The Fresno State Paintball Club: Front row; Bryan Ocegueda, Connor Cunningham, Mason Stewart, Edgar Gonzalez, Jaime Acosta, Juan Martinez. Back row; Eric Castellanos, Michael Boothby, Ben Manuszak, Jesus Raygoza, Zach Shaver.
Photos by Roe Borunda / The Collegian
Seeking excitement, students at Fresno State have come together to form a paintball club.
This sport, which hasn’t received a lot of attention, is beginning to grow in popularity. The Fresno State Paintball Team is the first of its kind as a sports club team.
Talks of creating a team have been a constant topic of conversation for the founders of the team, Mason Stewart and Michael Boothby. It finally became a reality this semester as they geared up to start the new team. Boothby and Stewart both have lengthy experience playing on professional and semi-professional paintball teams, more than 15 plus years combined.
“Mason and I had talked about starting a club here on campus but never actually had gone through with it, so the times now that we’re trying to get this going,” Boothby said.
Other big city colleges and universities have established paintball teams, such as San Diego State University, California State University Fullerton, University of California Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach, who are the defending national champions for collegiate paintball.
When Stewart began playing paintball in high school about 10 years ago, there were college paintball teams but not many because the sport wasn’t as big as it is today. Most of those teams were East Coast teams, explained Stewart.
“What was the possibility of getting a scholarship? No one really knew what the limits were,” Stewart said. Since he has been playing for fun he has seen the sport thrive in the valley.
“With all the interest coming back into the sport, now is a really good time to get things started. Especially since some of the West Coast teams are kind of starting to pop up a little bit,” Stewart said. “College paintball was kind of more like an East Coast thing but now the West Coast teams are starting to win. They pretty much have everything they need. We just don’t have a conference set up, which is the biggest step.”
Stewart wants to take the opportunity to have the team go to the next level. “Right now is a good time to join because we can form this brand new conference and pretty much the West Coast is where the best paintball is at.”
The club has grown since word spread about the new paintball team on campus. They started off with a few interested people and now they are up to 13 players. The club already has a local sponsor from Maximum Paintball.
Sunday marked its first official practice as a team at Maximum Paintball’s “The Field” in southwest Fresno. The Field is home to paintball players of all ages, from first timers to semi-pro teams looking to get practice drills in. Paintball players go for fun and to participate in events such as the one held Sunday, Return of the Jedi, where old-school paintballers got together to match up against the new-school players to show they still have their skills.
Ben Manuszak, member of Fresno State Paintball, is one of those old-school players. He began playing paintball as a freshman in high school in 2000 up until 2007 and went under the radar until recently.
“It was just the right time. Lucky that it coincided. It really was just chance, I played and then the following week Mason announced this,” Manuszak said.
Manuszak played with Stewart in a local paintball team known as Team Rip, owned by Maximum Paintball. Manuszak has many years of experience under his belt and is excited about the new team on campus.
“I hope to see the team keep going. It was one of those things when I started, when I first had the idea to go to Fresno State, I was in high school, ‘yeah it’d be so cool if Fresno State had a college team and I could go there and play,’ that was one of the things I’d thought about was the fact that colleges could have teams,” Manuszak said.
Fresno State Paintball will attend the West Coast Paintball Players League in November, which will take place in Las Vegas. This will be their first tournament. Team members are excited about this first tournament.
Connor Cunningham, team secretary is looking forward to playing the WCPP. At Sunday’s practice he said he felt he had learned something new from each practice and hopes he’ll continue to improve to be able to play in the tournament. He feels that playing with and against other local teams will help them grow and become better.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play on a competitive level, like in college or semi-pro,” Cunningham said. “I’m looking forward to becoming a good paintball player and hopefully being able to compete on the same level of all these semi-pros.”
The team currently has 13 players, including the captains Boothby and Stewart. There are players with experience and some that are just starting out, which Stewart believes it will aid them in staying competitive.
“I really see a lot of potential in these guys,” Manuszak said about the new team. “Seeing this new group of guys that just can mold. And seeing the potential in them in our practice last weekend, we ran some drills. It was really cool to impart my knowledge and pass it on.”
“Our goal is to build a club for years to come not just next semester for the national championships,” Stewart said. “The sky is going to be the limit for the team if they want put the effort in we’re going to have a really good team.”
Future tournaments include the National Collegiate Paintball Association and the World Cup Paintball Sports Promotion in Orlando, Fla next year.
Students who are interested in joining can receive more information by going to the club sports booth from 11a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesdays or by visiting the Fresno State Paintball Team Facebook page.