Accomplished Penn Mutual CRC Athlete Aims for the National Team - Collegiate Rugby Championship
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Accomplished Penn Mutual CRC Athlete Aims for the National Team

Chris Mattina’s list of rugby accomplishments seem endless, but despite international tours and a high school national championship he considers his 2016 win in the Philadelphia Challenge Championship bracket his most meaningful one. Now a year out of school he is continuing his participation in the sport hoping to attract the attention of the Eagles, the United States men’s national rugby union team.

“I’m trying to go as far as I possibly can with it. For now, there’s just getting better. Just improving my game, my fitness, my skills and all of those things so that if I have that opportunity again that I’m ready,” said Mattina. “I see the growth just from working with Rhino [Rugby apparel] and United World Sports and how people can fall in love with the game. So it’s definitely an exciting time.”

As a kid Mattina played basketball, soccer and football but never thought about rugby until he attended Xavier High School, a New York City-based Jesuit school. However, the sport wasn’t completely unfamiliar to him as his father had played as an undergraduate with the University of Pennsylvania’s team and an adult with Philadelphia Whitemarsh Rugby Football Club and the Manhattan Rugby Football Club until he was 40-years-old.

At first Chris was hesitant about attending Xavier due to its dress code and all boy’s status, but was heavily interested in its football program and found it increasingly difficult to find a solid program in any public schools in Manhattan. After playing his first season of football his coaches encouraged him to try out for rugby in the off season and recalls in his words, “falling in love with it.”

As a Xavier Knight Mattina played rugby for four years and his junior year the team won the 2010 High School National Champions. Chris was named Most Valuable Player of the game where he scored two trys against Gonzaga College High School.

After graduating he went on to attend the University of Delaware where he played in the CRC his freshmen and sophomore year. Unfortunately, during his junior year, the team underwent some disciplinary issues and was disbanded his junior and senior year.

But as the team captain he worked with the Athletic Director and Dean of students almost every other month, trying to figure out the appeal the team would ask for from the school. In the end things worked out and Chris stayed for a fifth year on campus and the team was reinstated. Despite two years without rugby, last year the Delaware Blue Hens won the city cup at the CRC.

“That spring 7s the CRC was a culmination of all the hard work that we did to get back on campus and rebuild the program. The reason for staying and all that stuff were really justified through that. It was really emotional for all of us, but especially for me being there and seeing it from when it was pretty much dead to: Now we’re back in the CRC. That was something that was really big for me,” said Mattina.

Since graduation last May Chris has continued to focus on rugby playing with the New York Athletic Club. This past January he was selected to play with the USA Falcons, a development team for the Eagles. He went on tour with them to Uruguay and Chile over two weeks. Unfortunately, Mattina pulled his hamstring and couldn’t play to the best of his ability.

“But the overall experience, the coaching and playing with or against players of that caliber was really good for me. I learned so much from it,” explained Mattina. “I love that part of it: How rugby takes you to places you never really imagined you’d go to. I’ll probably never again go back to Uruguay or Chile but rugby brought me there. I definitely enjoy that part of it and getting to see different cultures and different countries is pretty awesome.”

Now when Chris isn’t playing rugby he can be found coaching for Xavier, working in apparel sales for Rhino Rugby or working as a physical therapy aid. He knows he wants to be involved with sports professionally possibly longterm as a therapist or in athletic management but he’s hoping to be a paid athlete.

“Rugby in the United States- having to work jobs and not being able to play for professional clubs is definitely difficult,” said Mattina. “It is a lot but I’m just taking it one thing at a time. The hardest thing is managing your time but you have to do it at some point- you have to be a real person.”

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