WHEELING, W. Va. — For the first time in program history, Wheeling Jesuit has a pair of men’s rugby players working for a chance to represent the United States at the highest levels. Senior Pete Malcolm and sophomore Cecil Rich are being recruited for the United States National Team and U.S. U20 teams.
“It is an honor for them (Pete and Cecil) to be invited and to compete against some of the best athletes in the game. It is indicative to the caliber of person and student-athlete we hope to attract and develop,” said WJU head coach Tal Bayer. “It speaks to the quality of rugby we want to model and display at WJU.”
Coach Bayer will have Malcolm and Rich lead his Cardinal team in their biggest home match and 2015 Fall Season home opener this Saturday, Sept. 19, against Penn State. The match against the Nitnany Lions starts at 1 p.m. on WJU’s Bishop Schmitt Field.
With the caliber of player he is, Malcolm from Parkland, Fla., aims to be part of the U.S. National Team, which will be part of the long-awaited return of men’s rugby to the Olympic stage. For the first time since the 1924 Paris games, rugby will be one of the sports competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic games.
At the Olympic level, rugby is played in 7s form where seven players from each team are on the field at one time. The Olympic field of teams will be held in a 16-team tournament form competing over the course of several days.
In order to put a roster together, the U.S. Olympic Rugby directors recruit athletes to train for national and Olympic competition at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Ca. (CVOTC). At the training center, the top athletes who potentially will make up the US National and Olympic teams are invited to live in residence for heavy training for any length of time from approximately November through May of each year.
Malcolm was recruited and received an invitation to live in residence at the CVOTC. The 6-1, 225-pound athlete plans to accept his residency invitation, but he will defer it for the academic year and complete his degree from WJU until after his May 2016 graduation. He will work on his remote training regiment that he adheres to, while he attends WJU. A current member of the USA Falcons of the USA 7s Second Team will have to make one fall trip in mid-October for a week of training with the team.
“My rigorous training has me the most fit I have ever been. The fitness sessions are the hardest I’ve had to do in his life, but the skill development at the national level is at a higher level than I have ever experienced too,” said Malcolm.
Bayer noted of Malcolm, “Pete is intense, focused, committed, driven, and an exceptional athlete.”
Despite already being a two-time Collegiate All-American, Malcolm is extremely young for the U.S. National team to look at as a potential future team member.
“In the future, I hope to continue playing professional rugby for the USA Eagles, and maybe, even head overseas to play there,” explained Malcolm.
Malcolm’s younger teammate, Rich, is ahead of the elder Cardinal’s rugby upward movement. The 6-2, 255-pound sophomore made his own waves on the national rugby circuit prior to him becoming part of the WJU roster. Rich earned High School All-American status at Washington, D.C.’s Pride Rugby, which put him on U.S. National player radar for future players.
“Cecil has been on USA Rugby’s radar as a potential future USA Eagle for the past three or four years,” said Bayer.
Rich tried out for the Junior All-American Under 20 (U20) team, and impressed the USA 7s head coach enough to earn an invitation to the CVOTC. Ultimately, he did not make the U20 squad, but it did not deter him from being his focus to be a future member.
“Being involved in those programs (at the CVOTC), they have helped me become an all-around better athlete on-and-off the field,” said Rich. “I apply the skills I have learned in the training camps to help improve my game at WJU, and give us an edge over the rest of our competition.”
“I feel Cecil not making the U20 team has motivated him to work all the harder now to where I expect him to be successful it in the future. He has an unrelenting drive to improve himself,” said the Cardinal coach.
In his future, Rich hopes to join the USA Eagles and represent his country at the national and professional level.
While they are on the Wheeling campus, the two Cardinal players aim to use their hard work and skill to take the WJU program to even higher levels for the 2015-16 campaign.