The early and mid-eighties were a golden age for Oklahoma Rugby. Larry Naifeh captained most of these squads, including a calendar year of undefeated rugby in 1983-1984. During that time OU won a club record five straight tournaments: Girdlestone, (Ft. Sill Lawton, OK), High Dirt (Albuquerque, NM), Little Rock, AR, Austin, TX, and Mardi Gras (new Orleans, LA). Oklahoma loses to eventual National Champion Dallas Harlequins in the round of eight in the Western US finals. 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 “Reverand” Jim Jones, track’s Larry Sims and wrestling’s
American Matt Upton from Jesuit H (Dallas, TX) and Eric Meyers (Kansas City Blues). Meyers’s team was a high school national championship contender. 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. These talents helped OU win the Big Twelve Rugby Tournament four times and the Rugby Bowl Championship over LSU in 2003.
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. Later that year OU had its only loss of the year to Air Force who they had previously beat earlier in the year at Ruggerfest (Aspen, CO).
The Ruggerfest experience was impactful for the team and upon graduation Johnson, Scott and Nichols joined the Gentleman of Aspen where they won both sevens and fifteens National Championships. Johnson and Scott both have stints as Captain in Aspen. Meanwhile other players from the 2005 team Gassett, Turner, and WC Grenandt led Tulsa RFC to a USA Rugby Division II Final Four appearance.
Former assistant coach Kenneth Forehand takes the reigns in the fall of 2006. 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.
The Oklahoma University Rugby Football Club was established in 1974 by Tim “Tarzan” Wilson, Jon Woods both law students and Al Velie professor in the English Department at the University. Tarzan and Woods were first year law students from diverse backgrounds. Tarzan was a special forces Marine newly back from Viet Nam. While in the Marines he visited Washington D.C. where he discovered rugby on the D.C. Mall. Woods played rugby for perennial Ivy League power Dartmouth. They met at a Legal Eagles flag football team practice but found that it, in their words, “lacked manilenss”.
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 Norman High School Colts the spring of 1999 during his senior year of high school. After graduation he would attend TCU to play football. Meek went on to play for the USA 7s team in 2004 during his senior year at Oklahoma where he joined the Eagles in the IRB World Series of 7s in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and the first USA 7s tournament in San Diego, CA. All this 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).
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 talented play by Brandon Ferris, Dax Junker and an influx of foreign talent like New Zealand’s Phil Corbett and DeWayne Davis who captained Hong Kong’s National Team. Fiji National Team winger Levi Tamiavena and South African provincial all-stars Rodney Johnson and Wayne Els also came to Norman. Jon Velie won a 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” (Nashville, TN).
Professional rugby came to America Oklahoma rugby was again at the forefront with players Kelly Meek and Dewayne Davis. The two played against each other in the inaugural game of the short lived professional World Arena Rugby (WAR) held at Dallas’ Reunion Arena. Not long after USA Rugby Super League is formed and OU alums “Hoss” Lynd plays for Dallas, Ogilvie for PAC, and backline duo Pete Palermo and Kelly Meek for Denver.
Frank DeAngelis and Bryan Evans. OU produced numerous All-Americans in this era: Doug Neubauer, AJ Rengers, brother Gordon & David Raitt, Michael De Jong, Jon Velie, David Tresemer and David Millington. The club also proudly send US National Team “Eagles” David Jenkinson, Michael De Jong, Tony Ridnell and Jim Jones. Larry Naifeh captained the Western US and was assistant
Harlequins reach the Final Four against Bill Ogilvie and Yancey Redcorn’s Potomac Athletic Club.
The 1988 school year saw the “Ironman” Ken Keever join from Parkway West High School in Chesterfield, MO where he learned the game. In addition to being a stalwart player he was also an incredible recruiter eventually bringing players Jay McFadden, Chris Donatiello, Harper Shelby, and Tyler Eddleman to the team.
The rebirth of OU came in 1988 with an infusion of players hailing from Jenks High School (Tulsa, OK). Former football captain John “Hoss” Lynd, Dewayne “Twanger” Williamson, and Greg “Wood” Goodyear all joined the team.
Appropriately their first match was played at the Girdlestone Tournament held by the Marines at Ft. Sill in Lawton, OK, 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 continued as the faculty sponsor after his retirement from the game. Tarzan coaches a high school team, early star Larry Naifeh remains involved from his post in theUniversity’s Athletic Department. Many others are regularly seen on the sidelines.
In 1976 Michelle Corr founded the Oklahoma Roses. Major contributors of the Roses were Dina Telley, Mikey Kinkaed-Tresemer, Sue Bryant, Jeanie Tashuda, Missy Lovett, and Lisa Raines.
Gary Tresemer was labeled as OU’s best player in the early days. “GT” was followed by
coach of the All-American squad. Numerous OURFC players tour internationally with the West including: Frank DeAngelis, Drew Allen, Tarzan Wilson and Larry Naifeh. OU finished in the Western US finals “Final 8” in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986 but has yet to win the elusive Nation Champion title.
The team’s first international fifteen tour to the Bahamas was a highlight of 1986, juxtaposed against a mass exodus of players brought on by hard economic times during 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
brothers Steve, Jimbo and All-American David. GT married Mikey Kinkaed from the OU Women’s (Roses) and she brought out her brother Mark. In the early years OU regularly 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.
The next phase for OU was in 1977, when it brought on its first coach, Kieren “Muckabout” Malloy from Wales and who is most recognized for introducing us to touch rugby, which he called Silly Booger, a name that endures at OU to this day. Muckabout used touch as a coaching tool and OU took to playing it anytime, anywhere, against anybody. Through playing touch 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 including OU’s first US National Team player was Drew Allen.
Jason Horowitz coached the Sooners for two seasons including trips to the Varsity Cup, an invitational national collegiate championship and sister competition to the Collegiate Rugby Sevens Championships. OU lost opening round matches to UCLA and Army West Point. Michael Al-Jiboori captained these squads. He and Impson followed their OU careers by playing professionally for Denver Stampede in the inaugural season of Pro Rugby. Denver was crowned Pro Rugby Champion.
The return of alumnus Doug “Neuby” Neubauer happened in 2014 when he took over as head coach. John “Hoss” Lynd and Andy “Pinky” McMinn also returned to Norman as assistant coaches. Neubauer’s greatest achievement was beating the Jamaican National Team 23-20 Kingston while on tour. This was a truly historic win.
Later Neuby was joined by assistant coaches Robert Pennington, Mere Baker, Michael Black, Kyle Lubbers, Hein Van deMewre, Azania Watene who helped develop Sooner such as such as Tom Murphy, Vincent Fairbairn and Alex Campbell. The team was fueled by the play of twin flankers Logan and Donovan Ronan. The team returned to the Varsity Cup for its final season dropping its match to Army on the banks of the Hudson at West Point
Neuby coached his last game for OU in 2018 when the squad beat Texas A&M on the last play of the game to win the Red River Rugby Championship to make the Sweet 16 US National Championship. The game was highlighted by the great play of Bailey Ogilvie and Chris Greer both sons of OU Ruggers Bill Ogilvie and John Greer, who were teammates in the 80’s. The team, captained and lead by Flyhalf Richard Papenfus, was knocked out the tournament with its loss to the US Naval Academy in Norman.
It was at that time Taylor Mokate enters OU after winning the annual USA Rugby Foundation Scholarship which sent him to the International Academy of New Zealand. Though originally recruited as a tight-end for Oklahoma’s football team, He switched back to his passion rugby where he excelled at the flanker and Number eight positions. In 2010 the All-American team names Mokate “Man of the Match” in a game against Richmond RFC during its tour of England and in 2012 he received his fist cap for the Eagles.
Then in 2011 OU is selected to inaugural Collegiate Premier League. Shortly after Forehand moved onto USA Rugby to head coaching clinic and certification for coaches and referees. He helped promote Oklahoma’s Winter Camp in the enormous Everett Indoor Facility normally reserved for the Oklahoma Sooners football team. The Winter Camp becomes one of America’s finest rugby camps, with Eagles like Danny Barrett and All American coach Mike Englebrecht joining the Sooner staff to teach youth boys and girls the game. The camp also benefits coaches and referees with certification programs being taught in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium’s Classrooms. The camp has affectionately become known as Rucklahoma.
The nationally televised Collegiate Rugby Sevens Championships, aired nationally by NBC and held in Philadelphia’s MLS stadium, was on multiple occasions attended by Oklahoma. Tyson Meek coached the Sooners in 2011 and Jon Velie in 2012. Standout Bobby Impson made the All-Tournament team and was voted an All-American by the rugby press. Impsom co-captained with Michael Al-Jiboori.
With no 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 Professor Al Velie who was both a Marine and an Ivy Leaguer from Harvard.
Neubauer stepped aside to welcome in Blikkies Groenewald as the Sooners first full-time professional coach. Blikkies brings a wealth of coaching experience having coached South Africa “A”. He was also Head Coach of Russia for both 15s and 7s including the 7’s World Cup, Head Coach of Poland 15s, and Head Coach of Botswana 15s. In the Super Rugby competition Blikkies also served as Head Coach of the Blue Bulls. He has authored 7 books on rugby, trained over 30,000 coaches and coached over 400,000 players in his career. In Blikkies inaugural season the team was undefeated heading into a rematch with undefeated Texas A&M for the Red River Conference Championship when Covid-19 ended the season. Richard Papenfus, Bailey Ogilvie, Christopher Oke, & Cullen Gordon all had excellent seasons.
With the Pandemic waning on the 2021 Sooners will proactive and lift with a OU student only Touch Rugby Series beginning on February 20th at the Al Velie Rugby Complex/Tarzan Pitch.
The Sooners will be poised to begin competition when it resumes.
In 1990 OU was back to the US Nationals round of eight just missing the final four with an overtime loss to Air Force.
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 all-star team “Atlantis” in Spain. David Rockett, David Raitt and Jon Velie play on the Larry Naifeh coached Western US National All-Star Championship squad. US Eagle 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.
Sadly 1996 marked 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 and the club competes in short lived Major League Rugby.
The Roses restart after short hiatus behind the work of Dana Campbell and Debra.
The fall of 1999 launches the latest phase with a refocus on the collegiate program. Jon Velie and LeRoy Lake are the take over as 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-