Buckeyes get first win in 13 years; team member Joe Totts takes Individual title
Columbus, Georgia - After 13 years of almost-there seasons, The Ohio State University has won their first NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships since 2000.
Comprised of scores from the Free Pistol, Standard Pistol and Open Air Pistol championships, the Buckeyes scored 1997, 2118, 2195 respectively for a total aggregate of 6310 out of a possible 7200. Ohio State's win towered over second place U.S. Naval Academy by 51 points and third place, and defending champions, West Point by 53 points. How were the Buckeyes able to pull it all together this year?
"This year we had a number of incoming freshmen who were very enthusiastic and had a good mental set," said Head Coach John Sweeney. "Combined with our skilled senior shooters, the mix of experience and youth gave us the perfect recipe for success."
Ohio State's last National Championship came in Sweeney's first year at the helm, and yesterday's success was the culmination of the coaching philosophy established during his tenure. "We've tried to earn a reputation that would attract young shooters wanting to reach their fullest potential and create an atmosphere that's conducive to good shooting, good citizenship, and graduation," he explained.
In addition to reigning supreme, no further proof is required that the Ohio State Pistol Team exudes a positive culture than Coach Sweeney receiving the 2014 NRA Distinguished Coach of the Year award.
As we spoke about the win, the coach added another thought on his team's motivation this year. "They did it for the coaches, Donna Knisley and me, more than for themselves," he said. "Throughout the season I'd hear the team say 'let's do it for the coaches' before a match. They wanted to win for us because they knew how much confidence we had in them. It was very flattering."
One of Sweeney's top shooters was graduating senior Joe Totts, whose outstanding performance earned him the Individual National Championship with a score of 1613 out of 1800.
"It feels great," Totts said. "Besides more practice and dedication this year, something just clicked. I've shot for a while now and the light just came on this time."
The win was a little bittersweet, as the senior won't be joining the team next year when they return to defend their title. But Totts is determined to find other ways to help. "I'd like to come back next year and volunteer to coach," he said. "I think that'd be a lot of fun." This move would come as no surprise to people who know Joe, as his father is the coach of the University of Akron's Pistol Club.
So what's next for the 2014 champions? How will they repeat this year's performance as the defending champs?
"This win shouldn't hurt us in attracting talent," Sweeney said. "Losing our veterans isn't going to help, but half of our team is freshmen so a lot of our talent will return. Importantly we will still have depth, and you win matches with the strength of your third and fourth shooter."
It sounds like Ohio State is in a good position, and great hands, to be back at the top sooner than in another 13 years. Congratulations Buckeyes, and good luck.