Recruiting success ignites hope of another run at Rugby Nationals

Little Giants battle for possession in semifinal round of Men’s Small College Rugby Nationals against Springfield College on April 30, 2023, in Germantown, Maryland. | Photo by Elijah Greene ’25

After a third-place finish at the National Collegiate Rugby Championships in the spring of 2023, the Wabash Rugby Club plunged deep into their fall schedule with their weekend double-header against the Indianapolis Impalas rugby team. The Little Giants, fresh off of nationally-ranked season, face a new set of hurdles as they navigate a season after losing many key players.

As with all college athletics, time is the ultimate enemy. After recording their best-ever season the team graduated several top members of the team, whose contributions cannot be overstated.

As the reigning Allegheny Rugby Union 2022 Player of the Year, Brayden Goodnight ’23 was in many ways the heart of the Little Giants rugby team as they made their push into the national tournament last season. Goodnight was both lead scorer and team captain, as well as mentor to developing players. Since his graduation at the conclusion of the 2023 spring season, Wabash has been looking for a player to step into his giant-sized shoes.

However, his shoes may be filled quicker than most people realize. Massive recruitment efforts, thanks to the newfound national recognition, have brought in many new players to improve the squad’s future. During this fall season nearly three-quarters of the team is new to Wabash rugby. The roster, which usually averaged close to 20 members, has ballooned to 30.

“We lost six of our top nine players. So we were up for a challenge recruiting this year,” said Derek Miller ’24. “Luckily, being a top team in the Small College division of collegiate rugby has helped us with [that].”

“While we might not currently be the force of a team that we were over the last two years, the commitment and athleticism shown by our newcomers are genuinely commendable,” said Matthew Brooks ’24, who acts as both a captain and mentor for the team. “It’s really exciting, especially as we navigate this developmental fall season and gear up for the spring.”

The scarlet-striped squad played two games against the Impalas. The first game was a 5-3 win for Wabash. The team had a chance to run four separate groups of seven different players over the two games. While the team lost their second game, their performance reflected tremendous development by the younger players on the team.

“Following the graduation of our seniors last year, we have a considerably young team this season,” Brooks said. “However, I am very optimistic and extremely impressed with the team’s growth in just three weeks of practice.”

The team will take their new talent to the Denison Invitational on September 30, where they will get a chance to play a bench- mark tournament including the likes of Denison, Cedarville University, Oberlin, Ohio Northern University, Ohio Wesleyan, Wittenberg and Tiffin University This will be the first tournament of the year worth points, which the squad will need to earn fo entry into preliminary tournaments later in the year.

“We have progressed well throughout the fall semester, said Miller. “But we will know where we stand fully after this weekend’s invite to Denison.”