IWU rugby wins big in first ever game

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Pat Mollo, Staff Writer

 

Saturday, Sept. 19 marked the first rugby match in Illinois Wesleyan history and it will go down as an emphatic a win against Eastern Illinois by a score of 27-0.

 

The team is a motley crew of ex-football players, ex-soccer players and athletes who have not even played a contact sport.  The team had only six full practices before their first ever game.

 

While the IWU team suffered its share of battle wounds, they showed a toughness and grit that far outpaced the Eastern Illinois team. The IWU team never stopped hitting, not until the final whistle.

 

Junior Austin Hagemann is co-captain of the new squad and an ex-football player here at Illinois Wesleyan University.  “We’re certainly a rag tag bunch of guys who just want to have fun and hit each other,” Hagemann said.

Even so, Hagemann is no rookie to the sport of rugby.  He has two years of rugby experience under his belt from high school.  Two years of experience is a novelty for IWU rugby, with 18 of the 22-man roster coming into last Saturday’s game with zero playing experience.

 

Hagemann and Co. entered the game eager but nervous to the atmosphere of a real match.

 

“We have a team of great athletes, but only few of us had ever played rugby before.” Hagemann said.  “Practice is one thing, but the match is a whole other demon.”

 

To the untrained eye, rugby is a massive disarray of confusion.  Each team starts with 15 players including 8 forwards and 7 backs. Scoring opportunities come in points of 2 by a conversion and 5 by a “try,” similar to the touchdown in American Football.

The biggest difference between a touchdown in football and a try in rugby is that a try requires players to “ground” the ball once they’ve crossed the goal line. To do this, the player holding the ball must touch the ball to the ground while in full control. Throwing it across the goal line so it lands inside does not work.

 

Sophomore Luke Cipich, junior Alex Tooren and senior Adam Garcia all scored once for the Titans. Garcia’s ball fake echoed the vintage heroics of NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and he left a trail of Eastern Illinois players in his wake.

Junior Landon Picatto scored twice in the victory.  Piccatto’s field vision and fearless running consistently resulted in positive plays. The 27 points were accumulated by 5 tries and 1 conversion.

 

Two players with the most experience and founders of IWU Rugby are sophomores, Luke Cipich and Mike Wombacher.  The esteemed veterans also co-captain the team along with Hagemann.

 

Wombacher and teammates are satisfied with the victory and the direction the program is heading.

 

“I honestly didn’t think it would be anywhere near as successful as it is. It’s a great group of guys from all over the social spectrum on campus which helps get the word out,” Wombacher said.

 

But there are plans to grow even bigger for Wombacher as he plans to watch the program blossom in both spring and fall seasons while providing a stiff competition for other teams in the conference.

 

“Additionally, in the near future I hope to have the privilege to help a women’s team start up here on campus” Wombacher said.