VYPE U: The Woodlands Rugby Defends State Title
In a 57-0 game against West Houston, The Woodlands Boys Rugby reclaimed their title as D1 State Champs. On Saturday, May 15 at the Austin Huns Rugby Pitch, hosted by Rugby Texas, both boys and girls Woodland's team's took home the title of State Champions. Both High School and Junior High Girl's teams went undefeated throughout their season, taking home some hardware. Although the boy's D2 team fell short in the final game against Four Points, they still had a remarkable season. The Woodlands, known as the "Wolfpack", make up the largest youth rugby club in the state, and continue to grow in number every year. The teams range from 1st and 2nd-grade touch, to high school girls and boys teams.
With an 8 game season, the D1 Boy's team is currently ranked #1 in the state of Texas and #5 in the country. They were invited to play in The Boy's High School Rugby National Championships in Kansas City, Missouri in mid-June. The invitation-only three-day tournament brings together 12 of the top High School Clubs from around the country to compete for the National Championship title. If the Woodlands Rugby team were to win at Nationals, they would make history as the first Texas Ruby team to win. Looking back to the very first High School Boy's National Championship back in 1981, the National Champion has only ever come from one of four states (Utah, California, New York, and Indiana) and the District of Columbia. They are currently raising money to attend Nationals so any donations would be greatly appreciated in naming Texas as the Rugby National Champion.
Headed by 10 coaches with experience both internationally and domestically, the high school coaching staff has trained some of the best Rugby players in the country. Three out of 13 Seniors have committed to further Rugby careers in college. Some of these include Maddox King to The University of Arizona, Lane Obrien to Sam Houston State University, and Conner Devos to Lindwood University.
Devos gave us an inside look into his signing day, the State Championship, and preparing for Nationals.
Devos began playing Rugby in the 4th grade when he was 9-years-old. The sport was passed down to him from his father who was a former player that competed and won the 2001 USA National Division II Rugby Championship for the Woodlands. Devos's favorite aspect of the sport was "the friendships and team spirit." "The most challenging part of the sport is staying in shape so I can perform at a high level for full 70-minute games," Devos said. To stay in shape he also played football as a defensive tackle. "Although I enjoy football, I love Rugby because you have to be an all-around good player, knowing how to catch, pass, run with the ball, and tackle." Devos played Tight Head Prop not only for his size but also to follow in his father's footsteps. He realized his Sophomore year that he wanted to pursue his rugby career in college when he caught the attention of college coaches. He started off the recruiting process by attending local rugby camps, reaching out to college coaches, and sending out game film. He was in contact with five schools, including Life University, Arkansas State University, Texas A&M University, Central Iowa Community College, and Lindenwood University. "I ultimately decided on Lindenwood after taking a tour and realizing how high level their Rugby program was and what a rich team culture they had. Having the opportunity to play for a Division I program that is also a four-time National Champion is a dream come true," Devos said. He is planning to study Business at Lindenwood's Robert W. Plaster School of Business and Entrepreneurship.
"This year's state competition was fairly different from 2019 in both the teams we played, our team, and the time period," Devos said. On April 28, 2019, D1 went against St. Pius coming out on top 29-19 in Austin. While on May 15, 2021, the Woodlands left no room for air against West Houston with a final score of 57-0. "I believe we defended our state title because we have an extremely talented group of players and coaches. Not to mention this year's team has a variety of talented players, making starting positions more competitive, pushing the entire team to work harder. It means a lot to be a part of a successful club that has given me and my teammates the opportunity to compete for a state championship numerous times," Devos said.
Practicing three times a week and expected self-training on off-days, the D1 team continues to prepare for Nationals. The tournament was highly anticipated after COVID-19 halted their 2020 season entirely. "Now that we are allowed to play we still must adapt to the current county guidelines and have mandatory temperature checks, mask mandate, and the use of hand sanitizer before and after practices. I am just glad I have a season for my senior year, unlike the class of 2020," Devos said.