Jake Ahles, president of the Wartburg rugby team, is taking small steps in increasing interest in his student-led rugby team on campus. He said he believes there is a particular reason why rugby is becoming popular at Wartburg.
“Rugby is an addicting sport,” said Ahles. “It’s a tough sport and hard work, but there’s just something about it that keeps people coming back for more.”
Ahles and his roommate Matt Partridge began the Wartburg rugby team on campus in February 2011.
There was a strong interest in students and they both wanted to bring the sport to campus. Rugby officially became a student-led organization and part of the USA Rugby Union.
“Once we officially organized everything, we just had to get the word out about rugby,” Partridge said. “We started telling our friends and people around campus and the idea really caught on.”
The rugby team is continually growing with interest. Last spring the team consisted of twelve athletes and is expected to grow to twenty by this spring, Ahles said.
“Rugby is a very different sport and a chance to learn something new,” Ahles said. “Everyone gets the chance to run the ball and it’s a mixture of some of the best sports, soccer and football.”
Rugby is beginning to form a fan base at Wartburg College, Partridge said. Close to 100 fans showed up to the team’s winning rivalry home game against Luther last spring.
Ahles said this year he has already had several people ask about the first match and even professors show interest.
This year the team is expected to play other schools with rugby teams including Luther College, Augustana College, St. Ambrose College, Bradley University, University of Northern Iowa, Bethel College and a local rugby team called the Bremer County Bucks.
“We’re focusing a lot on playing against different teams and getting experience,” Ahles said. “You learn by doing, not watching.”
The team is constantly trying to recruit more men to participate, Partridge said. A lot of interest has been in high school athletes that miss the competition in college. There are also several fall sport athletes at Wartburg that will be going out for rugby in the spring.
Ahles said the team is like a family and constantly reminds the players of their team motto.
“Our team is based off the motto ‘who do we play for?’ If you only play for yourself, there’s not a lot of depth. That’s why we play for everyone at Wartburg,” Ahles said.
The team is really excited about this year’s season and has high goals set, Partridge said.
With games set against some of the best teams in the nation, Ahles said he believes big things could happen in the future.
“Right now is a reloading time, but with continued interest our team will only get better,” said Ahles. “If we continue building, by spring we could be one of the best teams in Iowa.”
Students interested in joining the rugby team should contact Jake Ahles or come to practice Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday at 6 p.m. on Clinton Field.