Youth shooting sports competitor hopes for future high school teams in Wyoming

Posted 7/28/22

As Griffin Cole approached the starting area in his first stage of the Surefire World Multi-gun Championships Saturday in Cody, one of the competitors made a joke about his height.

“Is he …

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Youth shooting sports competitor hopes for future high school teams in Wyoming


As Griffin Cole approached the starting area in his first stage of the Surefire World Multi-gun Championships Saturday in Cody, one of the competitors made a joke about his height.

“Is he tall enough to go on this ride?” the competitor said.

It didn’t phase Cole, who is new to the sport and shooting in the in the recreational division. At 12, he recently went through Hunter’s Safety Education and is rearing to start chasing Wyoming’s big game animals. 

Outdoor sports are a priority in his young life, and he intends to be more than proficient in accuracy and speed with a gun in his hands.

To be sure, most competitors at the championships were three or four times Cole’s age. But nothing — not even a missing piece on his weapon, the scramble to find a spare and the shuffling of the shooting order could phase him. He’s an old pro at the range.

“Ever since I was probably 4 or 5 years old, my dad’s been taking me to a range,” the Cheyenne preteen said while waiting for his turn in the rotation.

His father is Nephi Cole, former policy adviser for Gov. Matt Mead and director of government relations and state affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The father/son duo traveled from Cheyenne to compete in the event at the Cody Shooting Complex last weekend.

Nephi said his son is goal oriented.

“He likes accomplishing goals. He likes seeing himself succeeding. When [children] can see themselves succeed in real time, it’s a very positive thing,” he said.

“The best way to get kids to have a positive experience and respect is to take them out and let them compete and learn about firearms in the right type of environments. It’s not like anything else. You want your kids to learn from the right people in the right way. There’s no better place to do that and get them involved at a young age.”

Griffin’s sport of choice is one that you can fit in at any size.

“The shooting sports are an equalizer. Size doesn’t matter,” he said. “You don’t have to be tall enough to be a basketball player or on the defensive line on the football team. Shooting sports are something that everybody can compete in, regardless of size, regardless of a lot of the other aptitudes that keep kids out of more athletic sports. They can compete in the shooting sports and have a great time.”

By the time Griffin makes it to high school, he’d like to see shotgun sports become a letter-sport in Wyoming. It would only take 10 districts to decide to do it and petition the state, his father said. The Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation is ready to assist in the process when enough districts sign up.

The non-profit group is a 501(c)(3) educational-athletic organization dedicated to providing shooting-sports education and opportunities to school-age youths around the United States to encourage young athletes’ personal growth and development.

The foundation pays for many of the expenses to get the teams up and running, including the necessary insurance, Nephi said.

“They have turnkey programs for schools,” he said.

The foundation started in 2001, sanctioning trap, skeet and sporting clay competition. In 2012, it added an action pistol shooting program known as the Scholastic Pistol Program. In 2016, the foundation added rimfire rifle competitions and more educational opportunities to the program. 

Last year, its Scholastic Action Shooting Program was selected as the national governing body for NCAA Pistol by pistol coaches at participating colleges. The foundation also added 10 Meter Air Rifle, 10 Meter Air Pistol and Sport Pistol disciplines to its program.

The competition at the Cody Shooting Complex is unique in shooting sports, said organizer Ted Miller. 

It consists of 10 stages, representing all styles of multi-gun competition and ending with a championship stage for the top three shooters in each division. What makes the Cody competition unique is the inclusion of terrain and long-range shooting in addition to typical bay and moving stage target shooting. 

“The benefit of getting to shoot this particular match is getting all those different experiences in one competition,” he said.

Miller said the Cody Shooting Complex is special in many ways beyond the quality experiences on the range. He also pointed out the popularity of the match due to its proximity to world-class vacation destinations like Yellowstone National Park.

“It’s a great vacation destination for families,” he said.

He also said allowing camping at the range helps cut costs for participants. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the sport saw a resurgence in interest. But this year, attendance was down due to the high cost of fuel for competitors coming from as far away as the West Coast, Texas and the Midwest. Miller lives in Wisconsin.

Plans are in the works to make next year’s event a national expo event. 

If successful, it could draw close to 1,000 competitors, Miller said.

Because Griffin is a recreational level shooter, his stages didn’t receive a score. But his father said, “He did great and had a wonderful time.”

Joseph Farewell won the open competition, followed by Barry Dueck and Gabriel Killian in the top three.