Club rugby prepares for championships

Kristin Otto

When Noah Villalobos began his career at UT, his passion for rugby — a sport that had been inaccessible to him before coming to Texas — inspired him to seek out the UT Rugby team. Three years later, Villalobos, now president of Texas Rugby, is on a quest to find the most elite athletes on the UT campus to potentially join and play with the current Longhorn team in the 2012 Collegiate Rugby Championship, which will be a nationally televised event in June.

Facing the challenge of identifying UT’s premier athletes, Villalobos turned to the trainers at RedBlack Gym, Texas Rugby’s athletic partners, for guidance. As a result, they created a CrossFit-style combine.

CrossFit involves “Olympic movement combined with intense workouts, fast intervals [and] very little recovery time,” Villalobos explained. In other words, the combine will not be an average-Joe workout.

Drawing from his knowledge of CrossFit workout methods, Michael Winchester, a Texas Rugby trainer at RedBlack Gym and CrossFit Central, has played a pivotal role in constructing the combine.

“It’s eight strength or conditioning tests and two rugby-specific tests,” Winchester said. “We will be testing fitness across lots of different mediums; we’re going to test explosiveness, power, speed, reaction time, strength and metabolic conditioning.”

Each workout has a measurement attribute and the data collected will eventually determine the top-scoring athlete. Winchester and his associates at RedBlack Gym are confident that the specific tests that have been chosen for the combine and the order in which they have been arranged will present the ultimate athletic challenge. Furthermore, they hope that the CrossFit combine will accurately distinguish the most elite athletes.

Last week, Villalobos manned the area of 21st and Speedway — strategically located adjacent to Gregory Gym — and approached the most athletic-looking, male students he saw. Then, he pitched them the idea of competing in the combine. Villalobos walked away satisfied, with a list of 30 committed Longhorn men whom he believes have the potential not only to aid Texas, but more significantly, to be key factors in leading the Longhorns to the Collegiate Rugby Championship title.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, 30 Longhorns will make an appearance at Caven Lacrosse and Sport Center at Clark Field to compete in the Texas Rugby CrossFit Combine. These men will go head-to-head in a series of physically grueling and mentally strenuous tests.

Following the combine, the observers as well as the participating athletes will watch the Texas Rugby team play in its annual face-off against A&M at 3 p.m. However, at the end of the day, only one of these 30 men’s fantasies of displaying his athleticism on national television will become a very probable reality. Only one man will be dubbed UT’s most elite athlete.

Printed on Friday, January 27, 2012 as: Rugby team looks to championships