Mountaineer Round-up: No. 1 rifle embarks on season, S&D falls in Backyard Brawl

Gold and Blue Nation

Top-ranked squads and rivalry meets — the winter season is just about in full swing at West Virginia University. Here’s what you missed around campus and what to keep an eye out for in the coming days.

Rifle

2019-20 record: 9-1 (7-1 GARC)

The offseason: West Virginia rifle had another strong season under Jon Hammond, but it was cut short before they were able to take their competition to the national stage.

The Mountaineers lost two rifle shooters after last season, Milica Babic and Morgan Phillips, upon their graduation. Babic’s departure was a big loss for the team as she led the team with an average score of 1179.

On the flip side, Hammond has six returners and an “exciting” freshman class, which he said gives them significant depth this season.

That excitement seems to have been shared by the College Rifle Coaches Association, who put West Virginia at the top of its rankings.

This week: The rifle team is headed to Akron to face the tenth-ranked Zips. The Mountaineers have yet to lose to Akron in the 18 meetings between the two programs since 1952.

WVU also added an upcoming match against Ohio State on Jan. 26 in Columbus. These two programs have faced a total of 48 times in history, with all of the victories going to WVU.

Wrestling

Last week: The Mountaineers started their season off with a quad meet at the WVU Coliseum against Kent State, Ohio and No. 8 Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers took victories over KSU and OU, but fell to Virginia Tech.

The Mountaineers had a lot of positive developments over the course of the meet, including 3-0 starts from redshirt junior Noah Adams and freshman Peyton Hall. While the performance may not be surprising for the star Adams, it was a massive debut for the newcomer Hall — so much so that he entered the rankings of several outlets — especially boosted after defeating the 22nd-ranked wrestler in his class, Ohio’s Colt Yinger.

“He has a great feel for wrestling, he can do some things that we just can’t teach him,” said Coach Tim Flynn. “He floats well, he just feels it — far better than I ever did.”

Hall joins Adams, Killian Cardinale and Caleb Rea as the fourth Mountaineer to hit the rankings.

Rea didn’t wrestle in the meet after missing a significant time in the offseason. Flynn said he’s been looking better in practice, and will start competing in exhibition matches.

This week: The Mountaineers face off against Bucknell and Oklahoma at home on Sunday afternoon, beginning at 2 p.m. That meet will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

Swimming and Diving

Last week: WVU’s swimming and diving teams squared off with Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, with some strong individual performances on the diving board in Morgantown on Wednesday but falling in Thursday’s meet in Pittsburgh.

WVU divers PJ Lenz and Sara Haggerty set school records at the diving meet. The freshman Haggerty especially made waves (no pun intended) with a 254.03 in the women’s platform on her college debut — breaking a record set in 2020 by then-sophomore Holly Darling.

In total for the diving competition, Mountaineers earned wins in three events out of six.

WVU wasn’t quite as successful in the lanes at Pitt, as both the men and women took losses in the meet — 193-107 and 173-127, respectively. There were, however, several victories for the Mountaineers, including five for the ladies and three for the men. Sophomore Harna Minezawa and senior David Dixon both won twice in the meet.

This week: The Mountaineers are off for the next two weeks, and return to the pool when they host Notre Dame on Jan. 29 and 30. WVU squared off virtually with the Fighting Irish in November, with the swim team earning wins in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and the diving team placing highly as well.

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