Brayden Goodnight ’23 prepares to take the field against DePauw on November 16, 2022, at Little Giant Stadium. Photo by Jake Paige ’23.

One of the most difficult challenges faced by a club sport is the issue of handling team organization without a coach. The program needs someone to take on that role of planning practices, getting players to show out and leading the team. For Wabash rugby, that person is Brayden Goodnight ’23. 

A senior brother of Phi Kappa Psi, Goodnight has been part of the rugby program since freshman year and had the rare opportunity to play on the same team with his older brother, Alex Goodnight ’22. Brayden is the third member of his family to attend Wabash. 

“The reason I came to Wabash was because my dad and my brother both came here,” said Goodnight. “I grew up around Wabash and was really familiar with it. And I knew that Wabash was going to prepare me for my future, regardless of what I wanted to do. I thought that ’Bash would give me the connection and the education to achieve that.”

Goodnight first started playing rugby in seventh grade after attending a handful of his brother’s matches.

“My older brother Alex started playing when he was in seventh grade too,” said Goodnight. “I opted not to play—I wanted to just stick with football. But traveling to all of his rugby tournaments and games in sixth grade made me realized that it looks a lot more fun than I had originally presumed. So come seventh grade, I thought I would give it a chance. After that, I just fell in love right off the bat.”

The brothers played rugby together throughout highschool. And when Alex came to Wabash, Brayden wasn’t far behind. On campus, the pair not only both joined the rugby team, but also both became brothers of Phi Psi.

“Alex and I have always had a bond on a deeper level,” said Goodnight. “Being able to attend college with my older brother is unique, and being in the same fraternity is doubly unique. We’ve played together since middle school, so it was just fitting for us to continue to play together here at Wabash.”

In his time wearing a Wabash jersey, Goodnight has proven himself as one of the most exceptional players in the history of Wabash rugby. He is the perennial leading scorer leader for the team and hardly goes a game without picking up points. 

In the fall season, Goodnight scored 25 tries in the team’s 12 matches. For his excellent performance, he was named 2022 Fall Player of the Year by the Allegheny Rugby Union, the team‘s conference.

Brayden Goodnight ’23 kicks off against DePauw on March 25, 2023, at Little Giant Stadium. Photo by Elijah Greene ’25.

But his aspirations are much bigger than personal accolades. His real goal? To help get the team to its first ever national championship.

“Making it to nationals would honestly mean the world,” said Goodnight. “We’ve had our sights set on this since last spring and it has been our main goal ever since. Everyone on the team wants to be a part of history and I think we have a good chance at doing that, we just need to show up and play like I know we can.”

Given his experience and long-term understanding of the sport, Goodnight was the obvious choice to serve as the player-coach of the rugby squad. However, being the coach doesn’t give him the special privileges one might expect. Instead, he holds himself to a higher standard. He hopes to set a good example for the team to follow.

“I may be the coach, but when I tell someone to do something, it‘s not me telling them to just go off and do it,” Goodnight explained. “When I tell a guy to do something, I go and do it with him. Because I’m on the team too. I can‘t exclude myself from a certain drill or from a certain conditioning workout just because I don‘t feel like doing it. If they’re doing it, I‘m doing it with them.” His teammates seem to agree.

“Brayden shows his leadership qualities through his determination and policy of leading by example,” said teammate Matthew Brooks ’24. “My first memories of him are from my freshman year during COVID. We had just finished a pretty intense practice where the rugby team better resembled the track team. At the end of practice, Brayden offered the team to join him on a ‘quick’ three-mile run as a cool down.”

“He never demands anything from the team that he wouldn’t make himself do,” added Brooks. “He is there every practice, setting up the cones and leaves after everyone else after doing extra drills. His dedication to the game and the team is admirable. Even outside the fact that he is a gifted athlete, he puts the work in and challenges his team to compete with him to become better.” 

Under the leadership of Goodnight, Wabash rugby has found tremendous success. Last season, the team went undefeated up until their conference tournament, losing out in the semifinal to John Carroll University. For Goodnight, now as a senior, he is proud of the winning legacy he will soon leave behind. But his real legacy, he hopes, will be the longevity of rugby as a staple Wabash sport.

“I‘m hoping to set a good foundation for what the rugby program should be like,” Goodnight said. “It’s not just from me; it‘s been a big community effort. But since my freshman year to where we are now, we‘ve made a lot of progress in getting the club  more publicity and really putting our name out there.”

Goodnight and the team will have a chance to further cement their legacy when they travel to Pittsburgh on April 1 to compete in the Allegheny Rugby Union tournament. But regardless of the outcome, Goodnight will go down in Wabash athletics lore as one of, if not the, greatest of all time for Wabash rugby.