Rifle Team Ready For NCAA Championships

Zachary Wells qualified for the NCAAs individually in air rifle

Zachary Wells qualified for the NCAAs individually in air rifle

March 6, 2012

WEST POINT, N.Y. -

Army's rifle team will put the finishing touches on its 2011-12 campaign this weekend at the NCAA Championships being hosted by Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. It is the ninth straight year that the Black Knights have earned a berth to this prestigious event. Army won the national title in 2005, along with second-place finishes in 2007 and 2008, and a third in 2006.

Army will be looking to improve upon last year's eighth-place finish as it heads to the NCAAs with its most seasoned squad since 2008. Four of Army's six-member firing unit competed at last year's tournament with senior Kelly Buck, a 2011 NRA first-team All-American in smallbore, competing for the fourth straight year.

Junior William Mengon, along with sophomores Michael Matthews and Richard Calvin, were part of Army's unit last year, while it is the first time for Joseph Todaro and Zachary Wells, the latter competing individually in air rifle as one of four qualifiers in that discipline.

The meet at Ohio State's Converse Hall and French Field House starts Friday, March 9, at 8 a.m. with the relay scoring finishing at 3 p.m., followed by the individual finals at 4 p.m. The schedule is the same the next day, March 10, for air rifle with the winner of the combined disciplines crowned the 2012 champion.

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.

"I am looking forward to this year's meet," said Army head coach Ron Wigger. "I am proud of what the team has accomplished, and I never had a team make this much progress in a year. Army is one of the top contenders in smallbore heading into the NCAAs.

"If we can shoot one of our higher scores in smallbore this weekend, it gives us a shot at finishing in the top 3. If we have our best day in air rifle, we could contend for one of the top three places in the combined scoring."

Kentucky captured the title in 2012 with West Virginia second, and the two teams list No.3 and 2, respectively, in the country behind No. 1 TCU. The Wildcats and Mountaineers are members of the GARC (Great America Rifle Conference), along with Army, and it should be an exciting meet as West Virginia captured the conference championship title two weeks ago in defending its title for the third straight year after falling to Kentucky during the regular season.

Army threw at scare at the GARC Championship by capturing the smallbore title, its third, along with crowning the individual champion in Buck the opening day. She is just the third Black Knight to capture the title in that event and first since 2008.

The Black Knights held a slim three-point lead over West Virginia, 2318-2315, the first day with Kentucky and Nebraska tied for third place after posting identical 2313 scores. Buck recorded a 585 to finish runner-up in the relay scoring, then followed with a 98.4 in the shoot-off to edge Kentucky's Henri Junghanel for the title with her 683.4 composite.

Buck will be a contender for the title at the NCAAs where she will be challenged by two members of Kentucky's team in defending champion Ethan Settlemires and Junghanel. Settlemires failed to make the GARC finals in smallbore after finishing 13th in the relay scoring, while Junghanel and Buck recorded identical 585s in the relay scoring.

"The meet is Kelly's (Buck) last shot at the NCAAs," noted Wigger, "and I would like to see her complete her Army career as a first-team All-American again and win an NCAA championship."

Matthews also placed among the top eight smallbore qualifiers for the individual finals, outpointing three others, including Todaro, in the shoot-off for the final spot after firing 579s. Matthews fired the second highest mark of 101.6 in the finals to finish fifth with a 680.6 score. The Black Knights did not fare as well the final day in air rifle which saw them drop out of contender status for the title. Army's season-high 2352 in this event is just five points off the school record. The Black Knights, who have one of the top smallbore units in the country, are capable of pulling off an upset at the NCAAs if they post strong scores in both disciplines.

West Virginia will be looking to capture its 15th NCAA title and first since 2009, and Kentucky will be looking to defend its title. No. 1 TCU, which won the title in 2010, closed out the season 12-0. Rounding out the rest of the field are Alaska Fairbanks, UTEP, Nevada and Jacksonville State.

Team Accomplishments

* Captured President's Trophy for third straight year

* Defeated Navy for third straight year

* Heads into the NCAAs ranked No. 4

* Qualified ninth straight year for the NCAAs

* 9-3 dual meet record is most wins since 2007-08

* Three losses were to No. 1 TCU, No. 2 West Virginia, No. 3 Kentucky

LINK FOR LIVE STATS: http://www.thecmp.org/3p/NCAA/2012Championships.htm

INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Kelly Buck

First team All-GARC honors in smallbore and aggregate scoring

Captured GARC smallbore title - just the third Black Knight and first since 2008

Placed fifth at GARC in the combined scoring

Twice named Army Athletic Association Athlete of the Week

Fired Army's top score in smallbore (589)

Competed at the Olympic Trials

Richard Calvin

Second team All-GARC in air rifle

GARC honorable mention in the combined scoring

Finished ninth at GARC Championships in air rifle

Fired Army's top score in air rifle (595)

Competed at the Olympic Trials

Michael Matthews

Second team All-GARC in smallbore

GARC honorable mention in the combined scoring

Placed fifth at the GARC Championships in smallbore

Competed at the Olympic Trials

Joseph Todaro

Second team All-GARC in smallbore

William Mengon

GARC honorable mention in smallbore

Zachary Wells

Qualified for the NCAAs in air rifle

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