Shenango Valley native Matt Holsopple continues to make his mark in the growing sport of rugby – which is on the verge of going major league. Based on a recent all-star match, Holsopple has been selected for the Capital (Rugby Union) Selects, who will visit the Houston SaberCats on Feb. 3.
Professional rugby will debut this season as Major League Rugby. According to Holsopple, 10 of MLR’s matches will be televised this season by CBS Sports.
Holsopple is a 2002 graduate of Sharpsville High where he participated in football, wrestling and track and field. He went to West Virginia University, where he wrestled, and graduated in 2007.
In a recent e-mail, Holsopple wrote, “Rugby has had a professional presence in the past (2016) with financial trouble and ownership issues. We, as players and teams, are hoping to grow the sport and get young players involved to allow the professional level of play to take off and prosper right here in the USA.
“In the past, top-level players have had to travel overseas to join a pro level team,” he noted.
Recently, the 6-foot-2, 235-pound Holsopple – a member of the Norfolk (Virginia) City Blues of the Mid-Atlantic Conference, was selected to compete for the 23-man Capital Selects in an all-star match Jan. 20 against the New Orleans Gold. According to American Rugby News, there will be 10 mid-Atlantic clubs competing, and this will be the first of a trio of matches for the touring Capital Selects (also, Jan. 27 against Stars Rugby, then Feb. 3 in Houston against the SaberCats).
Holsopple earned a berth on the Capital Selects based on a tryout camp that comprised 50-plus players, representing 7 states, from the MAC Rugby Union. Two 23-player teams were chosen for an all-star match. Holsopple scored a “try” in the opening 10 minutes of the 2nd half in an eventual 52-28 win over the USA South Panthers.
The Capital Selects touring squad will include forwards Holsopple, as well as Evan Harkum, Doc Irey, Kevin Jackson, Zack Jessell, Adam Floyd, Guy Lopresti, Tyler Barberi, Calvin Storey, Zach Schell, Vili Siale, Alex Diegel, Josh Brown and Mike Fletcher. The backs will be Eric Sweeney, Sean Hartig, Jake Humphrey, Campbell Johnstone, Brian Mulloy, C.J. Burnes, D’Montae Noble, Nick Kuhl, and Ted Sheedy.
Jessell, Schell, Siale, and Sheedy represent a Pittsburgh-based club.
Capital Selects Head Coach Chuck Moore will be assisted by Jeremy Frayne and Jon Grasso, with Roland Pratt serving as manager.