Rugby star: A remarkable balancing act


By Kelsey Palmros, [email protected]

Nathan Ihrig seen sprinting with the ball during the scrimmage at Tuesday night’s practice. The Men’s Iowa State Rugby team practices at the Southwest Complex on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mary Rominger

The game of rugby has long been considered a beastly one, considering it’s a full contact sport with little to no protection. A fuse of speed, strength and strategy, it is a game that is popular worldwide.

The arduous major of mechanical engineering is a rigorous pursuit that, in the simplest of words, designs and manufactures everything from small individual parts and devices to large systems.

Those two demanding and challenging professions are what Iowa State rugby club star Nathan Ihrig embodies.

Ihrig — a 6-foot-6, 230 pound senior — is one of the cornerstones for the rugby club team. He is well known by teammates to epitomize all that rugby and academics are supposed to be.

The Long Grove, Iowa native goes above and beyond to be an exceptional student athlete while still remaining humble. His academic pedigree alone speaks for itself, as he was placed on the USA Rugby National Collegiate Academic Honor Roll last year.

Ihrig said even with these considerable commitments he always finds the motivation to perform at a high level while still managing his time to give rugby and his major all the attention needed to succeed.

“It’s just a mentality thing for me,” Ihrig said. “I have an internal drive to be the best at everything and I enjoy sports, so it all goes together. I try to work out every day, or two to three times a week when my workload is busy. I roughly spend 50 hours a week on school and rugby related things.”

Ihrig first started playing rugby during his sophomore year, but has worked to take his rugby career further than the Iowa State club team. While he may not be entirely focused on it now, Ihrig said he has considered trying to play for the USA All-American team.

“I’ve thought about [trying to play for the Rugby USA All-American Team],” Ihrig said. “It’s a reward for rugby players. Then you have a better chance at being recruited for USA rugby, but that’s on the back burner.”

With his substantial workload and a previous injury, Ihrig almost considered not coming back to finish off his senior year on the team.

Luckily, there were a few factors that made following through with that decision unendurable.

“My teammates, I’ve gotten to know everyone pretty well and my coach pushed for me to come back,” Ihrig said. “He had a few talks with me and wanted me to return.”

Ihrig’s teammates said that they hold the utmost respect for him and are confident in the athlete that he is and will continue to be. They say it’s his ability to lead on the field entirely through his actions that truly makes an impact on the team.

“When he is on the field he is easy to trust,” said team captain Tyler Ash. “He is not a talker, but a big energizer through his actions. If he goes out and makes a big hit, it sets the tone for the rest of the team and pumps everybody up.

“He is big, fast, strong and one of the hardest people I know in the league to take down.”