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Buckeyes Win Big Ten, Eyes on 7s and 15s Prizes

College Men

Buckeyes Win Big Ten, Eyes on 7s and 15s Prizes

This is the Ohio State group that won the Cherry Blossom tournament.

Ohio State won the Big Ten 7s and booked a spot in USA Rugby's 7s National Championships after beating Wisconsin in the final.

For the Buckeyes, it was a fairly comfortable trip to the final, but Wisconsin made it difficult, and in a back-and-forth game, Matt Stauder scored the game- (and tournament-) winner.

"Technically I scored yes but I have to give credit where credit is due," said Stauder "First off, the last thing our coach Ron Bowers said on the sideline at halftime was 'look for a pick-and-go opportunity, one will show up.' So that put the idea in my head. Then, our winger, Jojo Eramo, made a great play on the opening kickoff with a line break down the sideline that set up the easy pick-and-go for me on the blind side.  We knew going into the tournament Wisconsin would be our toughest opponent and we'd likely have to play them in the final. So props to them, they're a great squad."

That advice-giver, Ron Bowers, has had the team working toward a strong 7s finish for a while (although OSU won the 15s tournament at the Cherry Blossom Tournament as well).  

"The team started preparing in early January with indoor skill sessions and conditioning," said Bowers. "The weather was very cooperative for us this year. We had the opportunity to help 1823 prepare for Vegas the entire month of February twice a week. It helps to practice against Taylor Howden, Roland Suniula, Mason Baum and the rest of the pro guys for a month!" 

Deciding when and how to transition from 15s to 7s is a tricky part of collegiate rugby. Schools generally get out in late May or early June, giving teams only a few months (if lucky) to make the transition.

OSU Rugby program director Tom Rooney said balancing it all isn't easy.

When deciding how to structure his program, Rooney was conflicted between giving up 15s for 7s altogether or trying to do both during the same season. “The argument that playing 7s all spring costs us valuable repetitions as a full 15-man squad is a valid one,” said Rooney. “And spring 15s is the only time to get ready for fall 15s. These are all very tough choices and decisions.” 

After giving it some thought, Rooney has decided to have the team practice both 7s and 15s concurrently for the spring season, something that is atypical from most colleges. OSU trains three days a week specifically for 7s rugby, but allots two days a week to train for 15s. The 15s practices are more geared towards the forwards to concentrate on body shape and set-piece skills, whereas the 7s practices are focused on fitness that deals with working at a faster pace for a shorter amount of time, said Rooney.  

Ohio State also incorporates a lot of rugby skill-work in the 7s practices. The passes in 7s are generally going to be longer, so developing the art of passing is imperative to the Buckeyes. Having players in the right positions, both offensively and defensively, is also vital to succeed in 7s.

“The 7s pattern is simpler than that of 15s, but the decisions come a lot faster. It’s all about trying to set up the defense and often times backing up from contact to ensure a tackle is made, which is completely at odds from 15s,” said Rooney. For OSU, repetition is key, and these skills are worked on constantly during practice. 

There's also a mental aspect to shifting between 15s and 7s.

“The defensive pressure and speed is just as important [in 15s as in 7s],” explained Rooney. “Explosive offense and discipline are key - as well as patience, since there is a shorter clock.”   

When putting together a spring schedule for 15s rugby, Rooney scheduled one big event – The Cherry Blossom Tournament, which they won, and two smaller local tournaments for the players who are not on the front-line 7s team. In doing so, he hopes the team can see what deficiencies they need to build on for the upcoming fall season.

At the same time, the Buckeyes have been taking 7s very serious - witness their tournament wins at the Moosemen 7s, Hogan Memorial 7s, and the Big Ten. Now they look to ramp it up to chase a national title at USA Rugby's championships in Colorado.


-- Kevin Simoni