Liberty athlete gets patriotic for USA rugby
March 5, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Ian Wright has Olympic aspirations
Liberty rugby player Ian Wright is used to donning the blue-and-green uniform of the Liberty Rugby Football Club.
The Liberty High School senior temporarily traded in the Patriots’ colors, though, for the familiar red, white and blue of USA Rugby, when he represented the country at an international competition in February.
Wright was selected from a pool of more than 120 elite athletes to join the USA Rugby High School All-Americans. Only 24 athletes were chosen to fill two teams that competed at the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens Tournament, going up against squads from Canada.
“Actually having the chance to represent my country, it means more than anything,” Wright said. “Words can’t describe it.”
Wright’s selection came as no surprise, given his work ethic and determination to succeed, Liberty Rugby Football Club coach Jeff Candler said.
“I can probably count on one hand how many practices he’s missed in five years,” Candler said. “He’s not one to sit out a drill or a game. He doesn’t miss opportunities to better himself.”
Wright’s refusal to quit stems from his aspiration to compete in the world’s premier sporting event — the Olympics. Rugby returns to the Summer Olympics in 2016, after almost a century away from the games.
“As a high schooler, being able to represent the USA is awesome, but being able to represent your country in the Olympics would be even better,” he said. “Just knowing that I possibly have a chance to be one of those top guys is pushing me to do even more and get even better so I can make that team.”
On the Web
Learn more about the Liberty Rugby Football Club at www.libertyrugby.org
Wright’s selection to the High School All-Americans is a promising first step as USA Rugby prepares for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Candler said.
“This is part of the player pool that they’re seeking for the Olympics,” he said. “This is the age group that they want. They’re developing this group of athletes and they’re going to pick out of them for the Olympic team in 2016. It’s a great honor.”
The USA Rugby High School All-Americans fielded two teams at the Las Vegas tournament. Wright was placed on the second team, but it was the first team that emerged as the victors, earning the chance to continue playing at tournaments in England and South America.
Though Wright was not on the winning squad, his performance in Las Vegas stood out, and he was one of three athletes selected as reserves to the team that will travel to London at the end of the month.
The sport of rugby is a bit of a different animal, Candler said, but its popularity in the area has grown by leaps and bounds over the years.
“We’ve expanded from a club of 20 people to 100 people,” he said. “It’s entirely different from your mainstream sports. Our sport brings kids closer through the physicality of it and the bond that’s created from going through the learning process of a sport they probably didn’t know before.”
That physicality is what attracted him to the sport five years ago, said Wright, who also played football for Liberty. Rugby, similar to football, has been a useful outlet to relieve stress and clear his mind of distractions.
Wright’s favorite part of the sport, though, is the relationships he has cultivated with both his teammates and competitors.
“The camaraderie in this sport is amazing,” he said. “I consider them all as part of my family, my rugby brothers. I just wouldn’t trade it for anything.”