2013-07-12 / Sports

Ruggers will be ruggers

Idea for local rugby club proves to be a big hit
By Gilberto Manzano


COLLISION COURSE—Ryan Pelagalli, center, of Camarillo passes the ball as Josh Martinez, left, of Oxnard and Shawn Love of Thousand Oaks play defense during a recent practice for the Ventura County Rugby Club at Walnut Grove Park in Thousand Oaks. 
Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers COLLISION COURSE—Ryan Pelagalli, center, of Camarillo passes the ball as Josh Martinez, left, of Oxnard and Shawn Love of Thousand Oaks play defense during a recent practice for the Ventura County Rugby Club at Walnut Grove Park in Thousand Oaks. Photos by MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Shawn Love wanted to continue playing rugby after college, and the only way to do that was by forming a club team.

Love, who competed on a rugby club at Arizona State University, returned to Thousand Oaks in 2009 and started the Ventura County Men’s Rugby Club.

Finding players to join the club was the easy part. Love had 70 people participate on the first day of tryouts.

“I knew people out (in Ventura County) would be curious about the sport,” said Love, 28, who played football and basketball at Thousand Oaks High School. “I wasn’t worried about getting people to play. I was a bit worried about being a competitive team.


CAN’T CATCH HIM—Diego Medina of Simi Valley runs the ball downfield during a Ventura County Rugby Club practice. CAN’T CATCH HIM—Diego Medina of Simi Valley runs the ball downfield during a Ventura County Rugby Club practice. “We had immediate success. We had a lot of new players to the sport, but they caught on quickly, and most of them were very athletic.”

The Thousand Oaks-based team, nicknamed the Outlaws, has become one of the top rugby squads in the Southern California Rugby Football Union.

The Outlaws started competing in the Division IV level and have already moved up to Division II.

In four seasons of existence, the Outlaws have had two undefeated regular seasons and advanced to the playoffs every year.

“There’s a lot of great ruggers in the county,” said Danny Benjamin, 52, president of the men’s club. “We have guys that have been playing since they were small. Some of them have been taught by their parents who used to play.”

Nick Dettorre, a 25-year-old Moorpark resident, first played rugby when he was in high school and a member of the Orca Youth Rugby club in Camarillo.

Dettorre grew up with the sport since his father, Scott, suited up for the rugby club team in San Fernando Valley.

Scott Dettorre was featured in a Wheaties commercial as a rugby player in the early 1980s.

“I guess they thought my dad fit the perfect description of a rugby player,” said Nick Dettorre, who played football at Moorpark High. “He had a handlebar mustache, eating Wheaties with his rugby uniform on.”

Ruben Morgan has been a teammate of Dettorre’s since their days on the Orcas and now as Outlaws.

Morgan, 25, wasn’t tall enough to play basketball or big enough to be a football player.

He’s perfect for rugby.

“If you know how to tackle and you like to get into scrums, then rugby is the right sport for you,” said Morgan, a graduate of Camarillo High. “Rugby started out as a way of getting in shape for football. Now rugby is my favorite sport.”

The Orca youth team, which has players from Camarillo, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks, has a partnership with the Outlaws.

The Ventura County Rugby Club also formed a women’s team, the Lady Outlaws.

Both squads recruit heavily in the county.

Christian Galvan has wanted to suit up for the Outlaws since his sophomore year at Camarillo High.

“I’ve been watching the Outlaws play for about three years,” said Galvan, 19, a former Orca and first-year player on the Outlaws. “I couldn’t wait to go up against guys who are athletic and very strong. They play on a different level.”

Galvan, a flanker, was the youngest starter on the Outlaws this past season. Galvan started the rugby club at Moorpark College.

The Outlaws recruit many players from the Cal Lutheran rugby club.

Steven Oster, 22, played four seasons as a hooker at CLU and will suit up for the Outlaws next season.

Oster attended the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand while studying abroad in 2011.

“I was exposed to the highest level of rugby,” said Oster, a TOHS graduate. “Rugby isn’t popular in the U.S., but I think it’s catching on.

“All the guys on the Outlaws know the game well. They’re very skilled. At CLU, it’s more of a street ball style of rugby.”

The Outlaws have players from age 18 to mid-40s.

Michael Linzey, a 40-yearold Oak Park resident, has played three seasons with the Outlaws.

“I can’t keep up with these guys, so I have to be smart,” said Linzey, who used to tussle with the UC Berkeley rugby club team back in his heyday. “I have the experience factor in my favor. These guys keep me young.

“I play a lot of country club sports like tennis and golf. I need to get dirty and physical sometimes, and rugby does that for me.”

But rugby isn’t for everybody.

Diego Medina and a few of his Westlake High football buddies joined the Outlaws last season. Medina was the only one that didn’t drop out.

Medina, a Simi Valley native, held his own despite standing at 160 pounds.

“It’s a very physical game, but my speed helped,” said Medina, 18, a former wide receiver for the Warriors. “I’m glad I joined the Outlaws. I enjoy playing rugby. Hopefully the team and the sport continue to grow.”

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