WRC History

Detailed History of the Wisconsin Rugby Club.

In the spring of 1962, a rugby club made up of University of Wisconsin students played the first game of rugby in the Midwest against a club from the University of Notre Dame. Wisconsin lost that first match when fullback, Jim Bakken, missed two penalty kicks from relatively close range. That trivial incident is significant only because Bakken played a record 234 consecutive NFL games, making a record 7 field goals in one game in 1967.

In the summer of 1962, Vic Hilarov put ads in local papers asking for contact sports athletes to play rugby. Mike Frost, a hooker from England who played rugby at Cambridge and the Royal Air Force, was one of the expatriate recruits to answer the call.

After a historic first season in the fall of 1962, Mike and Vic wrote and traveled to campuses in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana to help form rugby clubs at the Universities of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Chicago as well as North Shore Chicago and the City of Chicago Club (later to become the Chicago Lions). These clubs along with Notre Dame, Palmer College and Minnetonka RFC would form the core of Wisconsin’s opponents from 1962-1964.

The winter of ’62/’63 was crucial to Wisconsin rugby because a handful of foreign rugby players, a few contact athletes and several football players from the 1963 UW Rose Bowl squad started a rugby program and a tradition of winning rugby that led Wisconsin to become one of the leading rugby clubs in the nation.

Vic was the president of the Wisconsin RFC from 1962-64 and shortly thereafter became the first President of the Midwest RFU (February, 1964) and in 1975 the President of the USA-RFU.

In the fall of 1963 Wisconsin was 4 and 3, its’ first winning season. The team was led by player-coach British Lion Brian Wightman, who later became Fiji’s Minister of Sport.

In 1962-1963 Wisconsin’s team was comprised of three UW football players: Bill Suits, Joe Heckl and Charles Brooke; and a group of foreign players that included Allan Strachan (Scotland), Charles van Rensburg (South Africa), Guillaume de Montravel (a French Count), Dave Sanderson (New Zealand) plus Wightman, Frost and Doug Eveleigh (all England). American athletes included Hilarov, Pete McNaughton (today a retired U.S. Army General), Dave Serwer, Dave Gorton, Dick Wands, Keith McCamy, Gus Hodge, Jim Borth, Monty Pfundheller, Dave Wright, Mike Trinko, Jerry Behrens, Jeff Thomas, Ron Armbruster, Ed Walker and Jim Heeb.

In spring 1964 Wisconsin was undefeated and won its second Midwest Rugby Tournament. That fall, 18 year old Skip Muzik made his debut, in one match scored 4 tries and made Rugby Magazine’s first and only All-America team. The Wisconsin RFC was also ranked as a top 10 team in Rugby’s first ever national poll.

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