Featured Story

Traumatic injury steered conference champ Hambly towards competitive shooting

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 8, 2021 in Trap & Skeet

On December 13, 2013, Wyatt Hambly experienced one of those days that changes a person’s life forever. Then a carefree eighth grader, Hambly rode as a passenger on what seemed to be a routine stroll with a buddy on a four-wheeler. No one would have ever imagined that Hambly would spend the next five days in a pediatric intensive care unit.

The native of Paso Robles, Calif., can’t remember the exact details of how things went down. His consciousness faded to black. Next thing he knew, he was relegated to a dark room and a hospital bed.

Explains Hambly, “I was riding on a ranch quad with a buddy and my feet caught the ground. It caused my tailbone to hit first and my head whipped back – It must have been right on the gravel – and fractured my skull from top to bottom and side to side on the back. I also had a severe concussion. I had quite a recovery after that.”

Never again would Hambly be able to participate in any type of contact activity, but he’s found his passion in competitive shooting. Eight years after that horrific accident, Hambly celebrated a major accomplishment in winning the individual Prairie Circuit conference championship while representing Concordia Shooting Sports. Thus, the date of September 26, 2021, will go down as another that Hambly will never forget. On that day, Hambly could revel in his marksmanship. Not only did he emerge as the overall conference champion, Hambly captured the trap doubles title.

It took a moment for reality to sink in. Hambly watched as a shoot-off for second and third place got underway from the conference event held in North Platte, Neb. Unaware of the final results, Hambly wondered who had won.

Said Hambly, “I was thinking, these guys are shooting off for second and third. I wonder who beat them. People were telling me, ‘You got it. You won it.’ I was like, ‘There’s no way.’ I didn’t shoot that good, for my own standards anyway. Then we go into the awards ceremony and sure enough I won the HOA individual title. It was pretty surreal. It was pretty awesome. I was not expecting it whatsoever.”

This was one of those crowning achievements that Hambly started working towards when the craft chose him. He grew up playing baseball and basketball and had planned on giving high school football a try. However, Hambly could not risk another potential blow to his skull and the likely permanent disabilities that would result.

Hambly had to find some new hobbies. The severity of Hambly’s fracture meant it would take a good 18 months for his skull to heal. He spent roughly three of those months confined to a bed, away from friends and classmates. He also had to be kept out of bright light. Slowly, he started to become more active. Hambly raised a steer and took care of pigs as a member of 4-H.

“I had to find something to stay active,” Hambly said. “I’m not a huge video gamer and I don’t like sitting still. My dad said, ‘Hey, you want to try shotgun shooting?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ We went to my grandparents’ place and threw clays around and we found out about the junior program at our local gun club. The first day we showed up to shoot happened to be a registered competition, so I signed up for it. In the singles event, I broke a 47/100 and for the handicap event I think I broke a 62/100. They weren’t the greatest scores, but man it was fun. I was hooked from there.”

Hambly turned in that old bolt action 20 gauge and Remington 870 as he got more serious about upping his game. He acquired a new competition gun in 2014 (that he still uses today) and began to make his way around the state of California for registered events. The first time using his competition firearm, Hambly cracked 74 out 75 targets. As he puts it, “I’ve fired a lot of rounds with that gun.”

There’s something uniquely satisfying about the concentration and precision it takes to square up a target and then watch it explode – and then do it again. Hambly caught a bug for one of America’s fast-growing sports, one that can also be seen on the Olympic stage. What makes it all the more rewarding in the current setting for Hambly is his ability to grow the program at Concordia and to positively influence his teammates. There’s friendly competition amongst each other, and there’s also a pride in how far the program has come since Hambly arrived in Seward in the fall of 2018.

“It’s insane how much this team has grown,” Hambly said. “We won the conference trap event as a team with 485 out of 500 and we’re looking at it like we really didn’t shoot that well. It wasn’t quite good enough for our standards. My freshman year, Fort Hays State beat us by 220 targets overall – 220 targets. This year they beat us by three … the camaraderie between teammates and the friendships we have really helps.”

The Golden State native made his first appearance in Nebraska as a high school junior. Hambly came across Concordia as he was researching which schools could potentially offer scholarship aid to shoot competitively. He made two separate campus visits and became sold on not just the shooting sports program, but also the business programs. Hambly says he actually has learned to appreciate the cold winter season in the Midwest.

Competitive shooting will likely always be part of Hambly’s life. He says he might even want to take up coaching at some point but is going to “wait it out and see where life goes.” Before thinking about what might be next after graduation in May 2022, Hambly wants to make the most of each collegiate shoot he has left. His run with the Bulldogs will culminate with the ACUI National Championships in San Antonio this coming March.

Says Hambly, “I’m looking to post the best scores that I can. Senior year really catches up with you. Wow, this is it. We want to make maximize the practice time that we have.”

To be sure, Hambly is grateful for every moment he spends shooting at targets. This was how it was meant to be. Even a rough day on the range feels much better than how Hambly felt on December 13, 2013. If anyone can place the highs and lows of life into proper perspective, it’s Wyatt Hambly.

Stated Hambly simply, “Being able to go from five days in pediatric ICU to where I am now is pretty special. It’s tough to fathom waking up in the hospital and thinking, ‘What just happened?’ You know then the rest of your life is going to be completely different. I was very fortunate to recover as well as I did.”