New Mexico Tech Closes Rugby Year with Sevens Tournament

New Mexico Tech Closes Rugby Year with Sevens Tournament

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- One week after graduation ceremonies at New Mexico Tech and nine months after the opening of training camp last August, the institute’s rugby club completed their 2016-2017 campaign at the 19th Annual Celtic Sevens tournament in Albuquerque on May 20. The Pygmies relied on four alumni players to round out their 12-man tournament roster and post a two win, two loss record for the day. With players arriving from around New Mexico and even Colorado, the provisional team was unable to hold a single practice prior to meeting the morning of the tournament yet managed to score 43 points while allowing 33 in competitive matches.


New Mexico Tech Rugby's Player of the Year Tanner Graham (third from left) poses with Celtic Sevens tournament teammates Bryan Moore, Jason Lee, and Brian Arko. NMT posted a 2-2 record.

Photos by Dave Wheelock/New Mexico Tech


New Mexico Tech's three forwards compete for a lineout throw against New Mexico Highlands University at the 19th annual Celtic Seven-man team tournament in Albuquerque. Tech fell 28-0 to the two-time defending national champions in their third match on May 20.


Rugby sevens was developed in Scotland in the 1880s as a festive conclusion to the traditional 15-man team season. The Celtic Sevens is conducted in conjunction with the annual Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival at the Albuquerque Balloon Park.

Loaning their talents to the short-handed student team were alumni Paul Quintana (class of 2004), Taylor Dotson (2008), Jason Yung Lee (2010), and Brian Arko (2016). Filling out the team were new grads Carl Peart and Ben Turner, co-captains Stephen Albritton and Tanner Graham, Essiel Carrasco, and Christian Rode. Bryan Moore of the Santa Fe Rugby Club chipped in as a guest player.

Tech started their day at 9 a.m. with a 26-12 loss to the Aardvarks, a men’s club from Albuquerque. Essiel Carrasco of Farmington, N.M., scored the first five-point try of his young career, but the Aardvarks scored two tries and converted one to take a 12-5 halftime lead. Carrasco repeated his feat in the second half but again the Aardvarks tacked on two tries to secure the win.

Tech’s jury-rigged side gelled in their 31-7 second round victory over the Eagles, a team primarily composed of former high school teammates from Albuquerque. The locals held Tech to a 14-7 halftime lead but NMT exploded for three tries in the concluding period. Carrasco ran in two more tries to highlight his big day while Tech’s player of the year Tanner Graham, Bryan Moore, and Jason Lee added a try apiece.

Tech next took on New Mexico Highlands University, current two-time national sevens champions in the small college division. The Techies acquitted themselves well but could not keep the well-oiled Vatos from scoring two tries in each half to win 28-0.

Tech was awarded a forfeit win when Albuquerque’s Brujos Rugby Club failed to answer the bell for their scheduled fourth-round match. 

Denver Selects, an all-star team developing regional players for potential national honors, captured the men’s division championship by defeating the Aspen Gentlemen in the final. For New Mexico Tech, Essiel Carrasco was named Man of the Day for his outstanding play. It was coach Dave Wheelock’s swan song at the helm as he retires after 19 years as New Mexico Tech’s Director of Rugby and Sport Club coordinator.

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Director of Rugby