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Hastings native to compete in national rodeo finals in Las Vegas

There will be nearly 200,000 spectators and 60 million cable television viewers, and Hastings native Tyler Corrington will be at the center of it all in just a few weeks.

Corrington, 25, is riding saddle broncos in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 1-10.?It is the first time he has qualified for the national finals.

"It's basically the Super Bowl of rodeo," he said. "It's the best rodeo there is."

Corrington started riding rodeo broncs, or bucking horses, the summer before he started high school.

Saddle bronc riders have only a thick rein attached to the horse's halter to hold onto with one hand while the horse bucks. They aim for a smooth ride rather than the wilder ride of bareback bronc riders and bull riders. They are scored by the horse's bucking action, the cowboy's control of the horse and the cowboy's spurring action.

Corrington's father had ridden professionally for more than 10 years, and Corrington followed in his footsteps.

"I never went to any (rodeo) schools or anything," he said. "I just learned from my dad."

He had grown up riding horses and being involved in rodeo, but hadn't been able to ride the broncs until he was older. When on a family vacation in Wyoming, he happened to find a saddle in his size, so he decided to give it a shot.

First he competed in high school rodeos. It was clear he had a knack for the event from the beginning. In the Minnesota high school rodeo circuit, the top four riders advance to nationals. Corrington competed at the national event four years.

From there it was college competitions, and in 2006 he made an impressive debut to the professional rodeo world. Rookie cowboys have to win at least $1,000 in their first year to get their membership card to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. It was a big rodeo in San Antonio, Tex., where he had his breakthrough. He did really well in two of the rounds, he recalled, and after that he realized that he could compete with the pros. That year he went on to earn the Rookie of the Year award.

This year is his best yet. In order to qualify for the Wrangler Nationals, cowboys have to be ranked in the top 15 in the world, determined by the dollars they've won at PRCA rodeos. Corrington is ranked 11th in saddle bronc riding with more than $54,000 in winnings this year. He attributes his success to staying healthy and keeping a positive attitude.

Going into the competition, he said he's been trying to work out a little more and he is going to be an instructor for a rodeo school put on by the Justin Sportsmedicine Team just after Thanksgiving. As an instructor, he'll be teaching youth the basics of bronc riding. And as he teaches, he'll be giving himself a refresher course as well.

"You're helping yourself while you're helping kids, too," he said.

The rodeo school plays right into his own strategy of holding to the basics.

"It's something that you can overthink real easy," he said of his event. "But the best thing is just to stick to the basics."

Mostly, though, he said he's just looking to try to have fun at Nationals and "let the chips fall where they may."

Rodeo in Minnesota

While it's no surprise to hear of rodeos in the southern parts of the country, they're not so commonplace here in Minnesota. Corrington is one of only two Minnesotans competing in the national rodeo. He is the only Minnesotan in the saddle bronc riding event. But learning his career here didn't set him back in the least, he said.

"My parents, they gave me the same or more opportunities to practice or improve as anybody else out there," he said. "We just had to drive a little farther is all."

One of those places was South Dakota, where Corrington would spend a couple weeks every summer to practice.

He spends his winters in Stephenville, Tex., so he can compete year-round and has taken to spending summers in Utah for its more central location in relation to the rodeos, but he still claims Hastings as home, he said. He heads home to visit his biggest supporters - his family - for Christmas, he said.

There are several other friends from Hastings who follow Corrington's progress and support him along the way. For Nationals, his mother, Stacey Corrington, is having sweatshirts made for his fans, and 30 to 40 have already been ordered, he said.