When it comes to competition Pete Wann, 14, of Fredericktown, thrives on the pressure and has shot his way to the top in just under six months.
Pete began competing with the Arnold Junior Shooters in March as part of their skeet, trap and clay target team and recently brought home the title of National Champion in the intermediate division at the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) in skeet, as well as placing fifth place in trap.
Pete's father, Ed, said most competitors do not compete in both skeet and trap, making Pete desirable for coaches.
"If you're good in skeet you shoot skeet," Ed said. "If you're good in trap you shoot trap. But he does both and finished first nationally in skeet and fifth in trap."
The National Championship was held in Ohio where teams from 30 states were present, five representing Missouri. Wann's mother, Kathy, said Pete shot a perfect score to qualify for the competition and was the team captain.
According to Pete, he has been ranking well throughout the season and is on track to make the All-American Team in the upcoming months. This would give him a patch to wear throughout future competitions letting others know he made the team.
Pete said grades and safety are very important to the team.
"If they see somebody not doing something safe two or three times, (that person is) off the team," Pete said.
"They have to turn in their report card and they have to keep a 'B' average to stay on the team," Ed added.
Pete said he hasn't had any trouble keeping his grades above the minimum. He even competed in the state Geography competition and was only the second student from Fredericktown to ever qualify.
"They worry about academics in this sport," Ed said. "They will take someone with better academics over scores, because they can improve (the shooting)."
When it comes to safety, Ed said all guns must be carried broken down over the shoulder and all automatic weapons are required to have a lock.
"I've never seen any issues," Ed said. "Every team has five to eight coaches. They aren't allowed to be on the line, but they are watching and no one can ever have a loaded gun off the trap (shooting) line."
"Nobody is carrying the gun around acting goofy. They are all just responsible, respectful kids," Kathy added.
According to the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF) website the SCTP requires all parents and athletes to sign a sportsmanship contract outlining how they should act before and during events, and states all athletes shall not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate anyone who does.
According to Kathy, Pete has been practicing his target skills since his first BB gun at around the age of six.
"He would go outside at daylight and stay out there all day long," Kathy said. "They would create moving targets to make it more challenging."
Pete said he didn't know about the sport until last year when he and his father where at the range shooting and saw an ad for a competition.
"We went to Black Hawk, and he shot a sporting clay event and they said, 'why don't you get him involved in trap shootin?' And we were like, 'Never heard anything about it,'" Kathy said. "They tried to get us to go to St. Charles and be on a team and that was a little far, so they said okay well Arnold has one. We called him and he said 'I want to see him shoot.' I said, 'He's a good shot,' and he said 'Well I want to see him shoot.' So we went up there and he saw him shoot and was like 'Okay, yeah we want him.'"
One thing the family didn't expect was the cost of the sport.
"I kind of thought it would be expensive, but I had no idea," Ed said. "You have the expense of driving to Arnold every Wednesday night, your gun, entry fees and ammo. He will shoot over 10,000 shells this year."
Both Ed and Kathy said the cost has been worth it for their son. Kathy said Pete has made great friendships and has really come out of his shell.
"If he shot a zero, I would still be happy with the way things have turned out," Ed said.
Pete is already being looked at by colleges and is planning to go for an engineering degree wherever he decides to enroll. He said he would like to work for a firearms company after he graduates.
The future looks exciting for Pete, as he is being watched by Junior Olympics coaches. He continues to thrive under the pressure.
"In practice I don't shoot as well as I do in competition," Wann said.
Ed said his son shoots better under pressure, and all the competitors are good, but it is a mental game.
Pete will be taking a trip to Alabama in February to meet with a well-known coach to have his first formal training session other than what he has learned from the Arnold Junior Shooters.
According to Ed, Pete is only 200 more clays away from qualifying for the All-American team and the shoots to accomplish that goal have already been scheduled.
Pete has also won third place in the sub-junior division at a SCTP Regional Tournament in skeet, second place individual and first place team in the sub-junior division at a SCTP State Championship in trap, and first place in the sub-junior division at AIM in trap.
He also took first place in the intermediate division at Skeet SCTP earning a perfect score and the title of team captain to represent the state of Missouri on the state skeet team. He then went on to take second place in the sub-junior division in handicap, second place place in doubles and fourth place in singles at the AIM State Shoot.
Pete also competed in a Shamrock Shoot where shooters lined up and shot from the 16 yard line and kept moving back until there was only one shooter standing. Pete ended up on the 27 yard line with a shooter from Lindenwood and won, taking home a leather ammo bag.
In the eyes of Kathy and Ed it's easy to see Pete is already a champion, but he continues to shoot for the stars as the medals continue to show up in the mail and he continues to draw the eyes of recruiters.