West Virginia Rifle Ranked No. 1 Following Record-Breaking Win Over Army

It is often said that powerhouse programs in collegiate athletics "reload" from year to year, rather than rebuilding. Alabama football and Kentucky basketball are among the current programs notorious for being strong year in and year out, no matter the losses they sustain each season.

Well, saying that the West Virginia rifle team "reloads" is more appropriate than any basketball or football program.

Two years ago, WVU lost Nicco Campriani, a shooter who won an Olympic gold medal in London this summer. The following season, the Mountaineers finished the season at 12-2 with yet another NCAA championship berth, where another WVU shooter earned an individual national title.

[caption id="attachment_999" align="alignright" width="196" caption="West Virginia's gold medalist: Italian shooter Nicco Campriani"][/caption]

From that team, a four-time all-American, a six-time all-American (it is possible to be named all-American in multiple disciplines in one year) and one of the program's top freshmen have all moved on.

Ouch, right? Well, apparently not.

In its 2012-13 season opener, No. 3 WVU crushed No. 5 Army, netting a school record along the way. The Mountaineers amassed a team total of 4,709—breaking the record set by Campriani's 2010-11 team.

One of Campriani's Italian Olympic teammates and last year's NCAA air rifle champion, Petra Zublasing led the way. In the first match of her senior campaign, Zublasing shot a match-high 591 in smallbore and 592 in air rifle.

Those scores are excellent by everyone else's standards, but just average by her standards.

Behind her were two fantastic performances by a pair of youngsters.

Sophomore Thomas Kyanko registered a 591 in both disciplines for a cumulative score of 1182—well above his 2011 average of 1160.7.

[caption id="attachment_1000" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Did WVU win its 15th national title with the signing of Spurgeon?"][/caption]

Just behind him was a true freshman Garrett Spurgeon. In his first-ever collegiate match, the Canton, Mo. native fired a 589 in smallbore and 590 in air rifle, giving WVU the top three scores in both disciplines.

The team score of 4,709 these shooters combined for is the highest shot by any team so far this season—garnering the No. 1 ranking for West Virginia.

Last season, WVU finished just sixth at the NCAA championships—an outcome head coach Jon Hammond and his team are determined to improve upon this season.

“We hope this score is what we can shoot consistently this season," Hammond said (via WVUSports.com). "We have a stronger team this year; everyone is a year older and has improved since the beginning of last year. We’ve also added some talented shooters, too.”

West Virginia—a program that has won an NCAA-record 14 national titles—is on a three-year drought since last taking the big price at NCAAs. However, if the Mountaineers can keep up this torrid pace, that drought will almost certainly end.

The highest score ever shot at NCAAs was 4,700, by Kentucky to upset WVU in 2010.

After seeing what the Mountaineers did in their first week out, coaches at UK and defending national champion TCU have to be taken by the potential of the kids in Morgantown.

To think that West Virginia could potentially shoot higher than that given a stronger performance from Zublasing and sophomore standout Taylor Ciotola is just downright frightening.

Watch out, NCAA. The 2012-13 Mountaineers are the real deal.

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