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Source: Tyler Hodges, thodges@k-state.edu
Photo available. Download at http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/apr11/rugby.jpg.
Cutline info -- Front row: Michael Chen, Luke Haider, John Knutsen, Taran Carl, Dan Knapp, Joe D'Agostino, Chris Stafford, Robbie Schmidt, Evan Talbott, Daryll Bell. Standing: Danny Blea, Garrett Williams, Faddy Khamis, Clay Reinecke, Michael Peterson, Kenny Scott, Tyler Hodges, Quentin Hoover, Parker Staats, Taylor Shulse, Hugo Baxter, James Gregory, Mick Conroy, Brett Frawley and Janie Kluempers, manager. Far back left: Jeff Henley, Michael Polzin and Ryan Jordan.
News release prepared by: Rosie Hoefling, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Friday, April 29, 2011

RUGBY REIGN: K-STATE TEAM NATIONALLY RANKED, ADVANCES TO SWEET 16 TOURNAMENT

MANHATTAN -- Flanker, flyhalf and scrumhalf are ambiguous athletic terms to most Kansas State University students -- unless they are members of the nationally ranked K-State men's rugby team.

Tyler Hodges, master's student in mechanical engineering, Stilwell, and former rugby team captain, understands rugby terminology well, having played the sport for more than four years.

"My dad had a few friends who played rugby in college, and they basically suggested it to me," Hodges said. "I played football in high school, and they said if I wanted to continue doing something competitive like that, rugby might be a really good fit. I showed up for practice and I've been playing ever since."

Hodges and his teammates, who include four foreign exchange students from Australia, finished the league season undefeated and are currently ranked eighth in the country, according to Rugby Magazine. In addition to collegiate games, the team also plays in a club setting as the K-State/Fort Riley Rugby Football Club.

As a result of its successful season, the team will compete in the Sweet 16 Tournament at noon Saturday, April 30, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn. Winners of first-day matches will advance to play again on Sunday.

Hodges attributes the successful season to the team's experience in playing the sport and a high level of team camaraderie, having eight seasoned seniors on the team.

"You have to know what your teammates are going to do on the field," he said. "It can make a big difference. Just because you have a bunch of great players, you're not going to be as effective as you might be with someone who's not quite as good but with whom you've played with for a few years and understand how they play."

A combination of soccer and football, rugby's main goal is to advance the ball down the field and score in the try zone, which is different from the end zone designation in football. A team member can score by crossing the goal line and touching the ball down to the ground -- the origination of the term touchdown used in football.

"Similar to football, there's running, tackling and passing -- except all the passing is backward in rugby," Hodges said. "Kind of like soccer, everything is continuous; play doesn't stop. Between plays there are no huddles. The only time play stops is for a conversion kick or if the ball goes out of bounds and you have to throw it in."

A rugby game consists of two 40-minute halves and allows 15 members per team on the field at a time with several different positions. Players are designated as either forwards or backs with various duties based upon their position.

"Forwards are more likely to run into contact and get tackled, try to gain yardage and keep possession of the ball," Hodges said. "The backs are usually your faster players. They are a little flashier and more likely to get out into open space."

More established in other countries, Hodges says rugby is a growing sport in the United States. He said that many high schools have begun creating teams, and it was recently announced that the sport would be in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The winning collegiate teams in the upcoming Sweet 16 Tournament will advance to the Final Four at Stanford University in two weeks. Hodges said it is a major goal for the K-State team this weekend.

"If we play as well as we can, I think the results will take care of themselves," he said. "I think we are a good team and if we play to our potential, we are a really tough match up for anyone."

Head coach of the team is Danny Blea, a K-State alumnus, and Mike Duncan is assistant coach. Chris Sorensen, university distinguished professor of physics, is the team's faculty adviser.

In addition to Hodges, students on the K-State men's rugby team, collegiate side only, include:

Clay Reinecke, senior in biological and agricultural engineering, Centralia.

From Greater Kansas City: Brett Fearing, junior in civil engineering, Kansas City, Kan.; Jacob Dull, senior in civil engineering, John Knutsen, junior in sociology, and Taylor Shulse, sophomore in animal sciences and industry, all from Leawood; Robert Schmidt, junior in agribusiness, and Kenny Scott, senior in sociology, both from Overland Park; and Dan Knapp, senior in mass communications, Prairie Village.

From Manhattan: Joe D'Agostino, senior in social sciences; Michael Chen, sophomore in business administration; Ryan Jordan, sophomore in social sciences; and Faddy Khamis, sophomore in biology.

Evan Talbott, senior in economics, Marquette; Parker Staats, sophomore in arts and sciences-open option, Paola; Lucas Hilterman-Haider, sophomore in kinesiology, Rose Hill; Michael Peterson, junior in kinesiology, Topeka; Eric Looft, junior in park management and conservation, Wichita; and Quentin Hoover, senior in accounting, Winfield.

From out of state: Michael Polzin, sophomore in computer science, Northfield, Minn.; Garrett Williams, freshman in electrical engineering, Independence, Mo.; and Taran Carl, freshman in chemical engineering, Bixby, Okla.

From Australia: Hugo Baxter, nondegree undergraduate in business administration; Mick Conroy, nondegree undergraduate in pre-journalism and mass communications; Brett Frawley, nondegree undergraduate in pre-journalism and mass communications; and James Gregory, nondegree undergraduate in business administration.