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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 2-ranked West Virginia University rifle team travels to Columbus, Ohio, for the 2012 NCAA Championships on March 9-10, at Ohio State University’s Converse Hall and French Field House.
The Mountaineers last earned the national title in 2009, their nation-best 14th.
"We have done the hard work, and they're all shooting well, so it's just a matter of going in there and being really focused," explains coach Jon Hammond. "It's all about trying not to take too many risks while they shoot, doing their best and enjoying the weekend."
Contributing their talents to this year’s NCAA Championships are seniors Michael Kulbacki and Justin Pentz, junior Petra Zublasing and freshmen Taylor Ciotola and Thomas Kyanko.
The young team is coming off a two-week break since winning the 2012 Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) championships at the Patricia C. Lamar National Readiness Center in Oxford, Miss., on Feb. 26.
"The GARC title gives us momentum; we're able to go into the tournament atmosphere of the NCAA Championships as a young team with experience," says Hammond. "It definitely gives us a confidence boost."
WVU is the only rifle team to win three straight GARC conference titles.
The Mountaineers will come face-to-face with many familiar teams while in Ohio; two of them, No. 3 Kentucky, the defending NCAA champions, and No.1 TCU, the 2010 National Champions, handed Hammond's squad its only two losses of the regular season. WVU traveled to TCU on Jan. 28 and saw the Horned Frogs claim a 4701-4669 victory. The Mountaineers lost to Kentucky at home on Feb. 3, 4680-4650.
Despite the losses, WVU still has a winning record against the Horned Frogs of 3-2, and the Mountaineers lead the series against the Wildcats, 14-8.
OSU also will welcome Jacksonville State, Nevada, UTEP, Alaska-Fairbanks and Army to the NCAA Championships.
WVU dominated the Nanooks in a home match on Jan. 20, 4676-4626. Hammond's squad also claimed a victory against Army at the WVU Rifle Range on Oct. 22, 4693-4637.
The Mountaineers finished the regular season with a record of 12-2, 5-1 (GARC).
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