When Stony Brook University athletic teams are discussed, oftentimes the football and baseball teams are the ones getting the most attention. Both are upper echelon programs that deserve the recognition they get, of course. However another team at SBU has been on the rise in recent years and is poised to become one of the university’s top programs.
Stony Brooks men’s rugby team has become a dominant force in the northeast alongside West Point, Kutztown University and American International College. Former player and Head Coach Jerry Mirro has trained this group of young men for several years now, and the dedication is showing.
Despite being only a club team, they regularly face off against teams with full varsity standings. If the team is unable to get a coach bus to travel for a game, carpooling and rental vans do the trick. In addition to all the time the team spends conditioning and lifting throughout the entire academic year, individual skills training has proven to help them defeat some of the country’s top squads.
Last autumn, the team went an unblemished 9-0, winning the Empire Rugby Conference over rival Binghamton 51-15. Two weeks later, the Seawolves defeated West Virginia University in a national championship bowl game 21-20. The following Thanksgiving weekend, they tore through the competition at New York 7s and were crowned cup champions. But it doesn’t stop there.
The ensuing spring, they made mincemeat of almost every team they encountered, only being upended occasionally at tournaments by the second-best team in the country and fierce rival Kutztown University. The team qualified for the Virginia Beach invitational in April. Following a third place performance there, the “Wolf Pack” was invited to Denver 7s, the collegiate rugby championship held annually out west by USA Rugby. Even though they did not win the tournament, they had gone further than any other Stony Brook team before them. One member of the team, Shane Wend, was named a second team All-American over the summer, and several others were selected to play for the Northeast Rugby Olympic Development Academy.
With all this going on, it is hard to believe that most students at the university are unaware of the success of the team; nevertheless, the Seawolves have carried over their winning habits into this fall’s campaign. The team currently sits at 5-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play. Captain and senior James Sheridan accredits the team’s recent success to all the hard work of the last four years he has been around.
“I try and motivate my teammates by setting an example,” Sheridan said when asked how he manages to rally 14 other players, and himself, on the field at once. “I worry about doing things the right way myself, and it spreads to all the other players.”
This fall has also seen a nationally increased interest in rugby. The Rugby World Cup over in England has attracted millions of American viewers weekly, and many colleges here are just beginning to establish club teams. Jarryd Hayne, the Australian born rugger turned football player, has been quietly climbing the ranks of the San Francisco 49ers organization and is poised to become a key player. Many NFL organizations currently have agents over in London looking for the next player ready to make the jump.
The Seawolves will aim to close out the rest of the fall campaign undefeated, with games against Brockport and the United States Merchant Marine Academy left to finish conference play. The team’s incredible fitness level and unity will be tested late in the season, but Sheridan isn’t worried.
“What sets this team apart from the rest is that we all truly believe that we can win in every game. We know that if we put in the work, good things are going to happen. We just play our game and let the results show how well we can perform.”