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Rugby set to compete on national stage

By Kyle Bukolt
On March 8, 2012

 

It's well-known that Buffalo State's football team fills the stands of Coyer Field in
the fall. Most know the softball diamond sees action from the Bengals in the spring
and nearly all Buffalo State students have passed by the Ice Arena that houses the
college's men's and women's hockey teams.
 
What many don't realize, however, is that Buffalo State also features a club rugby
team, the Mad Dogs, that beat the University of Kentucky last year during the
Savannah Shamrocks Saint Patrick's Day Tournament.
 
Although the rugby team's regular season is played during the fall, this coming
weekend, Mad Dogs' coach Rob Jenkinson will be taking 25 members of his
team down to Savannah, Ga., to compete again in the annual Saint Patrick's Day
Tournament, which is set to begin on the morning of March 10 and continue until
the sun goes down the following evening.
 
Hosted by the Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club, the tournament was formed in
1978 and has grown to become one of the most popular rugby tournaments in the
United States. Every year, the tournament attracts over 75 teams from Canada,
Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio and New York, including
Buffalo State.
 
Both Jenkinson and club member Adam Wenig said the tournament is a great chance
to experience rugby and competition outside of what they're normally used to.
 
"It's a change of pace," Jenkinson said. "It gets us out of an environment where we
see teams that we typically see. It's out of the Northeast, it's out of the Midwest;
it's 1000 miles away, so we see teams from everywhere there. It's an excellent
opportunity."
 
"It's the Saint Patrick's Day Tournament, so there is definitely a bit of a party
atmosphere there," Wenig added. "It's a gathering of schools from all over the
country, both big and little. You really get to see how rugby is played throughout the
country and all the different styles that there are."
 
After beating Kentucky in last year's tournament, Wenig and senior co-captain
Jayson Dieckman expect to bring a strong competitive team to Savannah this year.
"We've taken a big step this year in the way we've come together as a team," Wenig
said. "It's a club team, but everybody is constantly competing against each other to
play, which ultimately just makes us better."
 
"I think we're going to do a lot better this year," Dieckman said. "We had an
extremely young team last year. We're starting to mature and really gel together
now. I think things are looking good for this year's tournament."
 
Jenkinson said by getting the team together during the spring and competing against
unfamiliar opponents, the tournament is an early chance to come together as a
group.
 
"I want the 25 kids that I take to come back from the trip as leaders that have a
better sense of what we're doing as a team," Jenkinson said. "There's a camaraderie
that is built during a trip of this distance. Everybody is going to be within an arm's
length of each other for a good 72 hours or so. They're all there for one thing – to
play rugby."
 
Dieckman agreed that it's great to get out there in March to gain experience
and build camaraderie but pointed to one especially convenient benefit of the
tournament.
 
"It's a nice chance to go play somewhere warmer."
 
With spring approaching, Dieckman likely isn't the only person on campus that
likes the idea of spending a few days in a warmer climate. The forecast for Friday in
Savannah shows a high temperature of 77 degrees — not too bad for a late-winter
escape, a weekend full of rugby, and the continuation of a growing tradition.
 
Kyle Bukolt can be reached by email at bukolt.record@live.com.

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