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2011 NSCA Nationals, Report by Johnny Cantu

he all stars of sporting clays were hard at it this past October at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas, home of the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) and National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA). From October 25–30, anxious sporting clays competitors took to the fields in an effort to put up their best scores while vying for the title of National Champion.

The 2011 NSCA National Champion–ships were heavily attended by competitors from the U.S. and other countries. Here are just a few of the stats for this year’s record–breaking Nationals.

A total of 1,626 shooters attended, a 10% improvement over the 2010 Nationals. There were 1,437 shooters in the Main Event, a 9% increase over 2010. Targets shot totaled 1.1 million. Over 968,000 of those targets were registered.

Bill McGuire, 2011 Main Event HOA champ

2011 Main Event HOA champ Bill McGuire on the 5–Stand course.

The 2011 Nationals played host to competitors from 47 states and 6 foreign countries. Almost 10 miles of electrical cord was used to hook up 367 clay–target machines across the grounds. A total of 160 shooter cages were used. Over 1,000 “clays cars” were seen puttering around the grounds, and 175 RV spaces were taken up. The list of records goes on and on.

The events had fair weather until about mid–afternoon on Thursday when a cold front landed, accompanied by a blustery wind. Temperatures dropped quickly, and the target flight paths became… shall we say, “more intense.” I was watching some shooters take part in the Make–A–Break game when the weather started to become wicked. The edge–on Number 6 bird at the Master Class Make–A–Break layout was very sporty, to say the least, and the long Number 7 bird was no “gimme,” either. The wind and cold made each target that much more challenging.

I stopped at the practice 5–stand fields and spent some time with Rich Cole of Cole Gunsmithing. Rich and I have known each other since way back in my Beretta U.S.A. days. Rich does a lot with Zoli North America these days, and we looked over the company’s new Bilanx VCS Sporter over/under. I also met with Paolo Zoli, and we conversed about possible gun reviews on future models. Paolo awarded Brad Kidd and Ashleigh Hafley with special plaques for their achievements in the sport as Team Zoli shooters.

I spent some time taking photos of shooters on the different courses. When I walked over to the games area and 5–stand courses, I noticed some things that were different from Nationals of past years. I spoke with multi–time NSCA All–American and this year’s Chairman of the Competition Committee Scott Robertson (see “Look Who’s Talking,” September 2002), and he informed me many changes had been put into effect this year. One of the major changes was the construction of a new all–weather road through the property. Scott said, “This new road was needed to help mitigate the lighting and weather conditions as much as possible. The road running the length of the property also allowed all the Main Event courses — Red, Green, Yellow and Orange — to be laid out with five stations facing north and five stations facing south.”

Another noticeable change was the procedure for golf–cart rentals. Scott explained, “The former procedure of renting a cart for a single event and then having to return it has been abandoned. The new procedure allows shooters to rent for the entire day and at a lower rate.” This change proved to be much more popular and prosperous than the old system.

The splitting of the Small Gauge courses was also a welcome change. According to Scott, “The .410 and 28 Gauge Events are now on a separate course from the 20 Gauge, Side–by–Side and Pump Gun Events.” This split was made to reduce the total time it took a shooter to complete each of the small–gauge events. “The 5–stand events were moved to the upper fields in an effort to provide more visitation traffic along Vendor’s Row,” Scott added. From all the positive feedback I received from vendors, the move was a welcomed one.

John Herkowitz

John Herkowitz, proprietor of Pacific Sporting Arms (R), describes the finer points of a classic hammer gun to a prospective customer.

A new Super Sporting event was added to the mix. I watched the format of targets being taken by shooters at a few of the Super Sporting stations and liked the mix of targets being presented. It looked like a challenging and fun event. In the F.I.T.A.S.C. arena, “New Style F.I.T.A.S.C.” was the fare for 2011. Parcours 1 through 4 were laid out in one line beginning at the rifle and pistol ranges near Gass road at the west boundary of the property. The new style had shooters taking 7–8 targets then moving to the next peg. According to Scott, “This allows you to almost double the number of shooters, as well as providing a greater diversity of targets.”

When I asked Scott his opinion of the courses for the Main Event, he said, “If I had to rate them in order of difficulty, I’d say the Green was probably the hardest, then the Red, then Orange, then Yellow. The wind was a big factor. It really depended on when you shot what course, but that’s sporting clays. I’d say Bill’s (Bill McGuire) score of 287 was about right for the tournament. Those of us on the Competition Committee had a good dialogue with the coursesetters, and I believe the results were all good courses, a good mix and well thought–out targets.” He continued, “I have to say shooters are getting better every year. Providing Nationals–level presentations throughout, as well as fun targets that are not ‘over the top’ is hard to do. As a shooter, I can appreciate the necessary mix of targets needed. As a course–setter, I can also appreciate how difficult the coursesetter’s job is. They want to provide good, challenging target presentations and still make them hittable by the majority of shooters. It’s not easy.” Overall, Scott seemed pleased with the outcome. “If there was any comment about the courses or about the way they were set, it would be they were a bit more wind–affected than normal,” Scott shared. “But, hey, like I said, that’s sporting clays!” On a personal note, Scott shared that he thought he shot one of his best Main Events at the Nationals in a number of years.

Jared Greenwood

This tough little guy is 11–year–old Jared Greenwood, son of famous stockbuilder Jim Greenwood. Jared shot on his dad’s F.I.T.A.S.C. squad, and I watched him break targets the men were having a hard time on.

Not only were the 2011 Nationals very well–attended, the shooting was amazing. Tennessean and Team Blaser shooter Bill McGuire (see LWT April 2005) took the Main Event HOA crown at this year’s Nationals Main Event with a searing 287x300. Bill’s score was three targets ahead of HOA Runner–Up Zachary Kienbaum and five targets in front of HOA Third and 2008 National Champion Anthony Matarese, Jr. (see LWT September 2008). Another Team Blaser shooter, Mike Wilgus, chalked up the HOA title at the U.S. Open earlier in the year. Great shooting by these great competitors!

On the ladies’ side, Team Zoli competitor Ashleigh Hafley (LWT May 2008) of Indiana not only won the HOA title in the Main Event with a score of 261x300, it was her third Nationals HOA crown and the second time in her career she took the big wins at the NSCA Nationals, U.S. Open and World English Sporting in the same year! Ashleigh first garnered all three major wins in the same season in 2009. I believe she is the only person to have ever accomplished that trifecta twice.

I enjoyed a short phone interview with Ashleigh a week or so after her big win at the Nationals. She said about the HOA win, “It felt really good. The level of competition in ladies has increased so much with the younger shooters coming up and the established shooters getting better, it’s harder to get wins. So any win right now is a good one! To top it off, it was the second time I tripled, winning all three majors in one year. That was really cool!” I asked Ashleigh if she had any particular mindset she attempts to keep going into a major event like the Nationals. She responded, “Normally, when I go into the Nationals, the U.S. Open or a shoot like that, I am looking at just placing on podiums, not outright wins. Anything I can get on an upper level is a good thing for me, especially with the way the competition is increasing. I just take it step–by–step, target–by–target. I don’t worry about the scores, I just try to have a good time. If I can place on the podium at a shoot, it’s not a high–pressure situation for me.” Congratulations to Ashleigh on her incredible shooting at the Nationals!

Ashleigh ended up on the podium with HOA Runner–Up Katie Fox and HOA Third Diane Sorantino. Both Katie and Diane shot 258x300. More great shooting took place on the Krieghoff Kup course as Mark Hall posted a scorching 100x100 for the title. Mark stayed just ahead of a handful of 99s shot by David Radulovich (LWT May 2007), 2010 Nationals Champ, Brad Kidd (LWT September 2011), Wendell Cherry (LWT November 2003) and Christian Suter. After the shoot–off smoke cleared, Radulovich nabbed Runner–Up, Kidd finished Third, Cherry took Master Class 1st and Suter Master Class 2nd. That’s some absolutely incredible shooting!

More fantastic scores were posted in the Super Sporting as Matt Fisher chalked up a perfct 50x50. On the smallbore side, NSCA hall–of–famer Jon Kruger (see LWT May 2002) launched an assault upon the .410 course and performed the almost unthinkable in sporting clays — a perfect 100 in the baby bore! Incredible! But if anyone could do it, it would be Jon. Oh, by the way, Jon won the smallbore HOA with a searing 291x300.

F.I.T.A.S.C. Champion for 2011 was 2009 Nationals Champ Gebben Miles (LWT April 2009), with a great score of 97x100. All–American Cory Kruse’s 96 was good for the Runner–Up position on the podium. Michael Everson emerged as Third on the F.I.T.A.S.C. awards podium after the shoot off of 95s, which included Jon Kruger and Gary Phillips (LWT April 2003). Kruger and Phillips were Master Class 1st and 2nd, respectively. Congratulations to these shooters for an outstanding display of target breaking on a tough F.I.T.A.S.C. course!

All–Around HOA Champion was Gebben Miles with a combined total score of 569x600. Runner–Up was Brad Kidd, and Bill McGuire was Third. The All–Around Event comprised the total targets scored in the Main Event, F.I.T.A.S.C., K Kup and 5–Stand. Congratulations to Gebben, Brad and Bill on some fabulous shooting!

There is so much more that went on at the 2011 NSCA Nationals, but space does not allow listing it all. If you weren’t at the Nationals, you missed a great event! For a complete list of results, visit www.myNSCA.com. Be sure to make plans to be in attendance at the 2012 NSCA Nationals in colorful San Antonio, and I’ll see you there!

2011 Main Event HOA winners

2011 Main Event HOA winners: Left, Zachary Kienbaum, Runner-up with 284x300; center, Bill McGuire, Champion with 287x300; and right, Anthony Matarese, Jr., Third with 282x300. Photo by www.GreenGirlPhotos.com

MAIN EVENT

Red Course Orange Course Green Course Yellow Course Total
HOA Champ Bill McGuire 74 70 68 75 287
Runner–Up Zachary Kienbaum 71 72 67 74 284
Third Anthony Matarese, Jr. 73 71 66 72 282

MASTER CLASS

Red Course Orange Course Green Course Yellow Course Total
M1 Pat Lieske 67 67 72 75 281
M2 Gebben Miles 72 70 68 71 281
M3 Scott Robertson 71 70 69 71 281
M4 Kevin Demichiel 69 69 68 74 280
M5 Brandon Powell 71 72 66 71 280
AA Class Red Course Orange Course Green Course Yellow Course Total
AA1 Gary Hart 67 66 64 68 265
AA2 Quint Sudbury 63 61 62 67 253
AA3 Braden Candler 64 62 61 65 252
A Class Red Course Orange Course Green Course Yellow Course Total
A1 Kenneth Campbell 60 61 58 70 249
A2 Brian Thompson 61 62 59 63 245
A3 Randolph Freitas 59 63 58 63 243
2011 Lady Main Event HOA winners

Lady Main Event HOA winners: Left, Katie Fox, Runner-Up with 258x300; center, Ashleigh Hafley, Champion with 261x300; and right, Diane Sorantino, Third with 258x300. Ashleigh completed a run of all three majors this year with her win at the Nationals. She won the U.S. Open, World English Sporting and Nationals in the same year. It was also Ashleigh's third Nationals HOA title! Photo by www.GreenGirlPhotos.com

FITASC

Parcours 1 Parcours 2 Parcours 3 Parcours 4 Total
HOA Champ Gebben Miles 25 25 24 23 97
Runner–Up Cory Kruse 25 23 25 23 96
Third Michael Everson 25 22 25 23 95
Master Class Parcours 1 Parcours 2 Parcours 3 Parcours 4 Total
M1 Jon Kruger 25 24 22 24 95
M2 Gary Phillips 23 24 23 25 95
M3 Gregg Wolf 25 23 22 24 94
M4 Brandon Powell 23 25 23 23 94
M5 Tom John 23 24 24 23 94
AA Class Parcours 1 Parcours 2 Parcours 3 Parcours 4 Total
AA1 John Bowman 19 21 23 22 85
AA2 Terry Westemeier 22 22 22 18 84
AA3 Daniel Twitchell 19 21 24 20 84
Paolo Zoli and Brad Kidd

Paolo Zoli presents 2010 NSCA Nationals Champion Brad Kidd with a special award in appreciation of his successes as a Team Zoli shooter.

K–KUP

Total
HOA Champ Mark Hall 100
Runner–Up David Radulovich 99
Third Brad Kidd 99
Master Class Total
M1 Wendell Cherry 99
M2 Christian Suter 99
M3 Jason Burroughs 98
M4 Brian Hughes 98
M3 Diego Duarte 98

5 STAND

Stand 1 Stand 2 Stand 3 Stand 4 Total
HOA Champ R. Travis Mears 25 25 24 24 98
Runner–Up Derrick Mein 25 24 24 25 98
Third Anthony Matarese, Jr. 24 23 25 25 97
Master Class Stand 1 Stand 2 Stand 3 Stand 4 Total
M1 Cory Kruse 25 23 25 24 97
M2 Brad Kidd 25 24 24 23 96
M3 Dan Carlisle 24 25 25 22 96

20 GAUGE

Total
HOA Champ Jim Thomas 97
Runner–Up Mike Benton 96
Third Kirk Cleere 96
Master Class Total
M1 Michael Luongo 95
M2 Ole Vandborg 95
M3 Randy Brewer 94

28 GAUGE

Total
HOA Champ Gene Sherrod 99
Runner–Up Todd Pulis 98
Third Richard McCready 98
Master Class Total
M1 Mark Helmick 98
M2 Mike Rogers 98
M3 Kenneth Cole 97

.410 BORE

Total
HOA Champ Jon Kruger 100
Runner–Up Brian Hughes 99
Third Robin Irvine 97
Master Class Total
M1 Scott Robertson 97
M2 Dakin Zurfluh 96
M3 J. Keith Higgins 96

SMALL–GAUGE HOA

20 Gauge 28 Gauge .410 Bore Total
HOA Champ Jon Kruger 94 97 100 291
Runner–Up Todd Pulis 94 98 96 288
Third Wendell Cherry 93 96 96 285
Master Class 20 Gauge 28 Gauge .410 Bore Total
M1 Zachary Kienbaum 94 96 95 285
M2 Brian Hughes 89 97 99 285
M3 J. Keith Higgins 93 92 96 281

SUPER SPORTING

Total
HOA Champ Matt Fisher 50
Runner–Up Curtis Mauldin 49
Third Rick Mein 49
Master Class Total
M1 Brad Kidd 48
M2 Byron Justice 48
M3 Kevin DeMichiel 48

ALL–AROUND MAIN

Main FITASC K Kup 5–Stand Total
HOA Champ Gebben Miles 281 97 98 93 569
Runner–Up Brad Kidd 279 92 99 96 566
Third Bill McGuire 287 91 97 89 564
Main FITASC K Kup 5–Stand Total
M1 Cory Kruse 274 96 97 97 564
M2 Zachary Kienbaum 284 92 96 91 563
M3 Pat Lieske 281 92 96 93 562