Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rugby East Preview--Wheeling Jesuit

Pictured: Inosi Kau
Article & Artwork by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Head Coach: Tommy Duffy
2015 Fall Record: In Conference (4-3), Overall (7-3)
4th Place, Rugby East
Current D1A Top Twenty ranking: #17

Players to Watch

Hugh McAllister, Sr. - Captain
Honorable Mention All-Conference, 2015
Inosi Kau, Sr.
2nd Team All-Conference, 2014
Joji Vakasisikakalala, Jr.

Andrew Waggoner, Sr.

Frank Rolf, Jr.

August Murphy, So.

2015 was a banner season for Wheeling Jesuit Rugby. Currently ranked 17th nationally, the varsity program has turned heads and made names of several athletes in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, 2016 has so far has had the distinct look of the program’s most trying campaign to date.

First, they graduated four of their five 1st Team All-Conference performers from last fall. Then Cecil Rich, their other 1st Team All-Conference star on the year, ruptured his Achilles in the spring playoffs. He will miss the entire fall campaign. What hurt the program most though in their offseason of tumult, were the losses of coach, Tal Bayer and Director of Rugby Eric Jerpe.

Take the jump to read more.

With no official head coach named as of August 27th, the team looked fairly rudderless in their first pre-season match. Shortly after the 59-5 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame College final phone calls were made to get a contract inked, and the University announced Tommy Duffy as the new Head Coach and Director of Rugby on Sept. 1st. Wheeling followed that first hit out with a much better performance against Mt. Saint Mary’s on Sept. 2nd.

Former standout players, Peter Malcolm and Allan Hanson have been acting as unofficial Interim coaches through the preseason, after returning from the spring season with PRO Rugby’s Ohio Aviators. They appear to have done a fine job, considering that one week turnaround. Both the team and Duffy are excited about the official announcement though.

Duffy is a Wheeling native, having grown up just paces away from the WJU Rugby pitch in the ‘70s. He credits Wheeling Rugby with inspiring his love of the game. Duffy has enjoyed his opportunities at The Citadel and the Southern Conference, but has an opportunity here to head a stellar program, in his hometown.

Duffy arrives this week and the conference schedule for wheeling doesn’t actually open until September 17th. We saw Penn State handle their early season coaching changes last season with aplomb, so there is plenty of hope for the Cardinals to make noise again this year. Team Captain, Hugh McAllister is confident the squad can live up to the standards they have set in the past.

Recruiting efforts in the spring brought in 20-some freshman from the UK, Zimbabwe and many highly ranked domestic High School programs. Also coming back to the team is their 2014 All-Conference Inside Center, Inosi Kau. He and Joji Vakasisikakalala at Fly-half are a slick pair of runners who should orchestrate some crafty backline moves.

“Everyone is really excited for the season to get underway,” said McAllister. “We have a ton of talent, experience and underclassmen who are ready to step-up and take the league by storm.”

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