Following one of the most hectic years that ProRodeo has seen, Tanner Tomlinson has officially won the 2020 PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year heading title with a total of $22,534.24 in season earnings.
“It means a lot to me,” Tomlinson said. ”It's been a crazy year, especially with all of this COVID stuff, so it's a big accomplishment. You only get to do it once in your life. It's something that is going to be really good to look back on one day.”
Tomlinson, 20, of Angleton, Texas, didn’t win this prestigious title without a fight. He and Broken Bow, Oklahoma's Brit Smith were neck-and-neck down to the final weekend in the 2020 ProRodeo season, when Smith finished in second place, just $981.62 behind Tomlinson.
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“The week before Stephenville—that last week of Abilene and everything—we placed at two that weekend and that Saturday night, at Abilene, he (Smith) ended up winning almost the same amount that I did. He was going to be ahead of me by about $1,200, so I knew that I had to do something on our second one at Abilene or I wasn't going to have a chance at Stephenville.
“We ended up being 3.8 in the slack on our second one and won second in the round and won around $1,200, so that put me ahead of him at Stephenville. It was really close. I spun one to probably win first or second and Brady (Norman) just had some tough luck. Then I thought Brit was just going to go ahead and place and win the rookie, but fortunately he had some tough luck. It was a lot of stuff going on in the last two weeks. The last three weeks it felt like every time I placed; Brit placed. We wouldn't go down without a fight.”
The final weeks in ProRodeo weren’t the only weeks that made this year tough on the young header. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, it affected everyone in ProRodeo.
“It affected everything quite a bit,” Tomlinson said. “With it being my first year, I was kind of bummed because they canceled Reno, Salinas, Cheyenne and all of the big ones that I was looking forward to. It's just a blessing to still be able to rodeo and do what we love."
Tomlinson, with the help of PRCA heeler Brady Norman, accomplished his two main goals of winning the 2020 Resistol Rookie heading title and finishing out the season in the top 40 of the PRCA world standings—he finished 35th in the standings with $22,534.24.
“We got to where he's probably one of my top two best friends,” Tomlinson noted. “I've always known him, but this year, obviously, rodeoing all year long has been fun. It would have been nice to make the Finals, but I really wasn’t looking for that big of a goal. I was just trying to accomplish my goal of getting into the buildings for next year, win the Rookie and set myself up for next year.”
Tomlinson’s season hit a speed bump over the Cowboy Christmas run, when he found himself not roping like he knows how and headed home to regroup for a few days.
“I was just missing and wasn't roping like my normal self,” Tomlinson said. “I tried to switch ropes, and I just came home and Camish (Jennings) just told me to do what I've always done and rope and don't worry about it because it's no different than down here. I kind of got back to myself and I started roping good again. I got in a groove for the rest of the year.”
Tomlinson rode his bald-faced, sorrel mare, Ivy, to help him do battle all season long.
“She's been sound her whole life,” Tomlinson said. “She's easy going. I could run 100 on her if I wanted to. I've been trying a bunch of horses to find two more for next year. I'm going to take her with me, of course, but I'm going to try and find something else.”
If there is one thing that Tomlinson learned throughout his Resistol Rookie year, it’s to always be yourself.
“Don’t let stuff get to you out there and to stay focused and always believe in yourself,” he said. “Don't get down on yourself. Just try to always be your own person and don't try to copycat somebody. You see some of the pros and you try to rope like them. I think it's always good to try and look up to them, but try to just keep to yourself and don't try to be like somebody else. It's a mental game. I think my mental game is a lot better from being out there on the road this year. That is one thing that you have to stay up on.”