By John Groalski
Rugby coaches humored Rachel Wrinn when she approached them in the spring of her sophomore year. Wrinn wanted to add a girls team to the burgeoning boys program, and coaches agreed to consider it if she could round up any interest. They had no idea the fire that they had lit.
When Wrinn burst through the doors of the preseason meeting, she was leading a small army of Lady Knights. Coaches were left scrambling to meet the sudden surge of interest. At the time, there were just a handful of fledgling programs in high schools throughout the northeast, but Wrinn had single-handedly assembled another one.
Wrinn became the face of the Lady Knights. For three years she led the offense and anchored the defense. She set records. She broke boundaries, and on Thursday, May 9 she raised the bar even further as the first Southington High School player to sign a college letter of intent.
Lady Knight coach Chris Carvalho is no longer surprised by his star player. He’s come to expect it at every turn.
“There isn’t anything that I’ve seen from her that makes me cautious,” said the coach. “She’s ready, but it’s going to be a completely different arena. She’s going to be playing against other Rachel Wrinns. It’s going to be way more competitive, but I think she’s going to be ready. She’s a competitor.”
For three years, Wrinn has been a captain for the Lady Knights. She holds records for most tries scored in a game, most tries scored in a season, and a host of defensive marks. She has the control of a gymnast, the power of a football player, and the heart of a lion. That’s what drew attention from the coaching staff at Quinnipiac University.
They liked the way that she could interact on both the defense and offensive ends. She could handle a team. She was a leader, and she was hard to stop. This year, Quinnipiac claimed a third place finish in the national championship. Once again, Wrinn will be called upon to raise the bar.
“It’s a little surreal. If you told me three years ago that I would be going off to play rugby in college, I would have said you were crazy, but it’s pretty funny to think that I’m here today,” she said. “I think it won’t hit me until I step on the field for preseason, but just thinking about it has me ready to go.”
Wrinn said that the choice was an easy one for her. After all, there are only a handful of college program in the northeast. In addition, Quinnipiac University will offer her a chance to study a course in physical therapy, but it’s the rugby that really drew her in.
Carvalho said that Wrinn could work herself into the rotation right away, and said that Quinnipiac coaches liked her instantly for her abilities on the field.
“She’s a natural rugby player. She’s everything that you would look for in a perfect rugby player,” he said. “She has the skill. She’s got the physical prowess. She’s defensive-minded in a lot of ways, but she’s also a student of the game. She learns on the fly really well, and that’s really important.”
As for Wrinn, she hopes that her signing will inspire the next class of athletes to build upon what she started. With her pen still clenched in her hand, she made a final pitch to make rugby into a varsity sport. She said that she hopes that her singing will swing the spotlight toward the up-and-coming sport.
“A lot of kids still ask me what’s rugby,” she said. “They say it’s not even a sport at the high school. It doesn’t count or isn’t real. It’s completely real, and I definitely think this will boost the program and get a lot of people looking to see what it’s all about.”
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