AIC’s Men Look Forward to their CRC Debut - Collegiate Rugby Championship
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AIC’s Men Look Forward to their CRC Debut

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – May 1, 2017 – This June, western Massachusetts’ American International College (AIC) men’s rugby team will be making its first appearance in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. The team has come close to entry before through the Las Vegas Invitational CRC Bracket; last year, they lost to Utah in the semifinals and two years ago in the final against Arkansas State.

“My goal all season was to get us over the hump and into the CRC. We’ve been trying for the past three years,” said AIC’s Rob Guiry, who is in his first year with the team as Head Coach. “So, I like to think that I’m doing something right.”

However, their ticket to Philadelphia this June didn’t end up coming from the Las Vegas event but rather a different qualifier, the Heart of American Rugby Classic. In this Kansas City-based tournament the team came out on top defeating Ohio 28-0 in the final. It was quite an accomplishment as many other teams were in the Classic: Arkansas, Davenport, Iowa State, Kansas State, Lindenwood, Lindenwood-Belleville, Louisville, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Texas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

The 30-35 player squad has had some serious success recently. After moving to the USA Rugby Division I four years ago, AIC has won the East Coast Rugby Conference 15s division for the last three consecutive years. In 2015, the digital publication This is American Rugby named AIC the 2015 Men’s College Team of the Year. This brought the team so much attention that the local government in the college’s location, the city of Springfield, named January 28 as AIC Men’s Rugby Day.

“When I first got here it was an up and coming program but now, two and a half years later, we are one of the top teams in the country, building from the ground up. The year before I got here we were 9-1 and we had a lot of freshmen starters. Those freshmen are seniors now; we’ve won back-to-back-to-back conference championships,” said AIC junior Jihad Khabir.

Although it will be AIC’s first time at the CRC, the team does have some significantly experienced rugby players. Khabir went to the CRC three times as a high school student; he even won the 2012 boys division as a member of the Washington D.C.-based club Pride Rugby. His high school rugby performance garnered the attention of AIC and he was given a rugby scholarship.

At AIC Khabir is pursuing a career in Criminal Justice, with a specific focus on Youth Probation and hopes to change where he grew up and calls it a “bad crime area,” Atlantic City, New Jersey. Khabir credits his time playing collegiate rugby as a large influence on his future.

“At AIC we have a very mixed team- people from a lot of different backgrounds. So just being around the guys on a day-to-day basis they have to adapt our culture and adapt our lifestyle and just kind of see things from our perspective and lens. Once you do that it opens up you to the world and to a lot of things.”

The Yellow Jackets will end school on May 10 and have three weeks until they head down to Philadelphia. The men will remain in the dorms and have two training sessions a day with an additional emphasis on team bonding. Coach Guiry hopes to get some fan buses scheduled and have a large AIC contingency attend the CRC.

Note: The Yellow Jacket’s women’s team debuted three years earlier and took third place in the 2014 women’s bracket.

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