Web Wright Continues Run Of WVU Rifle Hall of Famers
Given its massive success, it might be surprising to learn that Web Wright is just the seventh Mountaineer rifle participant to earn Hall of Fame status. Of course, numbers on any given rifle squad are small, so proportionally the percentage of honorees is probably higher than most other sports, and there should be a continuous stream of additional honorees in the coming years, given the high level of performance of many team leaders.
Wright recently joined Mike Anti, David Johnson, Bruce Meredith, Ann-Marie Pfiffner and Jack Writer as competitors in the Hall, along with coach Ed Etzel.
“When I came up last year for David’s Hall of Fame induction, I was thinking it might be coming soon,” said Wright of his selection. “It’s such an honor to be recognized, and ever since it was made public I have had friends and colleagues sharing their congratulations with me. It’s great to be a part of that legacy.”
Wright’s selection was only a matter of time. He was a seven-time All-American and two-time national champion at West Virginia from 1985-89, leading WVU to three national titles over that span while becoming the first two-time smallbore champion at WVU until this past year. He earned first team-All America honors in smallbore in all four years of his career, and was a two-time team MVP and team captain of the 1988-89 team.
Like a number of shooting competitors of his era, Wright went on to a career in the military, where he found that many of the lessons he learned in the sport carried over into real life.
“When you are in that final eight of an individual final, you have to be able to separate yourself from everything that’s going on around you,” he said in describing the focus required to succeed. “When that pressure is on, you concentrate on what you need to do in order to get the job done.”
Wright, who retired as a liuetenant colonel after a stellar service career that included 3 1/2 years of combat deployment, also credited the early travel he experienced as a preparation for a life that took him to all corners of the globe.
“I was travelling internationally at the age of 17,” Wright explained. “Getting to know all the different cultures and types of people around the world, that was a great learning experience. In my Army career, that helped me know it was important to understand others and their ways of doing things.”
While some competitive shooters don’t go the college route, Wright sees it as an invaluable experience. Currently the head coach at Army, where he accepted that spot in 2015, Wright has seen the NCAA help promote the sport, and benefit those participating.
“It provides a great training venue,” the Annapolis, Md., native observed. “There’s the discipline aspect, and you get a lot of support that helps them improve. There are a number of collegians that compete at the international level.
Wright was drawn into the sport at a young age, and the hooks that competitive shooting sunk into him never let go.
“Our family vacations were us piling into the station wagon and going to shooting events with my father,” Wright recalled. “I grew up with it, watching my Dad (who was also Navy’s head coach in the 1970s and 1980s) compete and then learning how to do it. I also played lacrosse growing up, and I was o.k. in that, but I kept doing well and improving in rifle. It was a bond between my father and me. My brother and sister also shot, but he went into music and she was into gym and horseback riding. I was the one that really got into it.”
While Wright is self-effacing about his accomplishments, the list is a mile long. In addition to his service career, he represented the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. He earned a gold medal in the 1986 Zurich World Cup and was a bronze medalist in the 1987 Seoul World Cup where he set the World Record in smallbore kneeling, scoring a 399 out of 400. Wright was also a medalist at the 1987 and 1995 Pan American Games, and was a member of the 1994 Gold Medal World Championship 300 Meter Standard Rifle in Tolmezzo, Italy. He also competed with the US Army Marksmanship Unit from 1991 until 1996.
The honor of the Hall of Fame selection is notable, but Wright is mostly happy about being part of a sport that seems to attract some of the best and brightest competitors. Scandals and bad behavior are almost unheard of, and Wright believes that’s due to the some of the inherent requirements involved.
“It’s not cheap to get started, so you have to have a lot of parental support,” he noted. “Getting to competition venues, that’s a lot of travel and commitment. There is a great deal of responsibility from the start, beginning with the basics of handling the rifle. Then there’s the discipline to practice and compete. It all takes a good set of values, and it attracts solid kids and citizens.”
Wright will be officially inducted on Saturday, Sept. 22, prior to the West Virginia-Kansas State football game.