Wilkes paintball team aims to move up in 2012

Frank Passalacqua, Sports Editor

You would never guess that Wilkes University would be associated with schools like Florida State University, University of Alabama, Rutgers University, and Clemson University.

You probably would have never guess that Wilkes would be ranked higher than all of them either. In fact, you probably did not even know Wilkes had a paintball team.

Well guess what, Wilkes has a paintball team, and they’re pretty good.

The Wilkes University NCPA Paintball Team is currently ranked 30th in the Class AA Rankings, and the history behind it is rather interesting.

Take it back five years ago. If someone around the Wilkes campus was a life-long paintballer and wanted to keep their hobby going, they were out of luck. It was time for change, and a group of guys wanted to start something new for their school.

In 2008, Kevin Meinenger founded the club and along with the seven original members, they brought the team to life immediately. The following year after getting the team off the ground, Charles “Nick” Gambo was voted president and remained so until he graduated in 2011.

In the first couple of years as a recognized collegiate team, Wilkes found themselves ranked in the Top 10 and fought for some respect. In 2010, Wilkes placed second at the Blue Crab Classic in Maryland. This win was the first “podium” finish for the team, and it did not stop there.

2011 brought great success with a first place victory at NEIC Event 1 in Jackson, New Jersey. Not only was winning gold sweet, but it was the team’s first ever gold in a NEIC Event. Following the win, Wilkes landed third-place in Syracuse, New York at the SUNY Open (NEIC event 2), and another third-place medal in Maryland at the White Oak Challenge (NEIC Event 3).

For a relatively new team with only seven players, these accolades are highly respectable.

With only one senior left on the squad, young blood is looking to take over right where the team left off.

Tom Rowe, sophomore, Mike Sawka, junior, Hayden Lerner, senior, Chris Wildfoerster, freshman, Gabe Nazareno, freshman, and Jesse McDermott, freshmen, are currently the men representing WU.

Mike Sawka is the team president and after only his second year on the team, Tom Rowe has been voted captain due to his past experience with the sport and is looking to make great things happen.

“It’s really just like any sports team like in high school,” stated Tom Rowe, Team Captain. “You just need to have the level head in all the situations and be there for your guys. Everyone deals with tournaments differently, but paintball feels different than all those other sports. You’re watching a clock tick down until your start, your adrenaline is going as your stepping onto the field and lining up at the starting box…there’s really nothing else like it to me. Its one of the best feelings in the world.”

At the past club day, many students gained interest in joining the team. In fact, the paintball team filled up over 70 slots on their sign-up sheet, all of which looking to be apart of the team.

“That’s 70 new faces that have never been associated with Wilkes paintball and we’re really excited to get a few outings this semester to some local fields,” stated Rowe.

Despite all the recent success the team has had in the past year, Wilkes is not the top team in the conference. That is one thing the team is aiming to improve on in 2012.

Looking forward to the upcoming tournaments, these Colonels know what needs to be accomplished in order to move their way back up the charts.

“We only play at events that count for competitions. Generally schools compete in 2 per semester due to funding and being able to prepare for them,” said Rowe. “We’re hoping to play 2 this semester and at least one in our conference, the NEIC, and Nationals next semester. Our first event is the Brick City Open held in Syracuse, NY and hosted by RIT. “

Do you think this is your cup of tea? The Wilkes paintball team welcomes anyone and everyone who wants to play.

“As far as the club goes all you need is the desire to play paintball and if anyone wants to start playing completive they’re more than welcome to come out and they can practice with us. No one is going to get turned away for lack of skill or gear,” stated Rowe.

For updates and news on the Wilkes paintball team, check out wilkespaintball.com.