ELKHART, Ind. — St. Ignatius’ rugby team is coming back to Cleveland with a national championship.
The Wildcats outlasted Gonzaga from Washington, D.C., 23-14, on Saturday in the national championship of high school rugby at Moose Rugby Grounds in Elkhart, Ind.
This marks the first national title for the Wildcats, who have six state championships in Ohio to their credit since 2014. They finished this spring with a 13-1 record. Their only loss came April 1 to a French program, Rouen Normandie Rugby.
Since then, St. Ignatius reeled off eight straight victories — including dominant performances in Ohio — before its three wins this weekend at the national championships.
The Wildcats reached the national title game by winning matchups Thursday and Friday, including a 24-0 victory Friday against Kansas-based St. Thomas Aquinas. Timmy Putka broke a scoreless tie in the 33rd minute of that one. On Thursday in the national quarterfinals, they opened with a 36-5 win against Xavier of New York.
St. Ignatius faced Gonzaga once already this season, beating the fellow Jesuit program, 34-5, on March 19 in Morgantown, W.Va.
In the rematch, the Wildcats scored the first 17 points with Joey Georges first to cross the goal area. Nate Polinkos added a second try with his run to the goal area, followed by Bobby Voth’s three-point penalty kick.
Gonzaga pulled within 20-14 before Voth added another penalty kick with about a minute left in the match to seal it.
St. Ignatius entered this weekend’s national tournament ranked second in the country by Goff Rugby Report, which had California’s De La Salle in the No. 1 spot. Gonzaga was third.
Contact sports reporter Matt Goul on Twitter (@mgoul) or email (email@example.com).