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Wyatt Rollman qualifies for U.S. Paralympics trials

Young marksman U.S. hopeful

Submitted photograph Wyatt Rollman, 14, Granville, takes careful aim with a pellet rifle at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club. Rollman has received an invitation to participate in the Paralympic Trials in Hillsdale, Mich.

He was so close a year ago. Now he’s right on target, precisely where Wyatt Rollman hoped he would be.

The 14-year-old Granville youth saw his opportunity for a chance to participate in the Paralympics trials get derailed by a coronavirus shutdown in 2020. Now, a year later, Rollman has again qualified for the Paralympics trials at Hillsdale, Mich., May 12-16.

Rollman’s sport is precision air rifle. His disability is muscular dystrophy. His shooting is done from a wheelchair. Rollman’s first year of shooting was in 2020 at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club junior shooting program. He quickly found the sport to his liking.

“He went on a Saturday morning and fell in love with it. He had great support and a great group of people at the club,” Karen Rollman, mother, told The Minot Daily News.

Jeff Whillock, an instructor at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club, has become Wyatt Rollman’s personal shooting coach.

“I told him that I’d never coached someone in his situation before, with muscular dystrophy,” said Whillock. “He’s a better learner than I am a coach.”

Paul Oster, Minot Rifle and Pistol Club, has been impressed with Rollman’s improvement on the shooting range and how he interacts with coaches and other shooters.

“He’s a nice kid,” said Oster. “He learns very quickly and is a proficient marksman. I believe he is the first individual from North Dakota to qualify for the Junior Paralympics.”

Whillock credits both the young shooters and the Minot Rifle and Pistol Club for Rollman’s eagerness to learn and for his constant improvement at the range.

“The kids that shoot are really well behaved. I think that’s what he was looking for,” said Whillock. “And he’s willing to try anything. The only time he’s missed a practice is when he’s sick or hunting.”

A perfect round in air rifle shooting is 600 points. Hitting the bullseye, about the size of a dime, requires a combination of technique and patience. Rollman has worked diligently at both, improving his average score by 80 points since his 2020 invite to Colorado Springs.

“He’s done better than I ever thought he would. He’s done well,” said Whillock.

Whillock said he and Rollman have tried many different ways to improve Rollman’s scores, and some methods have worked and others not so much. Working together as a team the two have sorted through several changes to technique to discover what works best and what Rollman is most comfortable in doing.

“He can’t get into the same positions that non-handicapped shooters are in,” said Whillock. “He’s right-handed and left eye dominant, so that creates some problems.”

Rollman made the adjustment to shooting left-handed, not an easy thing for a shooter to accomplish. Whillock credits Rollman for putting in the necessary work to deliver rounds precisely on target.

“There’s some science to shooting at this level. It’s quite a feat,” remarked Whillock. “And I’m probably harder on him than most people.”

The hard work has paid off with a second invite to the Paralympic Athlete Olympic Trials where the process of selecting marksmen to represent the United States at Beijing, China in 2022 gets underway.

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or call 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to eogden@minotdailynews.com.)

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