Gowanda trap team competing at states Sunday
GOWANDA — The Gowanda High School trap team started in 2017, but the group has wasted no time becoming one of the best programs in the area.
For the fifth year in a row, Gowanda won its league championship, outpacing Iroquois 6,786.50-6,198.50 over the course of the season in Conference 10.
“The whole season was pins and needles waiting for the scores to be published,” Gowanda head coach Ryan Schwarzott said. “I never expected getting into this that we would be winning five conference championships. It’s hard to believe we would be this competitive for this long.”
The season did not start out easy for defending champions from Gowanda. After Week 1, the four-time champs were actually trailing by roughly 170 points before turning things around in Week 2 and running the table after that.
The top three shooters, TJ Ackley Jr., DJ Dirienzo and Tyler Smith were a big part of Gowanda’s success in and out of competitions. The trio’s success landed them on the All-State Shooters Clay Target League team.
“Those three have been on the team for a while,” Schwarzott added. “They’re there every week; they are practicing on their own. You have to purposefully practice trap. We go over exercises on how to strength and condition yourself and they do those things.”
All the training Ackley, Dirienzo and Smith put in has paid off for them and their teammates. Winning their league title is great, but that did not wrap up the season for the trio and the rest of the Gowanda Trap team.
On Sunday, eight members of the team will be competing in the state tournament in Cicero.
The trio of Ackley, Dirienzo and Smith will be joined by Daniel Humphrey, Daniel Stang, Braydon Bolder, Zayne Laskey and Aidan Pachucinski. At the varsity level, Ackley is the 25th-ranked shooter in the entire state, Dirienzo is 75th and Smith is 92nd out of 2,072 shooters this season. Shooters in the top 100 will receive a patch when they attend the state tournament.
At the competition there will be a variety of levels shooting and Pachucinski will be in the Novice Class.
“It’s only his second season shooting,” Schwarzott added. “He’s made tremendous strides and gains in his shooting ability already.”
For many of the athletes it’s their first time competing at the state level and they have been preparing for it all year long.
“Since our regular season ended we have been practicing with the kids going to states,” Schwarzott said. “We do drills to help the kids perform under pressure. We also mimick what we will be doing at states, which is shooting 50 rounds back to back.”
During Gowanda’s practices at the Evans Rod & Gun Club in Angola, coaches Schwarzott, Ron Wight and AJ Pachucinski have developed the muscle memory necessary to shoot the 100 rounds that will be done at states. Every shotgun weighs about 8 pounds. Competitors will have to lift them and keep them steady 100 times.
“My head assistant is Ron Wight; he’s my right-hand man,” Schwarzott said. “He goes above and beyond every season, I talk to him on a daily basis about trap. He’s a trap shooter himself, which is very important. His energy definitely shows. Pachucinski has been a coach for five years now and he’s there at every practice with Ron to help set up. He helps instruct the kids on technique.”
A lot of the program’s success can be attributed to the coaches, players and parents that help out. Even with an inexperienced group, Gowanda has still managed to take home league titles.
“Our coaches are all on the same plan,” Schwarzott said. “We’re always looking to improve every aspect of the team. We’re all very committed to being the best we can be for the kids. Over half of our team is in their first or second year. I was fairly surprised with how well we did this year.”
While the success Gowanda has had is great, it’s not the only goal of the program. In high school trap, everyone is a participant and an equal on the team. It’s also a coed sport and gives athletes of many backgrounds the opportunity to compete on a team.
“We pride ourselves for including anyone,” Schwarzott said. “We have had kids shoot in a wheelchair. We currently have two kids who are on the Autism spectrum and kids with all kinds of disabilities. They all get a chance to participate.”
On top of all the great things the program does, perhaps the most important thing it does is emphasizes gun safety.
“We stress firearm safety,” Schwarzott said. “Responsible firearm ownership is important. We have fun and are thankful to have this opportunity to be on a school trap team.”
This Sunday all of that training and hard work will culminate with Ackley, Dirienzo, Smith, Humphrey, Stang, Bolder, Laskey and Pachucinski representing the Gowanda trap team in central New York.