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  • Rifle to Begin 2022-23 Season Ranked No. 3 in CRCA Top 20

    Kentucky is returning a majority of its 2022 NCAA national championship team

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2022-23 University of Kentucky rifle team will begin its season ranked third nationally in the latest Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Top 20, it was announced earlier this week.

    The Wildcats, who officially begin the season next Saturday at Akron, are behind TCU and Alaska-Fairbanks in the national listing. UK’s ranking could change before next week’s season opener as several schools begin competition this weekend.

    Kentucky enters the season having won three of the last four NCAA rifle national championships, claiming the title in 2018, 2021 and 2022. UK was the favorite and top seed to win the title in 2020 before the championships were canceled due to the pandemic.

    The 2022 crown was Kentucky’s fourth national championship in program history – 2011, 2018, 2021 and 2022 – all coming under head coach Harry Mullins. Mullins is the second coach in UK Athletics history to win four national championships during a tenure, joining the legendary Adolph Rupp, who led the UK men’s basketball team to four national championships. UK’s four national titles is third most in NCAA history.

    The title came as UK scored a 4739 team score, which was the best team score at the NCAA Championships in the 60-shot era. The previous best was UK’s 4731 it scored to win the title in 2021. The Wildcats were in a great position to earn the title after a 2360 smallbore team score, clinching the title with a 2379 air rifle team score.

    TCU finished second with a 4736, while Alaska Fairbanks was third at 4733. Ole Miss finished fourth with host Air Force finishing fifth, West Virginia sixth, Murray State seventh and Navy eighth.

    Leading the Wildcats again this season will be fifth-year senior Will Shaner, who won the NCAA smallbore national championship last year. The All-American is joined back on the line by fellow fifth-year senior and All-American Richard Clark. Clark performed brilliantly for UK at the national championships. Two other members of UK’s national championship lineup are returning in senior Jaden Thompson and sophomore Allison Buesseler, who clinched the title with a strong air rifle finish. Also returning is fifth-year senior Mitchell Nelson, seniors Mason Hamilton and Emmie Sellers and sophomores Kayla Kalenza and Tori Kopelen.

    New to the team this season are three freshmen in Anthony Hotko, Martin Voss and Sofia Ceccarello. Hotko is an American product from Batavia, Illinois, while Voss and Ceccarello are foreign stars. Voss comes to UK from Norway where he was one of the most accomplished junior performers in his country, while Ceccarello is from Italy and represented her home country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

    The Wildcats will begin the season on Oct. 8 at Akron before returning to Lexington the following weekend for their home opener vs. NC State on Oct. 15. After a weekend off, UK will host Navy and North Georgia on Oct. 29 before traveling to West Virginia to compete against WVU, TCU and Alaska on Nov. 5-6. UK will host the Kentucky Long Rifle Match on Nov. 12 with Murray State and Morehead State. The fall schedule will conclude Nov. 19 at Ole Miss and Nov. 20 at Memphis.

    The winter schedule will start in Fairbanks, Alaska for the Wildcats against Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 14 and Georgia Southern on Jan. 15. The following weekend, UK will go to Murray State to compete in the Withrow Invitational. The winter regular-season slate ends with UK hosting matches vs. Army and North Georgia on Jan. 28 and West Virginia on Feb. 11. The Wildcats will host a NCAA Qualifier on Feb. 18 to begin postseason competition.