March 10, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -
All season long Army head rifle coach Ron Wigger has said that his smallbore team ranks among the best in the nation, and Friday evening the No. 4 Black Knights proved it by taking runner-up honors in that discipline following the opening day of the 2012 NCAA Championships hosted by Ohio State at Converse Hall.
Sophomore Michael Matthews and senior Kelly Buck wrote the headlines, finishing runner-up and fifth, respectively, in the individual shoot-off (top eight). Army scored a 2325 in the team scoring, just three points off the winning mark of 2328 posted by No. 3 Kentucky, the 2011 champions, as the Wildcats defended their NCAA smallbore title.
Matthews was second in the relay scoring after firing a career-high 589, but losing out on center shots to TCU's Sarah Scherer, who recorded the same score. Scherer fired a 99.6 in the finals to defeat Matthews, 688.6-687.6, for her second NCAA title in three years. It is Army's highest individual finish since Chris Abalo won the NCAA smallbore title in 2008.
Buck, a 2011 NRA first-team All-American in smallbore, headed into the finals in sixth place with a 586, but moved up a spot after nipping West Virginia's Petra Zublasing in sudden death with a 10.9 to claim fifth place with a 686.7. Buck, competing in her fourth straight NCAA meet, finished seventh in smallbore last year and fourth as a freshman in 2009.
Joseph Todaro and Richard Calvin recorded identical 575 scores in rounding out Army's four-man unit as the Black Knights concluded the first day of the NCAAs in second place behind Kentucky and two ahead of No. 1 ranked Texas Christian University (2323). Alaska Fairbanks placed fourth (2312) followed by Nevada Reno (2306), Jacksonville State (2304), UTEP (2303) and West Virginia (2297).
It is the second straight postseason meet that Army finished among the team leaders in smallbore, having captured the event title at the GARC (Great America Rifle Conference) Championships two weeks ago.
"It was an outstanding day in the history of Army's rifle program," stated Wigger, who guided the Black Knights to nine straight NCAA berths. "What makes it even more exciting is that the team hung tough as we had a little bit of adversity, but dealt with it well and recovered with a tremendous performance. Four of our six shooters are sophomores, which bodes well for the future."
The Black Knights will conclude the NCAA Tournament with air rifle on Saturday. Fans can follow the meet as the two-day competition will be video streamed and can be accessed by clicking onto the NCAA website at www.ncaa.com/sports/rifle/dl.