In an unbelievable individual performance, SGT Antonio DiConza, 25, of the U.S. Marine Corps shooting team cleaned the entire course during the National Trophy Rifle Team Match with an astonishing score of 500-15X. The previous record of 499-28X had been fired by SSG Donald Manning in 1985—leaving just one point DiConza needed in order to surpass the 31-year-old record.
“It’s like winning the lotto, even though the lotto is luck and this takes a bit of skill,” he joked. “But it’s the same feeling. I can’t believe it.”
The score was a personal best for DiConza and the high individual score of the match—remarkable considering he had arrived at the National Matches only two days before the event because of the approaching arrival of a baby girl. As he got closer and closer to achieving a 500 score, DiConza began to feel the pressure of reaching perfection.
“My nerves started getting to me. But I just stayed calm—and in those last two shots, I was like, ‘Is this going to make me or break me?’ So I shot one more shot, and the last shot, I was shaking,” he explained. “I told myself, ‘You know, I just shot 19 10’s and a few X’s—just shoot another 10. It’s not that hard. Relax.’”
After his final 10 pierced the target, he smiled and shed a few tears—overwhelmed by the moment.
“I was really ecstatic. It was the proudest moment of my life,” he said. “Well, other than my little girl.”
Winning the overall match and firing only one point under the decade-old standing Overall National Record was Army Reserve Anderson, with a score of 2957-111X. Though the Reserve team failed to set the Overall National Record, they did manage to set a new Reserve record—beating the previous one that had been set over 25 years ago by nearly 10 points.
Members of the Reserve team were NTI winner MSG Robert Mango and his winning Hearst Doubles teammate SFC Joel Micholick, Overall Service Rifle competitor SGT Joseph Hall, CPT Samuel Freeman, SGT Nick Mowrer and SPC Trent Thomas. SGM James Mauer serves as captain, and the team is coached by MSG Norman Anderson.
“We’ve compiled a group of professionals that are well trained and organized and capable of performing at a high level, basically on demand. That professionalism showed up on team day,” said MSG Anderson. “We had favorable conditions and excellent performances, both mentally and physically. That’s what allowed us to be victorious.”
“I’ve known a lot of these guys for a long time, and they never disappoint. They always continue to impress me,” he went on to say. “That working relationship we have together, the trust and confidence we have in everyone’s capabilities—the program is amazing. It’s definitely on its way up.”
Texas Gold also made history by firing a new Civilian National Record of 2947-121X. Stacked with the 2016 President’s Match winner, Keith Stephens, and the President’s third place finisher, Hugh Reich, the team crushed the previous record of 2915-93X, which had stood since 1990.
The talented team also had three of its members, Stephens, Reich and Lee Eldridge, selected as members of the National Civilian Rifle Team. The six highest civilian competitors in the NTT are chosen for the honorary team.
Even the juniors got in on the National Record action as the California Grizzlies Momma Bear fired a score of 2889-80X to break the Junior National Record that had been set by the Grizzlies program back in 2012.
In the National Trophy Junior Team Match, California Grizzlies Team Shilen earned the Freedom’s Fire Trophy as the overall winner in the National Trophy Junior Team Match by firing an aggregate score of 979-39X—a new National Record previously set by California Grizzly Team Heidi’s Dream in 2013. Team members were Morgan Owen, 20, of Sonora, CA, and Forrest Greenwood, 20, of Ceres, CA.
The 2016 National Matches have been host to a number of outstanding performances by Greenwood, who was also the High Junior of the President’s Rifle Match and the top Overall Junior of the matches. He also earned a spot on the National Trophy Junior Team as one of the top eight highest scoring junior individuals in the NTT. In 2014 and 2015, he was High Junior of the National Trophy Individual Match. Aging out of the junior category, Greenwood is set to join the Army Marksmanship Unit this year—the third Grizzly to do so.
Again displaying its skillful young marksmen, the Grizzlies were also the High Juniors of the National Trophy Infantry Team Match (NTIT) and were ranked second in the civilian category with a score of 1246.
USMC Altendorf overtook the NTIT by a commanding lead of 1427—more than 60 points over second place team Army Reserve Anderson. Team members were SSGT Steven Beall, CPL Fredie Church, CPL Justin Crago, SGT Antonio DiConza, SSGT Timothy Snyder and CPL Isaah Vue. Team captain is John Sheehan, and the team is coached by SSGT Mark Altendorf.