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Rugby Warriors

Ty+Johnson+%2718+plays+rugby.+Photo+courtesy+of+Patrick+Lausen
Ty Johnson '18 plays rugby. Photo courtesy of Patrick Lausen

Ty Johnson '18 plays rugby. Photo courtesy of Patrick Lausen

Patrick Lausen

Patrick Lausen

Ty Johnson '18 plays rugby. Photo courtesy of Patrick Lausen

Benjamin Janssen, Sports Editor

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Finishing as the State runner up after only one year in existence sounds like something out of a Hollywood movie, but it happened at Wash just last year.

The Warrior rugby team was the only athletic team to achieve such a finish for Wash last year. Despite this enormous accomplishment in their inaugural season, not many students know of this team or their success.   

Rugby is a classic sport that is popular around the world. It is a physical sport similar to football and soccer, but players wear little to no pads. “Its like if you’re a tough football player and you like smacking people it’s like, go play rugby they are damn near the same thing and that’s like really attractive to the wrestlers and football players typically,” Chris Karamitros ’18 said.

Although most rugby played around the world is 15s (15 on 15) Wash plays rugby 7s. This means that there are fewer people playing at a time and the halves are shorter. Wash rugby games take about 15 minutes, with two seven minute halves and a two minute halftime. Rugby is a great option for athletes in the springtime. It’s a more physical alternative than soccer or track. . “It’s all fast paced the ball rarely stops, you’re going hard for seven minutes, I think people like that. Straight up were going to go balls to the wall against you for seven minutes, then you’re going to get a two minute break before we do it again, and I think they find that attractive and I think that it’s just so unfamiliar to them that when they hear that they’re like, rugby you’re tackling without pads it’s scary but then they do it and they’re like, well this is fun,” Karamitros ’18 said.

Rugby has been growing rapidly in the United States, and in Iowa. There are more students joining teams, and there are more teams joining the Iowa Youth Rugby Association (IAYRA) every year. There are currently three teams (Jefferson, Washington and Linn Mar) in Cedar Rapids Metro and IAYRA director and state representative Dennis Oliver projects there to be even more in 2019. “I would say that it’s attributed to the passionate coaches and fans that we have. They are able to convey their passion for the game to their players and allow them to fall in love with the game. We emphasize camaraderie, sportsmanship, and that its a game played by all creeds, genders, and races across the world. I also think it is because we play the Olympic version of the game, 7s, which is fast paced and high scoring,” Oliver said.
Although rugby is growing in the high school level and is new to a few schools in the area. Rugby has a long history in the state, the Cedar Rapids Headhunters is a rugby team that has been competing since the 1960’s. Rugby also exists at the collegiate level, and to some athletes, can provide a way for them to help pay for their next level of education. “One other thing I think that gets missed is the opportunity for financial assistance for college.  To be blunt, some kids that would not earn a football scholarship, could potentially still find money for college through playing rugby. Iowa Central Community College for instance has a varsity program that is currently ranked #1 in the nation in the small school division offers scholarships to their varsity athletes,” Warrior head coach Patrick Lausen said.

This year there is a great opportunity for Wash fans. The Warrior team is hosting a tournament on April 6 at Kingston Stadium. This will be the first time a rugby game will ever be held at Kingston. “YES, April 6 we are hosting 11 teams, we are going to be playing two games that night and the other teams are going to play each other, were going to make a tournament out of it, man it’s going to be crazy. First time at Kingston a rugby match has ever been held its going to be awesome. We got to publicize it I’m super excited,” Karamitros said.

This tournament is going to be especially important because rugby is not an IHSAA sanctioned sport. So the wash team cannot receive any funding from the school. The tournament being held will fund the team for the year. “Right now it’s (not) a sanctioned sport, so we get no support from the school and like no money or whatever I mean, obviously the school supports us, like, go you guys… but no one really knew we had a team, but Mr. Schultz has been awesome. He’s actually going to let us paint the field out here this year, so you’re going to see some rugby lines out there and it’s going to be awesome. If we could get sanctioned that’d be great, because if we get sanctioned then we could get buses and they could buy us our kits, so right now were doing that all our self, but this game at Kingston is going to be huge because all that money is going to go into our own system so if yall come out and pay, the more people that come out the more money we get, the more we will be able to pay for ourselves and we are going to be rolling from there,” Karamitros said.

Washington’s second year rugby team is coming off of a successful inaugural season. Last year the Warrior team, consisting of just 11 members made it to the state championship match (while only having nine players due to injuries) before they fell to Iowa rugby powerhouse Southeast Polk in a close match. This season, the team has almost doubled in size and team captain Chris Karamitros is looking forward to a good season. “I was out obviously, and Connor Malcolm, (’17,) who was our starting fly half, which is a position, was out as well. So, actually, Jarred Scherrman, (’18,) had to move over to fly half and we had to put in someone off the bench to play center. So, we lost, but one or two tries (Scores like touchdowns), to Southeast Polk who has won it six years in a row, so we are going for that title baby, it’s going to be crazy,” Karamitros said.

Coach Lausen also has high hopes with a few goals. First: win our conference. Second: Earn a sub state bye. Third: Win state. Fourth: Start a girls program to compete in the fall. If they accomplish all of these, it would not only mark an incredible season for the team, it would mark the first high school girls rugby team in the area, with the closest current IAYRA team being the Ankeny team.

“Rugby is more than just a game that is played inside the white lines of the pitch.  The Rugby Community is what drives people to be so involved after their playing days are over, this game is still small enough that the community feels more like a family. Beyond the emotional response, Rugby is an incredible companion sport to football.  We focus daily on proper tackling techniques and fitness. You will go to football in the fall as an improved athlete ready to produce on the football field additionally we find that Wrestlers seem to convert to rugby like ducks to water” Lausen said.

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