Langham will play for Vanderbilt
Published 4:46 pm, Monday, August 30, 2010
By the time Wes Langham was in eighth grade, he knew he wanted to be a rugby player. Langham's dad had played when he was in high school and had exposed his son to the fun and excitement of the game. When he entered Staples as a freshman, he followed his dream and made the varsity that first spring.
Like most Americans, he wasn't raised playing rugby as boys are in Europe and other parts of the world. Also, because there are no junior rugby programs in Westport as there are in baseball and lacrosse, most rugby players learn as they go. This was the case with Langham.
As rugby is a spring sport at Staples, he played other sports during his time as a Wrecker. In the fall he played soccer reaching the JV level as a junior, but as he freely admits, "I wasn't good enough to go any higher." The running and conditioning helped keep him keep in shape, however, as did his participation on the indoor track team each winter.
Langham also lifted weights during the year to build up his strength and toughness; two very important qualities for a rugby player. As he became more experienced, he also moved positions on the team.
Freshman year, he used his speed and quickness as a winger, a position similar to a wide receiver on a football team. Langham moved in the line sophomore year to become an outside center, the player who helps move the ball out to the winger on the run. In his last two years, he was an inside center, the player that starts the action and, of course, needs to be bigger and stronger.
He credits his coaches at Staples for keeping up the interest in the sport and for teaching the team the basics of strategy and technique. "Coach [Oscar] Barahona has really pushed us as a team; he's brought a lot of discipline to the team," says Langham.
For Barahona, "It's all about focus and respect for the game."
Like most high school programs in the area, there aren't enough athletes trying out for rugby each year for many of the reasons mentioned above. At Staples, there are only about 40 boys trying out as compared to Greenwich, where rugby has been a varsity sport for many years and 90 to 100 boys try out each season.
Langham did a lot more at Staples while matriculating there.
In addition to rugby, he played the saxophone in the band for all four years and hit the books well enough to be accepted to Vanderbilt University, where he will major in engineering and he will be playing rugby there as well.
"I had a good talk with the coach here and he wants us to keep in shape over the winter; lifting twice a week and running," he said.
At most American colleges and universities rugby is a club sport, but at a much higher skill level. Langham is realizing his boyhood dream of playing rugby and loving every minute of it.