Wilkes paintball blasts their way to national ranking

Photo courtesy of Nick Gambo

Phat Nguyen, Sports Editor

In which collegiate category does Wilkes University currently rank in the Top 10 of the country with Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, University of Texas, the Ohio State and East Carolina among others?
A few good guesses might include men’s and women’s tennis – two teams that have competed at nationals – or wrestling, which finished 13th in the country both academically and athletically last year.
Wilkes’ Doctor of Pharmacy program also might be a good guess. It attracts many students from the Northeast.
But, if you answered paintball, you probably were cheating, or you were one of the seven members of the squad that traveled to Syracuse, N.Y. to compete against mostly Division I schools.
The Colonels placed first at the NEIC South at Top Gun paintball in Cream Ridge, NJ earning 100 points for the national scoreboard, and added 77.5 points for their third place finish for the NEIC North second event held at Head Rush Paintball, Syracuse, N.Y.
With their 177.5 points, the Colonels are ranked as the 10th best team in the country, just behind the Georgia State Panthers’ 178.82 points.
Club president Charles “Nick” Gambo wasn’t surprised by their Top 10 ranking.
“We have been playing well all year, and ever since we won our first event this year, we knew we were good enough to compete with anybody,” Gambo said. “I mean, we played Univeristy of Buffalo last year and split then tied to them, but they got the win since they had a faster time than we had.”
Being a success story wasn’t always the case for the paintballers who needed time to eventually find their niche.
Gambo, a senior business administration major, noted the long way they came to become the team they are today. During his freshman year in 2008, he and his current vice president, Adam Keeth, petitioned to get a team together to start playing in tournaments as a club without any organization and practices.
Despite a limited $300 allocation each semester, the team grew in numbers and eventually became more serious Gambo’s junior year where he began to look into how to request funds from student government to pay for travel and tournament expenses. In requesting funding, they are required to do community service and fundraise.
“We were doing it up until college why stop there. If there wasn’t a team we would be doing it any ways. It’s funny the common ground of us going here. We’ve all played together since 2005. Everybody that you know at orientation. We filled out a constitution, and that’s how it all started.”
Sophomore class president Cody Bauman said he was delighted by their proposals and organization.
“These guys really did their homework, and I think we were all impressed by their desire to work for something they really love.”
The Colonel paintball club is the only Division III school in the Top 10 according to the National Collegiate Paintball Association. Its roster of seven and undergraduate enrollment pool of 2,200 might make you wonder how it’s even possible for the squad to compete against Division I powerhouses like Ohio State.
Keeth, a senior co-captain, isn’t intimidated, however.
“Some schools such as Rutgers have enough people to put together two full squads with substitutes.” The senior integrative media major, said. “We don’t let that bother us though. We all can step up and do a little bit of everything I feel.”
The tournaments can last all day and in Wilkes’ case, its seven-man squad was playing every game with few substitutes from 8 a.m. to as late as 5 p.m. as they won one tournament and placed third in another.
Conditioning has not been an issue, Keeth said.
“I don’t really get tired in the later rounds of the tournament,” Keeth said. “You get that adrenaline rush and just think, man, I’m in the championships, I just wouldn’t want it any other way.”
While the team admits to having soreness from playing all day, Keeth and Gambo say the team never complains about fatigue.
The Colonels look to carry their momentum into the spring semester where they hope to place among the top five nationally.
“It’s somewhat of a lofty goal, but we know what we’re capable of and it’s time to take our practices and mentality to the next level,” Gambo said.