MOORHEAD — The NCAA Basketball Tournament is over and football in Frisco is a memory. Now, a Fargo-Moorhead club rugby team is headed to New York for national competition.
A unique team of players from Minnesota State University Moorhead and Minnesota State Community and Technical College is headed to the National Small College Rugby Organization Challenge Cup in Albany, N.Y., in just two weeks.
It's a mix of players of many different backgrounds: Minnesota kids who sang in choir and played no sports joining MSUM students who played soccer as kids in their homelands. The MSUM Weinercats hail from at least six different countries, all coming together to play for the upcoming competition.
Inside a south Moorhead gym on Wednesday, the team threw ropes and lifted weights, training and getting pumped up for nationals in two weeks.
"What is most exciting is you have kids from all walks of life, all different countries and hometowns," said coach Kody Krautkremer. "These are guys who would likely not be friends. They would not have likely met each other. They have different personalities. And now they are working together and becoming best of friends."
"They welcome you, you meet a bunch of guys you have never met before and you feel like brothers," said longtime team leader Gerald Anyangwe, or "G," a 24-year-old pre-med student from Cameroon. "We had nothing in common until a year ago, until I joined the team and it clicked."
It hasn't been an easy road. The team was winless two years ago and they don't have dedicated practice facilities. Krautkremer said the team's late-night practices are sometimes cut short.
"They have been going to practice from 9 to 11 p.m. A lot of times security (says), 'hey, the building is closed' and the guys want to keep working."
And while there is some funding from the university, the players have to step up to help each other get through road trips.
"You will have guys that are like, 'Hey. I don't have money to eat," Krautkremer said. "It is a brotherhood; they help each other out."
And it goes beyond rugby. Lately, the players have been rallying around a teammate who just became a new dad.
"I decided one day to pick up a flyer and decided to join," said team member Jeremy Puff. "It is a brotherhood and it is just getting to know everyone and see where they are from and (we) get to know each other like that."
Players from Minnesota farms to central African countries will be representing the university in the national tournament. The National Small College Rugby games take place in Albany on April 27 through April 28.
MSUM and M-State Team members are not allowed to raise money, but alumni are trying to raise money for the Weinercats. A GoFundMe page has been launched to help.