Tritons prepare to defy the odds

Tritons prepare to defy the odds

The Iowa Central rugby team will get their chance to compete in the USA Rugby Fall College Playoffs.

The Tritons will take on Virginia Tech in the D1AA quarterfinals in Greenville, N.C. on November 23. The match begins at 1 p.m. ET.

Recently, officials moved Brent Nelson's program up a division midway through the season. 

"We will compete anywhere teams want to play us," Nelson said. "Our kids were recruited here to play some of the best teams in the country. Last year we fell short of a D2 national championship and we wanted the opportunity to compete against other small schools for that championship."

Iowa Central won its first three games 207-12 over Wisconsin, Iowa State and Lindenwood-Belleville. That prompted the College Management Council to move them into a new division. 

"It's a weird predicament," Nelson said. "On one hand we want to be in a division where we fit as far as enrollment, support, resources and competitive level of play are concerned. Week in, week out we probably don't belong in D2. However, the teams we would play in the playoffs are right in our wheelhouse. Our intention was to battle it out for a national championship in D2 while playing an independent regular season schedule."

The Tritons were left competing for an at-large spot into the playoffs, which they received. 

"I was nervous about our bid. I knew there were six or seven really good teams vying for four spots across the country," Nelson said. "However, we put together a nice resume with some terrific wins and even a couple of 'good' losses. I give our kids credit. They went and played their guts out this year. Even when we lost, we learned. We've had some significant injuries but some of those guys are back to health and I'm excited to see what we can do.

"I whole heartedly disagreed with moving us after the season started but it happened. It made no sense other than politics. The boys left the politics to me and just went out and played. Coach Mizell kept the team thinking about rugby and that helped. Also Coach Twait really shined for us. He helped me champion our cause and fought with me tooth and nail. Although we lost the appeal, Coach was so supportive throughout the whole ordeal and that meant a lot.

"It goes to show why Iowa Central has the best athletic department in the country. At the end of the day, we're in the playoffs and we're going to make the most of it. We've always said we'll play the best teams in the's just a slightly bigger stage now."