On Target

Like many of his West Virginia rifle teammates, Mike Anti has forged a very successful career after starring for the Mountaineers on the range. His latest achievement, a WVU Hall of Fame selection, has left him honored to join the group that has made the program the best in West Virginia history.

Anti was just the second West Virginia shooter to earn eight All-American nods over his four year career. In every year of competition, he was an AA selection in both air rifle and smallbore, and capped his achievement with an individual smallbore titled in 1986.

Despite those top-of-the-list achievements, Anti said his first emotion was one of honor when told he would be joining such luminaries as coach Ed Etzel and Anne Marie Pfiffner in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

"I was very excited, and joining that group is an honor," Anti said of his thoughts after being notified of his selection. "The WVU Rifle Team has a great reputation, with all of its great athletes, the Zll-Americans, and their performances in the Olympics."

Anti's path to shooting success might have been almost preordained. His father, Raymond, has been involved in competitive shooting all of his life, and has coached and worked with many teams, ranging from youth programs all the way up to the Marine Corps. In that environment, Mike learned the basics of the sport.

"I wanted to go hunting, and my Dad taught me the safety aspects of it first," anti related. "From there, I caught the bug. I had some early success, and I just grew into it. I started off shooting [when I was] 12, and I was in the junior programs in Northern Virginia."

As a highly decorated junior shooter, Anti was recruited heavily by many rifle schools. He recalls official visits to "four or five" but West Virginia's approach stood out.

"WVU's coach at the time, Ed Etzel, had a relaxed style," Anti said of his now fellow Hall of Fame member. "He did not put on a hard sell. The team was what sold the program, and those were the reasons I came to West Virginia."

Also factoring into the decision was the presence and recruitment of friends who Anti grew up with, including Dave Johnson and Dave Ridenour. While Ridenour was two years ahead of Anti and Johnson one, their spots on the roster made it a much easier decision for Anti. But in the end, it was the unassuming Edsel that had the biggest impact on his career.

"He was the best of the college coaches," Anti recalled. "He was an accomplished shooter, so he knew about that side, and he created a great atmosphere for the team. He was the reason for my success."

Anti went on to a stellar international career, in which he medaled in numerous competitions while also serving a distinguished 20-year career in the U.S. Army. In addition to stints with the Army's marksmanship unit, he also earned Airborne and Ranger Tabs before retiring as a major in 2008. It was during the latter stages of his career that his alma mater dropped rifle, only to resurrect it after a one-season interval as a club team.

"That was a good day," Anti said of the announcement that rifle would return. "It was the right move."

Now in his third year as a coach at the Air Force Academy, Anti isn't overly anxious to compete against his former school, but noted that when it does happen, there aren't any tough feelings to overcome.

"We shot [against WVU] at the NCAAs two years ago, and we may have a regular match a couple of years from now," he said. "We all know each other from shooting at other competitions, so there's not the feelings that you get in some other sports. But I will say that if we can't win the National Championship, I always hope that West Virginia does."

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