The Mother Lode Gun Club Nuggets got their 2023 California Youth Shooting Sports Association (CYSSA) season started Saturday by competing in a tournament against area programs at the Angels Gun Club in Angels Camp.
The alarming weather conditions in the area — including a tornado touching down only 13 miles away, near the Nuggets home trap range in Jamestown — didn’t slow down the 125 shooters from five different teams, which included Sonora High, Summerville High, Lincoln High, Team Angels and the Nuggets.
The weather played a real factor in the competition, according to Nuggets’ head coach John Luckie, who said the tornado warning temporarily forced the teams off the range.
“We got into our first two squads (and) it started to sprinkle,” Luckie said. “By 10:30 a.m., it was coming down.”
Angels Gun Club has five different houses to shoot from, with the pair on the right side of the course being renowned for their difficulty, according to Luckie. The Nuggets were selected to shoot from those positions, which made accurate shooting very difficult in conjunction with the weather conditions on the day of the shoot, Luckie said.
“The wind blows down through there and knocks the targets down as they come out of the house, and then when they top the treeline with the clouds, they disappear,” Luckie said. “You can’t find them.”
The Nuggets nonetheless dominated the rookie division, which is made up of shooters fifth grade and under, sweeping the top nine places in the 14-person field. Weston Curci took first place, hitting 92 of 100 targets, while teammates Dylan Bledsoe and Everett Holtsman tied for second place with 72 targets apiece. Holtsman won the shoot-off 18-17 to finish second. Ryder Roses finished fourth, while Conrad Crane was fifth.
The weather conditions on Saturday mirrored the difficulties the team had faced in practice over the prior weeks, as Luckie was forced to cancel numerous training sessions due to the rain and snow.
Luckie said he was particularly impressed by the fact that his team, for the most part, didn’t seem rusty after some time away.
“We got rained out on a lot of practices, it was crazy, so for these kids to shoot like this … we took 18 out of 25 medals, total,” Luckie said. “I have just been blessed to have these kids.”
With the altered conditions, Luckie said he instructed his shooters to approach the competition with a slightly different strategy than they normally would.
“We approached the shoot with basically the same fundamentals,” Luckie said. “The only thing that we really have to focus on is (that), when the bird comes up into the horizon it sometimes gets lost in the clouds, so you catch it quicker out of the house. With the wind blowing, you will hold a lower gun — just above the trap house — because the wind was knocking them down.”
“We had them all hold a low gun and stay mentally aggressive, then relax between your shots,” he continued. “When you call, then you get that aggressive move (both) mentally and physically. You stay smooth, shoot the bird then come back and relax.”
Nuggets star Lucas Berger — fresh off winning the rookie championship and national championship over the last two years — started off the season strong with an authoritative win in the intermediate entry level division (IE). Berger hit 96 of 100 targets, including 25 straight in his final round.
His score was good enough to tie Lincoln High School senior Alex Wisdom for the title of top gun at the competition. Wisdom won the varsity division competition, also finishing with a score of 96 of 100.
Oren Koepele took second with 78 of 100, Tristan Casey finished fourth with a 68 of 100 and Johnny Ware rounded out the top five with a 65 of 100.
The intermediate advanced (IA) division went to Timothy Grider shooting 92 of 100 followed by Rossilyn Hoversten’s 83 of 100 for second and Adelle’s 75 of 100 for fifth place.
In the junior varsity high school division, Summerville’s Waylon Marquardt took the top honors with a 92 of 100, finishing just ahead of second-place teammate Tommy Fraser who shot an 89 of 100.
Wyatt Berger, Sonora High’s Dylan Dryer and Team Angels Jackson Fischer tied for third, each finishing with an 88 of 100. Dryer would go on to win a shoot-off against Fischer 46 to 42. Wyatt Berger had to leave so settled for fifth.
The Varsity Division had two Summerville shooters in the top five. Josh Reese shot a 94 of 100, finishing third — only two shots out of first place. Riley Neves shot 93 to place fifth.
The Nuggets will be in action again in two weeks for another CYSSA shoot in Stockton.
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