Tanner Pallesen and Max Kuttler found luck in their first time roping together, claiming the 2023 Wilderness Circuit Finals win Nov. 4.
Pallesen and Kuttler paired up just for the circuit finals in Heber City, Utah, and walked away the average champions after roping three steers in 16.2. As first-time circuit finals champs, it’s a great feeling.
“I don’t know that it’s really sunk in yet,” Pallesen, 25, said. “With all the calls and texts it’s starting to sink in a little bit more, but I don’t know. I guess a dream come true as of right now.”
For Idaho’s Kuttler, the win is almost a long time coming.
“This was really good for me,” Kuttler, 32, said. “It felt like something that we’ve been trying to do every year. I’ve never went in there, really, other than one time that I had a chance to win the year-end, so I’ve kind of always been in that situation.”
Despite never roping together prior, Kuttler was excited he had the chance to rope with Pallesen.
“I was actually pretty excited because Tanner, he heads pretty aggressive every time, so I was pretty excited for what we had,” Kuttler said. “For what we had to do over there, he was a pretty good partner, I think, for that.”
Pallesen and Kuttler drew a steer in the first round they watched at the Columbia River Circuit Finals, and they knew they needed to capitalize if they wanted to punch their tickets to Colorado Springs next July.
“We knew the first steer of ours was pretty good, and we knew we had to win the average to even have a chance to make it to the NFR Open because [first place] had almost $50,000 won,” said Kuttler, who was heeling on his 9-year-old mare Blondie. “So that was kind of our plan, and that’s about what we decided to do.”
They were second in the round with a 4.6. In Round 2 they were focused on knocking down another steer, and they accomplished that in 5.8 seconds.
Their third-round steer was one they preferred but he surprised them by slowing up when Pallesen, who was riding his 13-year-old mare Angel, headed him.
“I’d seen him run two other times and I didn’t think he was going to stop,” Pallesen said. “He didn’t stop, but he really checked up when I roped him. I was just trying to do everything I could to keep it on the horns and try and give Max a chance to heel him. Max had to work for all of them—I didn’t make it very easy on him.”
They prevailed, however, and finished fourth in the round with a 5.8 to give them the average win.
Big wins and looking ahead
Finally getting the win was important to Utah’s Pallesen because he’s been focusing on making the Wilderness Circuit Finals for the past three years.
“I made [the circuit finals] the first time three years ago, and ever since then, that’s been my main goal,” Pallesen said. “I’d like to win the year-end, and the average is right there with that. Especially as tough as our circuit is to win that much money. But right now, it’s one of my number one goals.”
Kuttler always sets his eyes on the circuit finals, too, because of the chance at money in a slower time of year.
“I think it’s a chance for a lot of extra money right there for me at this time of the year,” Kuttler said. “I think we won close to $6,000. It was really good because there’s not very many places you can go this time of the year and have a chance to win that type of money.”
Kuttler will switch over to the head side in 2024, something he hasn’t done in a few years.
“Sometimes the change is nice,” Kuttler said. “The past few years have been really fun heeling, and I had quite a bit of success, but I think just time to switch some stuff up.”
In the year-end race, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira came out on top. The reigning world champs won the Wilderness Circuit year-end titles with over $40,000 won. One of their biggest wins of the year came in Reno, Nevada, as they walked away the 2023 Reno Rodeo champs, both pocketing $18,282.