Wheeling, W. Va. – The 2021-22 season was a big year for Wheeling Rugby as they brought home the program’s first National Championship and finished the year as the 6th best team in the nation. On Friday, they began preparations for the 2022-23 season with the release of their fall 15’s season schedule. It will be a year of change for the Cardinals as they join the inaugural season of the National Collegiate Rugby’s (NCR) Big Rivers Rugby Conference (BRRC), bringing together six teams from across the region to compete for a spot in the NCR playoffs.
The 2021-2022 season was a historic year for the program as they broke the single season win record with 34 wins and made two separate appearances in NCR National Championship events. In the fall, the Cardinals earned a trip to the NCR Rhino Rugby Bowl where they took on Iowa Central Community College, a team they will now see regularly in the BRRC. It was a close match, but the Cardinals would triumph on the pitch with a 29-24 victory led by a two try effort from Stanley Giani, With the win on their side, the team headed into 7’s season with momentum on their side and took full advantage of the opportunity.
As the spring season came around, the Cardinals continued their dominance, competing in six tournaments and taking home four tournament championships. This run was highlighted by the WVU Chicken 7’s, where the Cardinals did not allow a point in any of their four games on the day. They were selected to participate in NCR’s CRC 7’s for the second year in a row and took down Harvard 35-7 in their first-round match. They came back with a win in the second round against #2 St. Bonaventure before bowing out of the championship bracket with a loss to four-time defending champion Lindenwood 29-7. They would defeat Penn State 24-21 on a last second try to make it to the fifth-place game against Indiana, where they would eventually fall 21-14 to finish as the sixth best team in the nation.
They begin their road back to the national stage with a 15’s season that features nine matches, including five BRRC matchups. It will be a season of change for the Cardinals, as they have only faced one of their five conference foes previously. The year begins with non-conference action as the Cardinals head to Charolette, North Carolina to take on Queens University of Charolette on September 3rd. They get their first chance to play in front of their home fans the following week when they battle the University of Mary Washington on September 10th opening Bishop Schmitt Field.
After that, they get into the thick of their BRRC schedule, playing their opener at Bishop Schmitt Field against Aquinas College on September 17th. They then hit the road for back-to-back weeks when they take on Thomas More and Marian College, before returning home on October 7th for Wheeling University’s Homecoming and Family weekend. They will kick off the weekend’s festivities with a Friday night match with Notre Dame College inviting fans and alumni to Bishop Schmitt Field.
Then, it is the rematch of the Rhino Rugby Bowl as Wheeling meets up with Iowa Central Community College in a neutral site game. The Cardinals will look to defend their 2021 title against a Triton team that took them to the wire in Houston. Their BRRC finale will be the next week when they host Adrian College on October 22nd before they wrap up the regular season on October 29th against Davenport. In total, the Cardinals have four home games throughout the season as they look to get back to the national stage.
Many of the Cardinals top players from last season are returning to the pitch with another year of experience under their belt. Chief Chipfumbu leads the way in 2022 after being named an NCR Division I All-American last season. Mohammed Hadar, Stanley Gianiand Ayoub Jalli will all join him in returning to the pitch. Jalli brings with him a reliable conversion kicker and a threat to score on every play while Chipfumbu’s speed and passing ability serve as an asset to the team on offense. Defensively, Bailey Brunner and Josh Blankenship anchor a Cardinal team that has been stingy throughout the year.
The Wheeling University Rugby team opens its season on Saturday, September 3rd, when they hit the road to take on Queens University of Charolette.