History of rugby at the University of Oklahoma
The OU Rugby Football Club was established in 1974 by Tim “Tarzan” Wilson, Jon Woods both law students and Al Velie professor in the English Department.
Tarzan and Woodies were first year law students from diverse backgrounds. Tarzan was a Special Forces Marine back from Viet Nam where he discovered rugby on the Washington D.C. Mall. Woodies played rugby for perennial Ivy League power Dartmouth. They met at a Legal Eagles flag football team practice. Finding the manliness lacking in law student flag football and the lack of a rugby team at OU, they decided they needed to form one. Rumors of a rugby playing Wildman in the English department led the lads to Al who was both a Marine and an Ivy Leaguer from Harvard.
The first match was played at the Girdlestone Tournament in Ft. Sill and the first home game was against the Albuquerque Aardvarks. The inaugural squad was comprised of students from all across campus and became an instant hit. Many football players like All-American and NFL star Joe Washington and George Davis, Steve’s brother played. Many of the 1974 team are still involved with the team, Al Velie is the faculty sponsor, Tarzan coaches the high school team, Larry Naifeh remains involved from his post in the Athletic Department and many others are regularly seen on the sidelines.
Gary Tresemer was labeled as OU’s best player in the early days. GT was followed by brothers Steve, Jimbo and All-American David. GT married OU Women’s (Roses) Mikey Kinkaed who brought out her brother Mark. In the early years, OU competed in the Big Eight Tournament. Jon Woods captained and played number 8, Al was scrum half and Tarzan was fly-half. Bob the Blob Watters, Andre Gibson, KB, Mark McCullough and Richard “Goat” Ramsey were all fixtures on the team
Michelle Corr founded the Oklahoma Roses in 1976. Major contributors of the Roses were Dina Telley, Mikey Kinkaed Tresemer, Sue Bryant, Jeanie Tashuda, Missy Lovett and Lisa Raines.
The next phase for OU was in 1977, when it brought on its first coach, Kieren “Muckabout” Malloy from Wales. Muckabout is most recognized for introducing us to touch rugby, which he called Silly Booger as a coaching tool. OU took to booger playing it anytime, anywhere, against anybody. OU developed better ball skills and a fast paced style that set it apart from most teams in the Western US. It also launched numerous Oklahoma players into the highest levels of the game. The first US National Team player was Drew Allen.
The early and mid-eightees were a golden age for Oklahoma Rugby. Larry Naifeh captained most of these squads, including a calendar year of undefeated rugby in 1983-1984. OU wins a club record five straight tournaments: Girdlestone, (Ft. Sill), High Dirt (Albuquerque), Little Rock, Austin and Mardi Gras. Oklahoma loses to eventual National Champion Dallas Harlequins in the Western US finals(final eight.) The Quins boasted the world’s top rugby player Naas Botha, one of four international team players on a squad in which 14 of 15 were not Americans.
During the 80’s OU Rugby was the recipient of a number of varsity athletes including football’s Rev. Jim Jones, track’s Larry Sims and wrestling’s Frank DeAngelis and Bryan Evans. OU produced numerous All-Americans in this era: Doug Neubauer, AJ Rengers, Gordon Raitt, David Raitt, Michael De Jong, Jon Velie, David Tresemer and David Millington. OU also produced US National Team “Eagles” David Jenkinson, Michael De Jong, Tony Ridnell and Jim Jones. Larry Naifeh captained the Western US and was assistant coach of the All-American squad. Numerous OU players tour internationally with the West, Frank DeAngelis, Drew Allen, Tarzan Wilson and Larry Naifeh.
OU finished in the Western US finals (Final 8) in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986.
1986 was significant for two reasons one: OU’s first international fifteen tour to the Bahamas and a mass exodus because of the oil bust. OU players became major contributors on other squads. Jon Velie won the 1988 National Collegiate Championship at the University of California Berkeley while notching three All-American nods. Michael DeJong, David Tresemer, Jim “Penrod” Pagliai, Tom Sitzman, Tony Wells won the 1991 National Club Championship with the Denver Barbarians, Doug Neubauer helped the Dallas Harlequins reach the Final Four against Bill Ogilvie and Yancey Redcorn’s Potomac Athetic Club.
The rebirth of OU came in 1988 with an infusion of players hailing from Jenks High School, Football captain John “Hoss” Lynd, Dewayne “Twanger” Williamson and Greg “Wood” Goodyear. OU was back to a top ten collegiate team just missing the final four with a loss to Air Force in overtime in 1990. Hoss, Masa Nozaki and Pete Palermo win All-American honors during the early nineties while Greg Goodyear and Kelly Meek made the US National Team sevens pool. Jon Velie played sevens for international sevens team Atlantis in Spain. David Rockett, David Raitt and Jon Velie play on the Larry Naifeh coached Western US National All-Star Championship squad. Michael De Jong is the face of the United States National Team for the 1991 World Cup. John Lynd, Dewayne Williamson, Jon Velie, Pete Palermo and Mike De Jong tour with Larry Naifeh coached West team to New Zealand. 1993 marks the end of OU’s winning streak spanning 19 years and more than 50 games against Oklahoma City. After the loss OKC stars Steve Boozer and Bruce Migliaccio along with Tulsa’s Dax Junker join OU. OU competes in short lived Major League Rugby.
The Roses restart after short hiatus behind the work of Dana Campbell and Debra. Kary Kemp, Jessica Corbett, Linda Stumpff contribute to Coach Karl Stumpff’s squad. Moira Redcorn and Sally Ahlert make the Women’s National Team as well as touring with Atlantis.
Late 90’s see quality play by Brandon Ferris, Dax Junker and foreign talent like New Zealand’s Phil Corbett and DeWayne Davis who captained Hong Kong’s National Team, as well Fiji National Team winger Levi Tamiavena and South African provincial all-stars Rodney Johnson and Wayne Els. Jon Velie wins Gold Medal with USA in World Maccabiah Games in 1997. Boozer, Migliaccio, Els and Ferris play for National Champion sevens contender Elvis at the Opry. Kelly Meek and Dewayne Davis play in short lived professional World Arena Rugby (WAR). Meek played for Dallas against Davis for LA in inaugural WAR match in Dallas’ Reunion Arena.
USA Rugby Super League is formed, OU alums Hoss plays for Dallas, Ogilvie for PAC, Palermo and Meek for Denver.
The late nineties saw the movement of youth rugby. Tyson Meek is named OU’s first High School All American in 1998 and later establishes the Colts the spring of 1999 during his senior year of high school before attending TCU to play football.
The fall of 1999 launches the latest phase with a refocus on the collegiate program. Jon Velie and LeRoy Lake are the original coaches. Over the next seven years Velie assembles a staff including Larry Naifeh, Kenneth Forehand and Jeremy “Dozer” Allen. The Sooners go from humble beginnings behind Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Texas to winning streaks of 8 straight against OSU and seven straight against Texas. International recruiting brought in Richard Knowles, Marius Weber and Moner Van der Gehrden from South Africa and Nick Anderson from Australia while nationwide recruiting efforts brought Sione Falau, a High School All-American and football recruit from Sacramento, High School All-American Matt Upton from Dallas (Jesuit) and Eric Meyers from high school national championship contender Kansas City Blues to Norman. The Norman Colts provided OU with HS All-American Travis Gatewood and the Tulsa high school programs produce key contributors Roger Gassett, Merritt Johnson, Luke Turner, Spencer Scott, Ryan Nichols. OU wins the Big Twelve Rugby Tournament four times and the Rugby Bowl Championship over LSU in 2003. In 2004 OU captain Tyson Meek plays for the USA 7s team during his senior year at Oklahoma playing in the IRB World Series of 7s in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the first USA 7s tournament before being named an All-American. Meek played for the USA Eagles in 2006 and became OU’s first professional rugby player with stints in England (Nottingham) and Spain (Benidorm).
The Sooners top year under Velie was 2005 when it finished 19-1, including an undefeated tour to England beating Oxford’s Magdelin College 44-0 and Park House 72-10 losing only to Air Force who it beat earlier in the year at Aspen Ruggerfest.
OU grads from this team went on to big things with Johnson, Scott and Nichols winning both sevens and fifteens National Championships with The Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Football Club. Johnson and Scott both have stints as Captain of The Gentlemen of Aspen. Gassett, Turner, and WC Grenandt led Tulsa RFC to a USA Rugby Divison II Final Four appearance.
Kenneth Forehand’s coaching era begins in 2006 along with freshman Taylor Mokate who enters OU after winning the annual USA Rugby Foundation Scholarship to the International Academy of New Zealand. Mokate is named All-American in 2010 tour to England and is named Man of the Match against Richmond RFC. OU is selected to inaugural Collegiate Premier League in 2011. Tyson Meek joins Forehand on the coaching staff upon his return to Norman for law school. Fellow law student Eric Meyers also joins the staff as a forwards coach.