This year marks the end of a long era at the College National Finals Rodeo for the Ellerman family. Jay competed in 1979, followed by […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Garrett Tonozzi won the George Strait with Dugan Kelly and now he’s “shooting to make the Finals, and the gold buckle for sure. I changed my style up last fall; I worked with my Uncle Bret (9x NRF team roping heeling qualifier; 2x NFR champion) last year; I’m trying to get better every day.” The 28-year-old from Fruita, Colo., has made two trips to the NFR (2006 and 2008) and finished 20th last year. “I didn’t have the right horse and everything didn’t click.” He ended up going home and going to work in the oil field. “Going home is a horrible feeling. You have to learn from it – I learned how to get better and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I fell back into some old habits in my roping style and riding.”
One of the ways Garrett has gotten better is by watching the best headers. “Their body posture was a lot different than mine. I was watching myself roping and I notice my body posture wasn’t like the other headers I was watching – like Trevor. I was leaning a little too much.” Another thing Garrett has changed is his commitment to practice. “I’m staying on my grind every day. It was below 0 a lot when I was out riding. When I couldn’t get anyone to rope with me, I roped by myself. In the practice pen you have to concentrate on something every day. When it’s that cold, the rope is horrible, but if you concentrate on how your horse is doing and how you’re riding, it will make a difference in the end.”
The horse he won the George Strait on is a gelding he bought from Nic Sarchae (spelling). “He was 6 when I bought him and the last three years I’ve been preparing him for rodeos and riding him a lot. I’ve been riding him all winter long and he’s done great for me.” The $25,000 investment has paid off. I was at Nic’s house hanging out – he’s one of my best friends. Jake cooper tried him and told me I should try him. I took him. $25,000.
Garrett has been roping since he was nine and rodeoing for the past eight years. He was the Colorado State High School team roping header champion for three years and he is also one of the youngest team roping directors the PRCA has ever had. “My Uncle Bret has been on the board for 15 years now and we talked about it for a long time before I decided to do it. With his help, it was an easy transition. You just have to roll with the punches and remember the positive things you’re doing and make sure you’re doing the best job you can. If you do that, then it’s easy to get along with the negative stuff.”
He has seen a lot of change in the team roping during his 20 years of competing. “I attribute that to the jackpots. You start growing up and roping at so much money that pressure is not an issue. The USTRC and World Series have so much money, the kids can be aggressive because there’s another one next weekend.” Garrett comes from a rodeo background. His granddad (Tony Tonozzi) was an Old Timers World Champ in the team roping, starting in his mid 30s after a career in the race horse industry. “My personal idol is my Uncle Bret. Growing up he was my uncle, my friend, my brother, my dad, but he was my major influence.” He was raised by a single mom, Michelle, who was a barrel racer and “the greatest in the world. It was easy.”
Michelle is a practice for a doctor’s office. “Garrett is a wonderful son. He’s my best friend. Bret was rodeoing when Garrett was little so my mom and dad hauled him a lot. It was a family affair – everybody helped us a lot. We’re a pretty tight family. Now he’s living his dream.”
He won $183,000 at the George Strait and a new rig. “Wen I heard the payoff, I was in awe. It’s amazing what George has done with that roping.” The George Strait started 31 years ago as a little roping and a concert. This year, there were 680 teams at $500 a man. Garrett and Duggan were second high call last year and Duggan roped a leg and Clay Tryan and Patrick Smtih won it. “We reversed it this year,” said Garrett, who will take his earnings and put a down payment on a place in Fruita. The win will also take some of the pressure off being on the road. “This one solidifies that I’m going to be out here all year and I can concentrate on my job a little more.”
Garrett spends the whole month of May at home in Fruita, hanging out with his granddad and family. He helps his Uncle Bret get steers ready for summer. “We have steers at three weekly rodeos so we get them ready and I prepare myself for the summer.” For Garrett, going down the road is a dream come true. “We all grow up wanting to be a pro rodeo cowboy. Everybody has those roots and now we are that.” His goal is to retire after he is done rodeoing.