FAIRMONT, W.Va. — “Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”
Those words summed up the thoughts of all of the men who walked away with mud-stained skin Saturday following the Almost Heaven Sevens rugby tournament held at Mary Lou Retton Park.
The tournament, which returns to West Virginia for the first time in several years, brought teams from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland together on a dreary day which is labeled as the first official day of summer.
But the weather didn’t bother the men on the field.
“This is perfect rugby weather,” Donald Lowe, who spoke the above words and is the vice president of the North Central West Virginia IronGuts, the only men’s club rugby team in the state, said. “It slows the game down a little bit, and it’s always fun to get in the mud.”
Between the mud, the rain and the eventual sunshine, members of the IronGuts and the West Virginia Select team, the Warhounds, were excited to see the tournament back in West Virginia.
“This is actually the 15th year for this tournament,” Troy Heaney, the IronGuts’ president, said. “But this is the first year in the past three years that it’s been back in West Virginia.”
The Almost Heaven Sevens tournament, when played in West Virginia years back, always coincided with West Virginia Day, but with college club teams starting up around the state, the interest died down and West Virginia was no longer considered a suitable fit, forfeiting the tournament.
The tournament now, though, is in its first year of a three-year trial period in which USA Rugby will be watching closely to see if the current location can once again provide stability to the tournament. If it does, the Almost Heaven Sevens will become a national qualifying tournament, giving the sport endless possibilities in the area and in the state.
“If this becomes a national qualifier, that means some Warhounds can become Olympic guys one day,” Lowe said.
Team West Virginia, as coach Kenny Levick called it, is a mixture of players from the entire state…