LAFAYETE, Colo. – The 44th annual Jackalope Rugby Tournament took place Saturday, Sept. 10, in Laramie, Wyo., and featured eight sides between four D1A West Conference programs.
The yearly jamboree has served as an essential tool for West Conference teams preparing for their upcoming fall campaigns. This season, Colorado State’s A-side took first place after finishing the day a perfect 3-0.
The University of Colorado supplied three separate teams, while Colorado State and the host, Wyoming, fielded two sides and West’s newly-minted Utah State brought one team to Jackalope.
All four programs displayed both rust and moments of excellence, but Colorado State was the sharpest team on the day. Playing 20-minute halves, the Rams opened with a 21-5 victory over Utah State before putting together its best 40 minutes of the day in a convincing, 45-5, handling of Wyoming. In its third and final game, Colorado State took down the Buffaloes, 15-5.
“Everyone had a great day and everyone contributed,” said Colorado State coach Rod Hartley. “We started a little rusty as to be expected, but we are developing a few new concepts to the team that we have not run in a live situation. So, the tournament was invaluable to us.”
The Rams received an especially dominant performance within their tight five forwards. Loose head prop Jaron Beerline, who will captain Colorado State this fall, was great in the scrums and around the rucks, while the tight head, Hank Bennett, carried the ball with a purpose. In the lineout, Daniel Prochoda had a few dominant shifts from the second row.
A newcomer to the Rams’ back line might have been the team’s best overall performer. Joel Conzelmann, who was an All-Conference performer while at Michigan, has transferred to Colorado State and is now wearing the No. 10 jumper for the Rams.
“He was multifaceted on attack with divisive runs and line breaks, but with a natural kicking game that set up multiple attacking opportunities for the team,” complemented Hartley. “He was also outstanding on defense and really set the tone for the whole team with his work ethic and energy on both sides of the ball.”
Ben Pinkelman, who is back on the Colorado State campus finishing his degree this semester, will not be suiting up in the green and gold this fall. The Team USA Olympian and Colorado State flanker is scheduled to have surgery on his shoulder later this month.
Following an inconsistent 2015 season, the Rams coaching staff points to the team’s commitment during the offseason when reflecting on its successful performances at Jackalope.
“We have been more organized this past summer with a strength and conditioning program that a majority of the team participated in,” Harley said.
“From a coaching point of view we have a great bunch of men who are very fun to be around and who work very hard on and off the pitch. But like with any team, we have things we want to do better and we look forward to improving as the season progresses.”