November is a special month for rugby, as the Autumn tests provide players and fans with memories that will last them a life time. For Lindenwood University’s Chance Wenglewski, this November test window provided him with two such memories: playing against the Maori All Blacks, and earning his first test cap against the 2018 World Rugby team of the year, Ireland.
Wenglewski, a high-school and collegiate All-American, described this past month as a dream. “For an America kid from the state of Oklahoma, it is only something you see in your dreams or on TV. I’ve prepared all of my high school and college career to have an opportunity to represent the USA Eagles squad. It really was a dream come true.” For Wenglewski, when he got the opportunity to stand in front of the haka, with a home crowd behind him, it was the realization of a long journey. “To stand in front and witness the haka take place was nothing more than a kid watching his hard work and dreams come true.”
However, the euphoria was short lived. Once the game was over Wenglewski went back to Lindenwood, where he is a Senior Graphic Design major, and was thrust into an environment where outside of his team, few may have realized the stature of his accomplishment. “You get an opportunity to go against the best in a crowd that’s very large, and then come back to a university to which a lot of people don’t understand the game and it kind of makes you reflect on the real reasons why you play the sport,” said Wenglewski. What may have assisted Wenglewski’s transition back into the college life, was a conference game a week later against the 7th best college team in the country, Navy.
Luckily for Wenglewski, being such a decorated age grade athlete, means the process of reacclimatizing to student life and adjusting from playing at the international to the collegiate level, is all second nature to him. “As far as mentally and physically adjusting I would say it’s a form of coming home. Almost in a sense of being back in the ole routine of school and practice with games on the weekend. Being reunited with the boys that have helped me take on this journey has nothing but allowed me to be humbled from the people who have gotten me to this point.”
After the Romania match, Wenglewski received a call letting him know he was to meet the team in Dublin and, in all likelihood, was about to earn his first cap against one of the best teams in the world. Although, as a true student athlete dedicated to his studies, the decision to travel to Ireland wasn’t the instinctive yes it may have appeared to be. “It was actually a pretty difficult decision to make having missed several weeks earlier in the semester. I knew going to the APC (Americas Pacific Challenge) tour earlier this October, and Chicago match would be pushing it with classes, but the opportunity to represent my country, in Ireland, I knew that these opportunities only come once in a lifetime.”
Mentally, it didn’t take a lot to turn back on. Wenglewski has a firm sense of controlling the controllable and not worrying about what other factors are tossed into the scenario. “Adaptation. Weather, stage, opponents, refs, fans- they all change. In these cases, you have to change and adapt quick in a positive manner that helps one’s self in the best physical and mental state of mind.” While, mentally his preparation did not change, he did admit that he may have been caught off guard by the magnitude of the occasion. “I heard rumors of a sold-out Aviva stadium and didn’t really think much of it at the time until we were lined up inside the tunnel entering the field. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people come for such an event in person, it was such an amazing sight to see. I was truly honored to represent my country in such a packed stadium.”
Now once again, Wenglewski returns to life at Lindenwood. His focus now shifts from representing the Eagles to helping his Lions achieve their first D1A National Championship, something he takes immense pride in. “Playing for and at Lindenwood has always been an honor and a privilege. The rugby program has given a lot to me through the years. LU Rugby has helped with knowledge of the game through the people that I’ve surrounded myself with.” Now that he has learned so much from his experiences in the international arena, he looks forward to sharing these lessons with teammates and plying the skills developed in the D1A arena. “Playing at such a high pace, high intensity game it’s almost hard not to bring that aspect into your play of game. Having had this experience, only makes me want to raise the bar and standard for myself and others around me. I learned a lot from the month of November. I learned that it’s best to embrace every moment, and take each second as they come. I’ve found that game of rugby, and also in life it’s not about a single moment, but it’s to allow that moment to influence your next moment to be better than the last. That’s how I believe great teams are made.”