Like Santa Rosa, Wisconsin has been to the final four and won a DII National Championship before. WRC won it all in 1998 and returned to the semifinals in 2008, finishing third.
There are still plenty of guys around from the ’08 team, who are lending their experience to some of the younger players.
“The core leadership group of my team is a bunch of guys that were there in 2008, so they’re extremely hungry as well and they’re excited to represent Wisconsin at a national level,” said WRC coach Joe Lippert. It’s a huge bonus for me.”
One of those entrenched leaders is tighthead prop Sean Cullen, who played for WRC in ’08 and in the Super League for the Potomac Athletic Club.
“He’s a big man up front, he’s great in the set pieces and he’s got a nose for the try line down inside the 22,” Lippert said.
WRC isn’t a one-dimensional pack-driven team, though, even with Cullen leading from the front. They boast a dangerous back three, something that’s not always easy to find in DII. Wisconsin has a rotation of four talented guys who can play wing and/or fullback: Andrew Norton, Jeff Mortenson, Patrick Burmeister and Phil Winkler.
“I definitely feel blessed with the back three we have. To have big size and pace out wide is a huge bonus,” said Lippert. “They’re not monsters, but I’ll take 6-2 or 6-3 and 200 or 210 pounds and fast any day out on my wing, and they’re smart players. They work together very well.”
Except for a loss to the Eastside Banshees in the Midwest West final in the fall, Wisconsin has been dominant against DII competition this season. They pillaged the Midwest playoffs this spring and posted numerous lopsided wins in the league play.
Their only two losses this fall were to DI semifinalist Metropolis and the Milwaukee Barbarians, an amalgamation of DII Milwaukee RFC and the DI Milwaukee Harlequins.
“We built on the fall. Had a good league season in the fall. Had one loss right at the end, and the guys came through winter, showed up fit and ready to train and go hard and they have,” said Lippert.
“We have lost to a couple of DI sides in Metropolis and the Milwaukee Barbarians, and I think that’s made us a lot better, playing quality opponents.”
Teams from the Midwest have won the USA Rugby High School Club Invitational and the DI-AA National Championship. Could Wisconsin bring a third trophy back to the territory?