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Meet the Men of Penn State Rugby

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"I started playing rugby when I was 8 years old in England," says freshman center Luke O'Malley. "I like playing rugby, because it is such a fun game; it is a very skill-based game with lots of contact, which is a good mix. The most satisfying part about playing comes when you're running over some kid when you have the ball in hand..." 

"Rugby has made me a much more humbled person," he continues. "It's one of the most team-dependent sports there is, and if you want to win, you need to work as a team, and everyone needs to play their part. It's also such a polite game despite the level of contact involved."

His advice? "I would tell people to get into rugby young, because you can connect a lot of things in life to rugby and it helps to build character and good habits. It teaches you how to take tough defeats and tough hits, and that those things are bound to happen, but when they do happen, you need to get up and continue with everything and make an adjustment to fix it."

Senior 8-man Rob Irimescu is on the other end of the rugby club experience, wrapping up his last undergraduate year with Penn State, before moving on to obtain his Master's degree, allowing him to enjoy three more semesters of collegiate rugby. He began playing his freshman year of high school at Xavier High, and has been playing for eight years. He says his father played in Romania for many years, and was "an outstanding player."

"He had a chance of playing on the National Team, but unfortunately severely injured his knee. He encouraged me to play when I was younger and I attribute all of my success to him," Irimescu says.

As to his own experience, he notes "I enjoy the endless amount of things that you can do on the field in rugby. I like to do as many different things as possible and that is what drives me in the sport. In 15s, I can run, tackle, ruck, throw in line outs, jump up for balls, counter attack, pass in the back line, scrummy pass, 8man pick and many more things. It is a sport where you can do everything, regardless of your position, and I love it."

Irimescu says rugby has taught him discipline and communication and leadership skills. "In rugby, all 15 (or seven) people have to be on the same page, or else everything will fall apart. Rugby has helped me to be a leader off the field."

He encourages other young men to explore rugby as an option, as it gives you skills you wouldn't learn inside the classroom, and a sense of brotherhood among teammates. "You cannot learn how to succeed against adversity in school or communicate the way you do on the pitch. And nothing will bring you closer to someone, than battling with your brothers on the field for 80 minutes."

For sophomore flanker Joey Freeman, rugby has been a huge part of his life for nine years, and a big reason for that is the friendships he's made through the sport. "I enjoy playing rugby because of the relationships you build with your teammates, for they will stay with you forever. Most of my best friends in life are current or past teammates," he says.

He also describes how rugby has taught him discipline and time management. "Rugby has made me a very disciplined individual, and very efficient with my time...managing your practice schedule and academic schedule gets tough. I encourage all young men to play rugby if they have a good work rate and a positive mindset. This game can be played by men of all shapes and sizes, but in order to be successful, you have to be willing to adjust to change and criticism positively."

After college, Freeman hopes to continue playing rugby at a high level, and is also exploring the world of business.