Los Banos

Former Los Banos trap shooter has started a youth team in Tulare

Matthew Haugen of the Los Banos Tigers Youth Trap Team, from Dos Palos, catches a spent shell casing during a shoot hosted by the Tigers on Saturday at the Los Banos Sportsmen’s Association.
Matthew Haugen of the Los Banos Tigers Youth Trap Team, from Dos Palos, catches a spent shell casing during a shoot hosted by the Tigers on Saturday at the Los Banos Sportsmen’s Association. dwitte@losbanosenterprise.com

Alex Amaral spent several years shooting for the Los Banos Tigers Youth Trap Team, even though he lived in Tulare. He once shot 200 straight at the AIM-ATA national championships in Sparta, Ill.

Now the 20-year-old college student is taking what he learned with the Los Banos team and is putting it into his own team in Tulare, the Central Valley Aces.

“Originally my plan when I started was that I would come back to coach, because I enjoy coaching,” Amaral said. “It’s not so much about what I can do, it’s about what I can pass on. You can be the greatest shooter in the world, but when you’re done, everything dies with you. So if you can pass it on, the legacy continues.”

Amaral’s 12 team members dropped in on the Los Banos Sportsmen’s Association on Saturday for a competition hosted by the Tigers, along with eight other youth trap teams from the California Youth Shooting Sports Association. The shoot attracted 213 competitors.

As a youth shooter, Amaral bounced around between a few clubs in the south San Joaquin Valley – from Tehachapi to Kingsburg to Bakersfield – before finding a home with the Tigers.

“I worked out a deal so I didn’t have to drive up here during the weekdays,” Amaral said. “I would literally have to keep my gun in my truck and haul butt all the way up here, and still be late. Two hours for a drive time is not the easiest. But I did make six or eight practices I came up to, and the rest of the time I practiced there, but I’d meet them at all the tournaments I’d go to.”

But it was enough for him to get the feel of what a youth team should be like, and when his team convenes at the Tulare County Trap Club, he tries to capture the same environment.

“I want to take that family-oriented, close-knit, trying to get all the kids to – because only some of the kids knew each other before this, so I’m trying to get them to that feeling of these are your brothers and sisters versus this is your teammate,” Amaral said. “I like that aspect of Los Banos because they do everything as a team. When you walk down, it’s a sea of red shirts, no matter where you go. I always liked that about this club, so I’m trying to take that aspect and put it into my own program.”

It helps to have the Los Banos coaching staff just a phone call away.

“Supporting Alex in getting his program up off the ground, we’ve given him some help, we lend our expertise on grant-writing and other things we do through the NRA, we’ve been able to pass down what we’ve learned through that process to him to help get that club up and running,” Los Banos Tigers president Joe Gann said. “Then as part of the CYSSA, I sit on the board there, and we meet and we talk about these young clubs that are in development, and what can we do as an organization to help get them up and going. We’re a phone call away for anything Alex needs – help, resources, anything we can do. It’s exciting to see, especially growing our program further into southern California.”

Even with all that help, it may be a while before the Aces can compete with the Tigers – LB won every class but rookie and took the top seven spots in the varsity standings, starting with Mark Barcellos, who nailed 99 of 100 targets. He was followed by teammates Jason Chew and Jarred Crist at 98, Aaron Baumgartner, D.J. Mello and Jonathon Pinto at 97 and Joshua Lopes at 96. LB’s Jack Gerstenberg and Derek Worrell tied for the JV lead at 96, Kyle Cano won the intermediate-advanced class at 96 and Jake Pafford won the intermediate-entry class at 95. Angels Camp’s Hunter Blacksmith won the rookie class with a 90.