New Triton rugby team hits the ground running

The Iowa Central rugby team hasn’t been on the scene for very long, but it didn’t take long for them to make their presence felt.

In their first action of the season, the Tritons won a “sevens” tournament at South Dakota State University recently. They went 1-1 in pool play, beating Wayne State and losing to top-seeded Iowa.

Iowa Central earned the No. 4 seed after pool play, then defeated Simpson College, South Dakota State, Wayne State, and avenged their loss to the Hawkeyes to capture the crown.

“Everyone kept calling us Central, being new on the scene. We had to keep correcting them,” said Iowa Central head coach Brent Nelson. “Afterwards, I talked to a friend of mine, and he said, ‘no one is going to get your name wrong now.’

“Now we’re on the map.”

It didn’t long for Iowa Central to get active on the pitch.

“I was talking to (ICCC dean of business and industrial technology)?Neale Adams, who was a huge fan of rugby,” Nelson said. “Neale and I took the idea to Tom Beneke (vice president of student enrollment management and student development at Iowa Central), and they heard our presentation.

“The board approved us official for the fall of 2016. We want this as a varsity sport – not just a club sport.”

Nelson knew the sport’s growing popularity would help the team gain instant credibility.

“There are 20 high schools that have boys rugby,” Nelson said. “Right now, we don’t really fit in anywhere yet. We’re so unique and progressive at Iowa Central.

“We took kids from Iowa Central that were already on campus as college athletes. The goal is to aim high, and that’s where we stand. We started the team from the ground up, and are ready to keep it moving.”

Nelson, a 1989 graduate of Humboldt, was introduced to rugby in 1999 when he joined a club team in Iowa Falls. He is currently assisted by volunteer coaches Skip Reed, Michael Hurst and Brandon Bush.

“We’ve been recruiting pretty significantly,” Nelson said. “We’re recruiting young men that will be good students and add to the community; community service and projects will be part of it.”

There are two versions of rugby: Union and League. Union rugby typically consists of two common matchups: 15-a-side and seven-a-side. The fifteens competition is an 80-minute match with two 40-minute halves; sevens is a 14-minute game with two seven-minute halves.

The objective in rugby is to advance the ball to score, which is done by running, kicking or passing the ball backward or lateral. There is no forward passing.

Five points are awarded for a score. An extra point kick is worth two. A penalty kick or drop kick is worth two.

“A lot of people think rugby is a brutal sport,” Nelson said. “There are elements of it that would be considered (as such), but if you look at concussion statistics, there are less (than other major contact sports).”

Nelson is excited to see the vision come to fruition.

“We’re here to stay,” Nelson said. “We want to win and we want to win now.

“One of the things we express as a staff is ‘next man up.’ We want to continue to build depth and not have a drop off.”