a bareback riding this year, that’s for sure, and the horses and guys have been good. I love seeing guys jump out and be 88 or 90 because that fuels my fire.
“I feel like I’m riding all right, and I’m ready for the next five.”
Larsen also placed in Rounds 2, 4 and 5 and has risen to fifth in the world standings with $155,355, So far, Larsen has earned $56,115 in Vegas. The Inglis, Manitoba, cowboy is pleased with the way his Finals has gone so far and is primed and ready for the second half.
“I’ve been really grateful and thankful for the horses I’ve been drawing and the way I’ve been holding up,” Larsen said. “To start the first five rounds like this, it just builds momentum for the next half, so I’m pretty excited. I’m feeling great, and I’m just going to keep riding with it.”
Monday was a good night for Canadian saddle bronc riders Zeke Thurston and Layton Green, who shared second place with Brody Cress after posting 87.5-point rides. Thurston’s came aboard 2017 PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year Wound Up of Beutler & Son Rodeo, while Green spurred Burch Rodeo’s Lunatic From Hell to the same mark.
Thurston – the reigning world champion from Big Valley, Alta. – is second in the world standings with $199,917, a number that is within reach of top-ranked Jacobs Crawley’s $220,158 total. It was Green’s first cheque of the rodeo, and he stands ninth in the world standings at $136,407.
Other members of Team Canada have struggled, including reigning World Champion Team Roping Heeler Jeremy Buhler, who finally broke through for a share of third place with partner Tom Richards in Round 5. The makeshift team roping pair – pressed into action together because their partners failed to qualify – had a 9.3 and three no-times heading into the fifth round.
Steer wrestler Scott Guenther of Provost, Alta., split third place in the opening round, but has not cashed a cheque since, and Clay Elliott of Nanton, Alta., is the lone saddle bronc rider without a cheque so far. Bull rider Jordan Hansen of Okotoks, Alta., has four buck-offs against a fifth-place finish in Round 2.
A number of Canadian-bred buckers have made headlines at the Thomas & Mack at this year’s Wrangler NFR. Two-time CPRA Bareback Horse of the Year and reigning PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year Virgil from Vern McDonald’s Lac La Biche, Alta.-based C5 Rodeo Company teamed with reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Tim O’Connell to tie the arena record of 91.5 points while winning the third round.
Wayne Vold Rodeo bull Heavens Basement was the top-marked bovine of Round 2 after sending Tim Bingham to the turf, and Calgary Stampede’s Yesterdays Delivery was marked as the top saddle bronc of the fourth round after roughing up world standings leader Jacobs Crawley during his 75.5-point ride. Not to be outdone, C5 Rodeo’s Double D earned the highest marks among saddle broncs in Round 5 for bucking off Jake Wright, and Calgary Stampede’s Night Moves was the top bull of the fifth round after turfing Roscoe Jarboe.
The 2017 PRCA Media Award winner for Excellence in Print Journalism, Neal Reid spent five years as editor of the ProRodeo Sports News and is covering his 14th consecutive Wrangler NFR this year. He has written for USA Today, ESPN, ESPNW, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Las Vegas Review-Journal, as well as Western Horseman, American Cowboy, The Ketchpen and Persimmon Hill. A journalism graduate from Auburn University, Reid spent nine weeks in Russia in 2014 covering the Sochi Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games for the Olympic News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @NealReid21.