The 59th Western Wildcats Championship, Day One

The 59th Western Wildcats Championship

Day One

The 59th Western Wildcats Championship, the longest continuously running 6400 prone tournament, got underway at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, Arizona in March 16th.

Hard on the heels of the NRA Metric prone championship 40 shooters contested in the metallic and any sight aggregate, an even dozen in the optics only 6400, and more than a dozen F-Class shooters set up gear.

The match name may have changed but many of the faces from the Metric Championship were seen under cap bills and behind shooting glass frames as targets were hung for the first match of the day, the Dewar and High Master dominated, Eric Uptagrafft, fresh from his Metric win, continued his winning ways opening the day with a 400-36X, one of eight 400s posted. Kerry Spurgin shot a clean with 33Xs for second while Kevin Nevius and Nick Mower fought it out for third with 400-32X.

The Wild Cats require all competitors who are supported, hold the NRA Distinguished Smallbore Rifle Prone Award, or have shot five, or more, 1600s top shoot in a special High Master Class for open awards only. While all sling shooters fire on conventional targets the F-Class competitors will use the metric targets.

Adrian Harris’ 400-33Xs earned him Master Class honors while Norman Lilyerd’s 400-27 placed him second. Expert class winner Mike Kelly shot a 399-28 while Mike Arnstein grabbed second with a 398-23X. The combined Sharpshooter/Marksman class was won by Chuck Eyeberg’s 398-25X Ed Foley put up a 400-35 for an Optic class win while Jim Murphy, 399-31X led F-Class.

Conditions at 100 yards became tougher as the day wore on but Uptagrafft was up to the task and notched up another win shooting one of only two cleans, his with 32Xs.Pete Church as read the wind well as evidenced by his second place 400-27X. Marc Del Cotto let one slip, 399-30X, and found himself in third place.

Masters Harris, 399-31X, and Lilyerd, 399-31X, swapped places while Arnstein, 399-20X, moved to the top of the Expert class slipping ahead of Kelly, 397-25X. Eyeberg picked up his second combined class victory with a 396-21X. Frank Lucero posted a winning 399-22X in optics while Bill Treder challenged Murphy in F-Class.

The psychologically challenging Meter Match saw Del Cotto, 440-31X, break Uptagrafft, 400-30X, string of wins as Peter Church, 399-28X grabbed third.

Lilyerd, 399-29X, returned to the top of the Master list with Harris, 397-28X on his heels. Kelley carded a 398-31X and Arnstein a 396-22X for first and second Expert. Eyeberg would not let go of his lead in the combined class winning his third match with a 396-22X. Optic rifleman Stuart Lind cleaned the match with 30Xs as F-Class’ Murphy topped his competition shooting a 397-33X.

Perfect scores were required for almost all victories at 50 yards. Mower and Ginger Mclemore both came clean with 38X to top the High Master with Del Cotto, 400-36X, in third. Masters Lilyerd and Harris cleaned it with 33 and 32Xs respectively while Experts Kelly and Arnstein finished one and two with X counts of 33 and 29. Eyberg was the only perfect combined class score. Ed Foley returned to the top of the Optic class out Xing Lind by one, 40031X. Dan Pagliari posted the only 400 among the F-Class shooters.

At the end of the day Uptagrafft prevailed against the best efforts of Del Cotto and Nevius. When three National Champions do battle it will be a hard fought and close contest. Uptagrafft won with a 1600-131X, Del Cotto was just short of perfection shooting a 1599-128X. Nevius was not giving and one ahead of him any slack with his 1598-119X. Just to keep everyone honest Church was just ten Xs behind Nevius.

Lilyerd nudged our Harris on the first day by two points, 1598-116X and 1596-123X. Kelley and Arnstein were atop the Expert class in a tight race, 1594-117X and 1593-94X. Eyeberg, 1590-92X, was king of the combined class with a ten point edge on his nearest competitor. Lind, 1596-122X, and Gaines, 1594-117X led the optics shooters. Murphy, Treder, and Huehn shot 1586-121, 1586-108X, and 1581-112 respectively to top the F-Class.

Day two will see any sight replace irons for the bulk of the sling shooters while the optic and F-Class crowd with use scopes.

With three more days of shooting nothing is vouched safe for those in the lead.

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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