By Scott Springer, Cincinnati.com
KENWOOD - Since they started kicking and running with the funny-looking ball seven years ago, Moeller High School has won a state championship, finished as runner-up three times and made the state semifinals two other times.
Compared to other spring sports, the equipment is sparse as no sticks, helmets, bats or gloves are needed. The lads "scrum it up" in stylish uniform shirts, with standard issue white gym shorts, socks to the knees and cleats.
Last year's season ended with a loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius for a chance to go to the state championship again.
This spring the Crusaders have already made a weekend trip to Nashville to get games in and enthusiasm is running high. For example, rather than take a recommended week off, Moeller state tournament wrestlers Jack Meyer and Trevor Hankins were at practice on Monday, March 7, about 48 hours after departing the Schottenstein Center mats in Columbus.
"He (Meyer) decided for his senior rugby season he would come to practice right away," Moeller coach Steve Kuhlman said.
Even though Moeller has a bevy of spring sports, the Crusaders field three rugby teams with a varsity "A" and varsity "B" plus a junior varsity that's mainly freshmen and sophomores.
"We have about 74 (players) right now," second-year coach Kuhlman said.
The rugby schedule somewhat resembles Moeller's fall football ledger with top-notch competition. In addition to a rematch of last year's semifinal with Cleveland St. Ignatius, they play a "who's who" in high school rugby.
"St. Ed's (Lakewood St. Edward) is ranked sixth in the nation, Ignatius is 18th or 19th and Brownsburg (Indiana) is 14th and (Indianapolis) Cathedral won the national championship last year," Kuhlman said. "St. X is always a good competitor and Lakota has always had a strong team."
Some of Moeller's top performers are Jacob Gall, Andy Beitman, Jack Meyer, Nate Heister and Kaevon Salehpour. Other returning starters are Bobby Tull, Alec Bayliff and Chandler Dixon. Gall, Beitman, Tull, Meyer and Heister have all received college interest in rugby, with Gall and Meyer also drawing football interest.
Thus far, Kuhlman says Tull is heading for Army to play at West Point.
Like many Moeller sports, the rugby program has some history since being started in 2009 by former offensive line coach Doug Rosfeld. Kuhlman played for Rosfeld (now with the University of Cincinnati's football program) on Moeller's state championship squad. In year one at the helm as coach, Moeller finished 8-3 and had their seventh straight winning season.
"I inherited a crazy talented squad last year," Kuhlman said.
The Moeller Division I varsity "A" team features all returning players. Gall, a top scorer last year, is again among the leaders in points. The sport is also attractive to a lot of wrestlers.
From soccer, the Crusaders have added the kicking and scoring abilities of Mick Hamilton. After being injured last season, he was Moeller's point leader after the initial weekend in Nashville. Hamilton also received some college rugby inquiries while in the Music City.
The "B" team is often comprised of new or first-time players.
"We always start out brand new players on 'B' side to see what they're like," Kuhlman said. "In their first game they tend to make a lot of penalties. They tend to pick it up after that first game."
A home game is ahead on April 2 with Moeller hosting Brunswick for three matches (one for each team). [Read More]