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Buckeye man to play in quad rugby championship
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:00am
Jeremiah Weise is making the most out of an unfortunate situation, and this weekend, he has an opportunity to be a national champion.
Weise, a Buckeye resident, was in a car accident in August 2011 that left him quadriplegic. He picked up quad rugby and plays for the Ability360 Phoenix Heat of the United States Quad Rugby Association. It will host the national championships Thursday through Sunday at Ability360 Sports and Fitness Center in Phoenix.
“I got into it in 2013; I had learned about it while I was doing therapy after my car accident,” Weise said. “Some of the guys who play on the team in Phoenix came to the hospital one day.”
Once Weise felt strong enough, he started to play.
“It’s been good,” Weise said. “I’ve learned a lot about the sport over the past years.”
The name quad rugby comes from the fact that every player is quadriplegic. The game consists of four players per team on a basketball court, trying to score points by carrying a ball past the goal line with any two wheels of the ballcarrier’s wheelchair.
There are possession time limits, as each team has 40 seconds to score or it’s a turnover. The game consists of four, eight-minute quarters, and each team has four timeouts.
The players on the court are classified based on the amount of function they have in their arms and hands. The lowest function rating is 0.5, and players deemed to have a function level of 4.0 or greater are not allowed to play. Also, the combined rating of the four players on the court has to be 8.0 or less.
Weise’s function classification is 1.5. He can’t move his legs, has no control over his core muscles and can’t move his fingers, he said. He serves as a defensive player for the team.
“Classification of 0 to 1.5 tend to be defensive players because we have less function with our hands and arms than guys that might be a 2 or 3,” Weise said. “We tend to try to help them get the ball up the court by clearing a path for the other players.”
Two different styles of chairs are used to play the game, Weise said.
“One has more of a rounded front, we call that the offensive chair,” Weise said. “The guys with more function tend to use it. Guys with lower function, like myself, the front of our chair has a picker on it, it’s like a little metal basket. It’s designed to hold on to another person’s chair.”
Contact between the chairs is allowed, but no personal contact is allowed.
“Contact among the chairs is part of the sport, so you can run your chair into somebody else’s chair in an effort to stop them so they can’t go get the ball or receive a pass,” Weise said.
This is the fourth season Weise has played quad rugby. In his first two years, Ability360 Phoenix Heat won the national championship. Last year was a bit of an off year, Weise said, but this season, the team is undefeated.
“A few of our players played for Team USA in the Paralympics, and our coach used to play,” Weise said. “We have a lot of experienced players on the team that we’ve all learned a lot from.”
The season runs October through April, with the teams playing different tournaments home and away. In March, Ability360 Phoenix Heat competed in sectionals, which is where the country gets divided into four sections and the top four teams from each section advance to nationals. That’s what this weekend’s event is.
“We’re the No. 1 team in the nation, haven’t lost any games we’ve played; we’re the team everybody else wants to beat,” Weise said.
Weise said he played sports in high school, but nothing afterward. His reason for getting into quad rugby was because he thought it would be something good for him after the accident.
“It’s a good physical workout,” Weise said. “It’s also a good team-building friendship, and you also learn from the guys how to live with your disability better because they’ve obviously been through it.”
Playing quad rugby has also taught Weise how to be confident, and to travel again, he said.
“They encourage you to go out and be as independent as you can be,” Weise said. “It’s a sport, but there is a lot more to it than just playing a sport because it helps in a lot of other aspects of life after you’ve had something tragic happen.”
Weise said he’s really excited about this week because it’s the first time Ability360 Phoenix Heat has hosted nationals since he’s been there.
“It’s exciting to be the host,” Weise said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be the winners. There’s a couple other teams that are going to give us a hard game, but we still think we can do it if we play to the best of our ability.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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