Chico State Men’s Rugby Club fights for national title


Team chemistry and bonds formed through countless games together made the Chico men’s rugby team the brothers they are now. Photo credit: Olyvia Simpson

Chico State’s Men’s Rugby Club has done what no other alumni group has in Chico State history by securing their spot in the USA Rugby national playoff game.

They will represent the Pacific Western Rugby Conference and face off against last year’s champions, Dartmouth University, on Saturday, May 4, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We have been training for the same goal the last 10 months, that’s to make it to nationals and see that hard work start to pay off,” said Matthew Mulholland, No. 8 on the team.

Mulholland and the rest of the team came into the season eager to prove the capabilities of the team which had fallen short in the previous season. But this 180-degree turn comes thanks to the sacrifices and dedication of each individual on the team.

“It’s been a steady progression of working hard. Up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week, every week, and here we are,” said vice-captain Anton Holm.

Isaac Raichart referred to this season as a perfect storm, since much of the team had been together for multiple seasons. With the team environment at an all-time high for the club, it only helped the team’s performance as the season unfolded.

“I feel like there’s been a lot of growth that we have come through over the last year or so,” Jake Parker said, “I think the growth is what I really cherish.”

The team has always had a strong defense, but what set them apart was the consistency that they showed all season. They held a 7-0-1 record, with a 306 point differential and 37 points in their conference.

Yet, the strongest part of the team is not defense, offense, scrums or kicks. It’s the chemistry and brotherhood the team has forged from years of fighting together for the club’s success.

“It’s more family than pretty much anything else I’ve experienced throughout my life,” Raichart said.

This year marked the second of back-to-back Pac-West Conference championships. The club, however, had dozens of seasons with no national title appearances. They worked hard to change that narrative this season.

Before they jumped into playoff weekend, the Wildcats were at the top of their league and were looking to keep their season alive in their elite-8 game against Kansas University. They followed that 24-7 victory with a narrow 24-22 win over the team who ended their season last season Cal State Long Beach.

“An undefeated season and a playoff run this deep is something you have to absolutely earn, it’s not something you can just coast off of,” Mulholland said.

After an unprecedented weekend for Chico State rugby, the team was ready to fly out to North Carolina but news that they would receive no school funding made them worry about their ability to go.

The Assembly Bill 1887, which bans state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states that have laws which allow discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

North Carolina is a restricted state because it has laws that do not allow gender-neutral restrooms.

“While I appreciate the theory behind California’s legislation, it’s lost us $15,000,” Holm said.

The team reacted quickly, spreading the word onto social media and started a fundraising page through the university. Since it is all donation-based and not state-funded, the team is not restricted from using the money.

With 277 donors, the rugby team as of Monday morning has raised $42,674 needed out of their goal of $30,000 to cover the cost of the out-of-state trip. All the funds will go to the team for traveling expenses, hotels, food, etc.

As the team continues to fight through their financial obstacles, they are confident that they will get to nationals one way or another for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I’ve never had a chance to lift a trophy above my head like this and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a dream come true,” Mulholland said.

Lucero Del Rayo-Nava can be reached at [email protected] or @del_rayo98 on Twitter.