It’s a small tournament, but the names carry enough heft to it – the Buckeye 7s Invitational features only four college rugby programs, but all are big names.
Ohio State welcomes Cal, Navy, and Notre Dame to a tournament to be help Friday night at Fred Beekman Park on OSU’s Columbus, Ohio campus, and Saturday morning right next to the football stadium.
The final matches serve as a warmup to the Ohio State v. Cal football game later that day.
“We hope that the holding of the tournament with programs of this caliber will help raise the profile of the game on campus,” said Ohio State Head Coach Ron Bowers. “We’re very excited to have them all here.”
OSU gets a boost this year anyway as all universities in Ohio have moved to the semester system. That means the Buckeye students are on campus several weeks earlier than they used to be, and Bowers has been working with his players since mid-August.
“We’ve got the 7s guys working on 7s and guys not slated to play 7s split off,” said Bowers. “It’s a little odd, but the upshot is that the non-7s guys get some special attention, and I think it works well. We train 7s twice a week and 15s twice a week.”
The Ohio State 7s team brings back four players who spent the summer playing with the 1823 7s club – Jeff Chatfield, David Stauder, Luke Hickey, and Bryan Hoffman. Along with that quartet, they have added some new talent, such as New York-area product Taylor Hurff at flyhalf, and Arizona State transfer scrumhalf Joe Blum. Local product Santino Cua spent some time with the Sharks Academy in South Africa, and looks very good now that he’s back in Ohio.
Cal has been hard at work getting ready for 7s, too. Head Coach Jack Clark said all of his squad has been at work at rugby in some form, with half the team working on 7s and hoping to break into the playing squad.
Clark expects to make changes in his team as the fall progresses, saying it helps instill ownership in the program among players.
“There’s a shared authorship in the team when a player sees that he not only trains, but gets a chance to play,” Clark told RUGBYMag.com. “We will have three freshmen on our team going to Columbus.”
Clark said the fact that Cal football plays Ohio State is a happy coincidence, and one that likely will mean the Bears will have a solid fan following for the rugby games, too.
“We were asked by the Ads office for details on the tournament, not just the fact we were playing, and we might get some fans, which will be nice,” he said. “But we’re just happy to be invited. Things are a bit rushed for us. It’s our first competition and we haven’t been at it too long, but so far so good.”
Leading the way for Cal will be Seamus Kelly, who is the most experienced 7s player on the squad. Kelly has been kept on ice a bit after a hugely busy summer that saw him assemble for both the USA Men’s National Team and the All Americans. Juniors Paul Bosco and Jake Anderson appear ready to really break out as 7s players.
Cal’s selection of a few freshman is no act of charity. These players are expected to play, and play well. And it’s worth remembering, that while Cal has yet to win the USA 7s CRC, they have only lost once in each of the three tournaments.
Navy and Notre Dame are also expected to put forth strong sides. For all of these programs this tournament marks a new chapter in how they prepare their teams, and what competitions their teams participate in.
Friday, Sept. 14 - Fred Beekman Park
5:40 pm - Cal vs Notre Dame
6:02 pm - Ohio State vs Navy
7:10 pm - Ohio State vs Notre Dame
7:32 pm - Cal vs Navy
8:38 pm - Notre Dame vs Navy
9:00 pm - Ohio State vs Cal
Saturday, Sept. 15 - Lincoln Tower Park Field (Behind Football Stadium)
9:00 am (3 vs 4)
9:30 am (1 vs 2)