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Western State Looks to Lofty Heights

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Western State Looks to Lofty Heights

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Take a ride south on I-25 from Denver, go through Colorado Springs, and at Pueblo, go west.

Get on State Route 50 and wind your way up through the Swatch Mountains and through the Gunnison National Forest, and after about three hours you’ll end up in Gunnison, Colo., the home of Western State Colorado University.

 A school of about 2,400 students, Western State is now the Rocky Mountain Men’s DII Conference champions, having beaten Colorado College 58-12 on Saturday and Colorado School of Mines 30-17 on Sunday.

Beating Mines, said Coach Anthony Luehrs, was a big deal.

“Our team has used Mines as a measurement of our success for years,” said Luehrs. “We beat them earlier this season and it was the first time we’d done that in about 13 years. This year, the guys made a mental decision to beat them. They were tired of losing to Mines, and realized they needed to change their attitude.”

Mines always had a habit of pulling out wins late, said Luehrs.

“They always play a full 80 minutes,” said the coach. “So when we were up 25-10 I was nervous. I knew 15 points wasn’t enough. They play to the very last whistle.”

But Western did hold on, and took the title.

“This was a tough conference,” said Luehrs. “I played for Western State years ago and it was like a lot of conferences, where there were a few tough games, not not a lot. Now, every game is tough. The primary motivator for us coming back to this conference from NSCRO was that we didn’t want to have playoffs in the spring anymore. This has been a great experience. You look at the some of the teams - Montana State could have won the whole thing. We’re able to get into the playoffs in the fall, and it works out really well for us.”

Leading the way for Western State is No. 8 Greyson Lincoln and center Robert Wagner, who have dominated the scoring for the Mountaineers. But over the weekend, those two were more involved in leading the defense. Captain and scrumhalf Taylor Egloff racked up the tries, and has continued to be a pest around the best of the breakdown.

So now on to the national playoffs. No one knows too much about Western State, but one thing that might be of use is the fact that Western State is 7,700 feet above sea level. 

“I am pretty sure we play at the highest elevation of any team in the country,” said Luehrs. That could well help them finish off games at lower levels … as Western State looks for higher elevations in college rugby.