By John Crittenden
As the semester winds down and finals loom (sorry for reminding you), it seems a fitting time to look back on what we’ve all accomplished in the last fourteen weeks at Oberlin. I’m not at all in the mood to think about all that academic-y school stuff, so instead I’ll focus on my extracurricular of choice – Oberlin’s own men’s rugby team: the Gruffs. This Saturday, May 5, marks the final game of our spring season, and is likely the last game of rugby for the team’s many seniors.
Before I get caught up in the highs and lows experienced so far in my sixth season of rugby at Oberlin, I’d like to encourage you to start off your Cinco de Mayo celebrations with a trip to the rugby pitch (colloquially known as a field in America) at 1pm for the Gruffs’s final game of the season. If you haven’t yet seen rugby played, it will be the perfect opportunity to see all the fun you’ve been missing on a day tailor-made for jovially spirited sport. It will be a bittersweet send-off for the team’s large senior class; but before the season concludes, allow me to reminisce on its twists and turns.
The season started off on a sour note as the Gruffs dropped their inaugural game on April 7 against a Cleveland State University team that we’d beaten handily the previous fall. The Gruffs put up a tough fight, with some particularly stifling defense, but in the end they were on the defensive for far too long against the much-improved CSU team, and mustered only one try (basically like a touchdown in football) off a brilliant breakaway by Pat Rogan. Though the hard-fought loss was disappointing, a silver-lining presented itself as two veteran rugby players in attendance offered to help out the team as coaches.
With the stabilizing force of the new father-son tandem of coaches (heartfelt thanks to Stephen and “Uncle Bob” Rogers) and a difficult week of practice, the Gruffs looked forward to the chance to redeem themselves against a visiting Tiffin side on April 14. The preparation paid off as the Gruffs dominated play en route to a resounding 51-17 win. Forwards captain Jon Selzer led the scoring with three tries, while backs captain Jackson Meredith added a try of his own. The highlight of the Oberlin offense’s much-improved showing had to be the first career tries scored by seasoned ruggers Keith Yoder, David Brandt, and Roger Kligerman. In accordance with rugby tradition, the three each ran a “zulu” (a lap around the pitch with naught but a rugby ball to protect their sensitive parts from the envious gawking of the crowd) after the game. Team spirits much lifted by the rebound win, the Gruffs eagerly anticipated their next game against Denison on April 28.
Apparently Denison’s spies informed the team of the Gruffs’s resurgence, because the team backed out of the match with only five days notice. Suddenly left with no opponent to face in the team’s penultimate game of the season, team fixture secretary Joe Sheeran scrambled to salvage the event with a hastily-arranged showdown against Hiram. Unfortunately Hiram could only manage to rummage up five players on such short notice (as opposed to the fifteen that are supposed to be on the field at a time for each team during a rugby game), but they were doing us a solid by showing up at all, so we made the best out of a bad situation and lent them a bunch of our players, then played a shortened scrimmage. Though the “game” situation was far from ideal, at least the rugby gods were appeased with two additional Gruff zulus by promising “rookie” ruggers Max Hovey and Trey Levy.
Now all that’s left to do is to send the seniors off on a bright note and make this year’s Cinco de Mayo one to remember.