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Rugby Warriors advance to state final four

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The WJ Rugby Club has achieved an astounding feat in a mere three years. In 2015, twenty-three young men with Head Coach Matt Pixton and coaches Dr. Sam Lewis, Tom Eby and Andy Truax, set out to revive a team that had been attempted in 2000 and now looks forward to state championship competition.

The original team in 2000 had a record of 0-5.  The current varsity and JV squads hold proud records of 8-1 and 5-2, respectively.

The Rugby team faced the Medina Bees on May 17 at home for their first ever state playoff game. The Warriors started out with the first try (five point score across the goal line) but were quickly countered by the Bees. The Warriors overcame this surge and, in the end, trounced their rivals in a 41-7 victory.

Junior Ethan Johnson said, “The highlight of this game was when we scored the first try. We all have such a bond and, when we celebrated, it truly felt like a brotherhood.” In fact, rugby has a unique tradition. Often the home team hosts opposing teams so that they can have  dinner together after the game.

The triumph over Medina meant that the Warriors were able to advance to the State Quarter Finals in the playoffs against Toledo on May 20 at Toledo’s home field.

The game proved costly for the Warriors as several team members were injured. Mark Fazio ,‘19, broke his ankle. Another junior, Alex Kesey, who suffered a separated shoulder, explained, “I had the ball at the beginning of the game and attempted to run it in, but I  took a tackle. When I got hit, I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder. Despite this I played into the second half before I was taken out.”

WJ ruggers scrum as they push against the opposition while the “hook” tries to hook the ball back with his feet.

In the last second of a tense and difficult game, the Warriors pulled off a state qualifying win with a conversion kick by senior Tom Pelini. The final score was a close call of 20-19.

Referring to the playoff game in Columbus, Mr. Truax predicted, “As long as the boys stay focused on this game and stick to the game plan designed by their coaches, we have a good chance at success.”

With 11 seniors, including Josh Keisling, Hunter Bonfiglio, Robby Zee, Connor Cook, Robby Salek, Rafe Lewis, Joe Knight, Nick Duber, Jake Rico, Joe Herr, and Tom Pellini in the starting line up, as well as seniors Nick Cerrito, Jonathan Tipping, Nathan Craig, Dominico Piermarini, Sawyer Krause and Rafa, Walsh stands a solid chance of bringing home a historic state trophy.

On Saturday, May 26, the Warriors will take on Highland at the State Semi-Finals in Columbus. Game time is 5:30.

More information can be found at rugbyohio.com

 

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Rugby Warriors advance to state final four