The IUPUI Jaguars will be making their first ever appearance at sevens nationals after taking its first crack at sevens this spring.
Located in Indianapolis, IN, the school started as an NSCRO team for its first two years of existence, making the final four in its first season.
Upon the arrival of head coach Joseph Richards in 2017, the team made the move to D2. Over the last several years they have won progressively more games in 15s each year, and this past season finished undefeated in the Midwest Collegiate Rugby Conference, making their first ever 15s national playoff appearance in D2.
Much of the team is from the Midwest and the key to their success has been the ability to recruit some local high school talent. With players from Indiana powerhouses like Fishers, Browsnburg, Penn, and others, the team has been able to play a highly skilled brand of rugby.
“Eighty percent of our players played rugby in high school and come from our own backyard,” Richards said.
This spring the Jaguars decided to jump head first into sevens. The team, which includes only two seniors, neither of whom are playing sevens this spring, is eager to head to nationals and gain some experience.
With a big junior class consisting of veteran players, IUPUI will be a tough out regardless of their limited experience playing sevens. Zach Harlan, Levi Hawk, Brad Gullinger, and Seth Bronger are all impact players.
Along with the upperclassmen, a pair of freshman have begun to make noise at IUPUI. Scrumhalf Joey Sturgil is one of the best players on the team and wing Rylan Arihood is an athletic finisher out wide.
“We are very excited and blessed for the opportunity to play in Arizona,” Richards told FloRugby. “Making it to Arizona was in the plans all along. We budgeted for it, guys made plans to stay on campus an extra month to keep training.”
A Little At-Large Help
Things didn’t go as planned as the Jaguars did not win the lone qualifier they attended. They waited with bated breath for the competition committee to release the at-large selections and got the good news last week.
Finishing third in a tough Upper Midwest qualifier along with some wins against DIAA opponents proved to be enough.
“Like every other team, we wanted to win a qualifier and secure our spot, but lucky for us our season of hard work was noticed and we were given a second chance to prove we can be national champions,” Richards concluded.
Can the Jaguars make noise in their first season in sevens? We will find out in a few weeks.