The Wildcat club rugby team is one of the oldest club sports at NMU. Since 1979, the Moosemen have been a team to beat in the Wisconsin and Michigan Rugby Unions in both the fall and spring season competitions.
The Moosemen ended their spring season with an underdog win against the Exiles of Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich., last Saturday.
The Moosemen were down 10-0 after the first 40 minute half. The team forged on to score 19 points in one 40 minute half and win the game.
They even completely shut out the Exiles’ offense and didn’t allow them to score once in the second half. The Moosemen scored almost double in the second half what the Exile’s did in the first.
Senior winger/hooker Kyle Ruff, from Bowling Green, Ohio, said he was very excited to end the season on such a high note.
“Our best game was last weekend against Central Michigan in which we came back from a 10-0 deficit at halftime,” Ruff said. “It was a great way to end the year.”
Dane Kilpatrick, a junior from Milwaukee, Wis., picked one of the colder games he remembers as his favorite match of the season.
“The match against Michigan Tech was in two feet of snow, but it was still fun,” Kilpatrick said.
Since he played so much back at home, Kilpatrick said he always ends up playing old teammates on rival teams from the Wisconsin Rugby Union.
“We may trash talk a lot during the match,” Kilpatrick said. “But afterwards at the team’s social, it’s all good again.”
One of the friends Kilpatrick was referring to was recent transfer to NMU and the Moosemen club rugby team, junior Nick Engel who is also from Wisconsin.
“This is my first season with this club, I played for UW-Oshkosh for a while,” Engel said. “I didn’t know what to expect, I came in with an open mind though.”
Engel said he is already anxious to play a rival team in their conference next year.
“Whitewater is our bigger challenge; they are onto playing nationals now and one of the best teams in the nation,” Engel said. “If we work hard together over the summer and next year it will be a really competitive game between the two clubs.”
Engel also looks forward to the team activities that the Moosemen take part in.
“After every match, we leave the hard feelings on the field and host the other team to a social,” Engel said. “We also do a lot of volunteering in the community; my favorite is the UP 200 dog races, we set up almost everything in town.”
With four years of experience with the Moosemen, Ruff said he has seen a lot of good ruggers come and go, but he was keen to point out one athlete from last weekend’s game.
“The team MVP was Gardner Thompson, our inside center,” Ruff said.
Ruff said this was Garner’s last match with the Moosemen before graduation. There are quite a few seniors leaving for graduation that Ruff said will be missed by the team: Tom Brelien, Kyle Aho, Evan Corbeil, Jimmy Kibby, Brett Cronkhite, Thomas Stetler, and Jay and Matt Kehrer.
With all of these players graduating, the team is looking for athletic students to fill some spots. They don’t even have to have rugby experience, Kilpatrick said, just guys that want to learn a great sport with a fun group of athletes.
“My roommate and I came up here to play football, we ended up having more fun playing on the rugby club,” Kilpatrick said.
Ruff said the team is looking for all shapes and sizes of athletes and interested people can find the team’s information on the NMU Recreational Sports website.