Army's rifle program has prospered under the leadership of U.S. Army Reitired Maj. Ron Wigger, a two-time National Coach of the Year selection, since he took over the reins 14 years ago.
Ranked among the winningest coaches in school history, he became just the third to record 100 wins in school history in a road win at Nebraska on Feb. 2, 2013.
Wigger has led Army to four top-three finishes at the NCAA Championships. That run included the national title (2005), back-to-back runner-up finishes (2007 & 2008) along with a bronze (2006).
Earning its 11th consecutive bid to the NCAAs in 2014, Army has been among the top eight qualifiers since 2004.
The Black Knights captured the NCAA smallbore title in 2008, along with crowning an individual champion for the first time in school history. Army finished second in smallbore, both team and individual at the 2012 championships.
Wigger started rewriting Army's record book soon after taking over the program. The Black Knights earned a team berth to the NCAA Championships in air rifle by his second year (2001-02). Army qualified in both disciplines in 2004, then put West Point on the map the following year winning its first-ever NCAA title.
The Black Knights won by the closest margin in NCAA history, edging Jacksonville State by a single point for the crown, along with dethroning perennial powerhouse and six-time defending champion Alaska Fairbanks.
Not only was it Army's first national title in rifle history, but the first since pistol captured the NRA crown in 1991. It was also the first NCAA title by any Army varsity program since 1949 (fencing).
The Black Knights started their 2004-05 "Cinderella" season winning eight straight matches that included a perfect 6-0 Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) mark en route to capturing their first regular-season title. Army placed runner-up at the conference championships for the second straight year.
Honors continued to roll in for the team that etched its name into the history annals as a school-record five riflemen earned All-America accolades by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and Wigger repeated as the national and GARC Coach of the Year. It was Wigger's third GARC coaching honor over a four-year span.
The 2005-06 campaign was capped with Army finishing among the top four at the NCAAs for the third straight year after capturing the bronze trophy. Army's 9-2 season mark was its highest win total (broken the following year) since a 13-3 showing in 1998-99. Included in its season highlights was snapping Navy's 12-match series win streak, a second-place finish at the GARC Championships followed by the Black Knights' third straight trip to the NCAA Championships.
The team concluded the season with a visit to the White House in April 2006 where Army (based on its 2005 title) was among a dozen NCAA championship teams that met with the President during a special ceremony in the Rose Garden. Five Black Knights were selected by the NRA for All-America honors, equaling the school mark set the previous year, en route to earning seven certificates.
Army finished runner-up at the NCAAs in 2007 and 2008 with five and four Black Knights receiving All-America certificates, respectively. In 2008, Wigger's sharpshooters won the team's first GARC Championship. Army posted a 10-2 dual mark in 2007 and bettered that in 2008 in a 10-1 showing.
Prior to winning its first NCAA title in 2005, Wigger guided the Black Knights to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 championships after meeting the qualifying standards in both disciplines for the first time since 1987.
Wigger concluded his second year at the helm by leading Army's air rifle team to a berth at the 2002 NCAA Tournament and a fifth-place finish in that discipline after edging Navy by a point. It was the first time that the Black Knights, who were reinstated to the varsity ranks in 1997-98 following a three-year hiatus, qualified since 1992.
Since taking over the program in the fall of 2000, Wigger had a school record five earn All-America certificates in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Michael Matthews, Richard Calvin and Joseph Todarao are the latest shooters to earn All-America honors. Calvin and Matthews earned first-team accolades in air rifle and smallbore, respectively, with Todardo selected for second-team honors in smallbore.
One of the finest coaches in the history of the program, Wigger has developed 20 first-team, 21 second-team and six honorable mention All-Americans, who have combined for 47 certificates. Kim Pienkowski was a first-team All-America selection in air rifle Wigger's inaugural year, becoming the first Black Knight named to that unit since 1991. A three-time honoree under Wigger, she was an honorable mention selection in both disciplines her senior year.
Chris Abalo made history in 2005 as the first Army plebe selected an All-American in both guns and just the second Black Knight to accomplish that feat. He repeated the next three years, setting a school record with eight first team All-America certificates.
The most decorated shooter in school history, Abalo excelled both nationally and internationally. In 2008 he captured Army's first NCAA individual title (smallbore), set a national smallbore prone record and NCAA smallbore mark, and competed with the USA Team at the World Cup. He is also the first rifleman to earn the Army Athletic Association award. Twice he was voted the NCAA Shooter of the Match and was a three-time GARC Shooter of the Year.
Wigger also coached an Olympian in Stephen Scherer, who competed at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
At the 2012 NCAA Championships, Matthews finished second in smallbore in leading the Black Knights to runner-up honors in that discipline and second highest finish at the national meet. Three Black Knights earned All-America honors and Wigger was among four CRCA nominees for Coach of the Year.
Two-time team captain Paul Charbonneau, a four-year member of Wigger's first class, was a four-time All-American. David Amiot and Brian Kern joined Abalo and Scherer in garnering All-America certificates in 2008.
In another Army first, Abalo and Wesley Hess competed at the World Junior Shooting Championships in the spring of 2006, with Abalo setting the pace for Team USA in two of the three events in which he qualified. Wigger has enjoyed an equally prosperous showing in the GARC where Army crowned eight individual champions, three shooter of the year certificates (Abalo) and a pair of rookie citations (Abalo and Scherer).
Army captured the GARC smallbore title in 2012 along with crowning an individual champion in All-American Kelly Buck.
The Black Knights took third at the 2011 GARC Championship with a young team following back-to-back fifth-place finishes in 2009 and 2010. Army put the finishing touches on its 2012-13 season beating Navy for the fourth straight year en route to posting a 10-3 mark for its most wins since 2007-08.
The Black Knights finished third during the GARC's regular-season, placed fourth at the championships, and was sixth at the NCAAs. en route to posting a 10-3 mark for its most wins since 2008. Army recaptured the President's Trophy Match in 2014 along with beating Navy.
Over the past 14 years, Wigger's teams have established school marks, shattering team and individual records that were on the books when he took over the program. All three team scores (air rifle, smallbore and aggregate), along with seven individual marks, were broken and reset his first three years.
Abalo holds three of the six individual school marks and shares another. Buck is Army's record-holder in smallbore and John Fiddes owns the smallbore standing mark.
Competing against the top rifle programs in the nation, Wigger ranks second all-time on the school's coaching list. Wigger was instrumental in Army joining the Great America Rifle Conference in 2001-02. He guided Army to a fourth-place finish its inaugural year in the GARC, one of the top conferences in the country, and his efforts earned him Coach of the Year plaudits. His peers bestowed that honor upon him in 2004 and 2005 after Wigger guided Army to second place during the 2004 regular season, while going undefeated in 2005.
Army has collected its share of GARC honors (86) during the 13 years it has been a member. After collecting seven certificates the first two years, the Black Knights were awarded eight in 2004, 15 in 2005, 10 in 2006, nine in 2007, 11 in 2008, eight between 2009-11, eight in 2012 and five in 2013 and 2014. Overall, Army has 30 first-team certificates, 35 second team and 21 honorable mentions.
Charbonneau became the first Black Knight crowned a GARC champion in 2003. Abalo, a five-time GARC champion, won a pair of titles in smallbore and aggregate, while Scherer captured the air rifle title in 2008 and was runner-up to Abalo in the aggregate.
Wigger has carved out an impressive slate both as a coach and competitor at the national and international levels. Ranked among the nation's top shooters in smallbore prone, Wigger competed for one of two berths in that event at the 2004 Olympic Trials.
The Army mentor was awarded the International Distinguished Shooter Badge by USA Shooting in the summer of 2002 based on his gold medal performance in smallbore prone at the 1988 World Cup in Mexico City.
Runner-up at the USA Shooting National Championships in 1987 and 1991, Wigger was a member of the All-Guard smallbore rifle team that captured the 1993 national team championship at Camp Perry, Ohio. He was also among the final six shooters competing for a spot on the 1992 Olympic Team.
Wigger placed first in his signature event in the Master Service (Military) category at the 2006 National Championships, and seventh among 256 shooters in the Open Division. At the 2008 USA Shooting National Championships, he was runner-up in the Senior Men's Prone Rifle event and 37th overall. He also holds the Distinguished Rifleman Marksmanship Badge.
As a collegian, Wigger was a member of Eastern Kentucky's nationally ranked rifle team that finished third at the 1983 NCAA Championships. Commissioned in the Infantry Branch following graduation (1983), Wigger earned his master's degree in sport management at the U.S. Sports Academy in Daphne, Ala.
Wigger's sister, Deena, competed at the 1988 Olympic Games, finishing 10th in smallbore, while his father, Lones, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time qualifier. Lones, one of the inaugural members of the USA Shooting Hall of Fame, was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Wigger's family - father, sister, brother Danny, along with matriach and coach (mother Mary Kay) - combined their talents to finish runner-up in the National Smallbore Prone Any Sight Team Championship the summer of 2013.
Wigger and his wife, the former Lorraine Bravo, reside at West Point with their daughters: Alicia, 22; Karina, 20; and Michelle, 15.