Everyone can relate to that one time in elementary school when either they or a friend were picked last for the kickball team, or not even picked at all. However, it’s how you bounce back that matters.
CSU rugby player Ben Pinkleman did not give up his dream of playing on the national level after falling one spot short of the USA junior team two years ago.
With a recommendation and a second opportunity, Pinkleman was one of 24 men chosen to play on the USA junior U20 Eagles team this spring. The team traveled to Hong Kong, China, where it competed against eight other teams all across the world.
“The experience was incredible, and at the same time, pretty difficult,” Pinkleman said. “The first week we were in Hong Kong was pretty hard on the body with intense practices and games, but I would not change a thing about this experience.”
Pinkleman went through three separate camps before he was chosen amongst 120 applicants. After one camp on the east and west coast broken up into 60 players each, players then went three more stages before a list is announced. The tryout numbers go from 60 to 40 to 30 to 26.
“I was pretty disappointed when I did not make it the first year,” Pinkleman said. “Even though I kind of knew I was going to make it this year, when I got the email saying I actually had, it was pretty surreal.”
With the opportunity to compete overseas this spring, Pinkleman’s parents stood by him and encouraged him to take a semester off from CSU and follow his life-long dreams of playing on the national level. As a result of the semester off, Pinkleman has been asked to try out for the Eagles National team in June.
Pinkleman first picked up the rugby ball his freshman year of high school at Cherry Creek, and it has stuck ever since. With a passion growing each minute of every game, he realized in his senior year of high school that he wanted to not only play at the college level, but he wanted to take it to the professional level one day on the European league.
“If I make the Eagles men’s national team, I will be playing Scottland and I just want to keep playing on that track,” Pinkleman said. “I will play for CSU next year. But once I am done and graduated college, I will hopefully have a professional contract in Europe.”
For an insight on how competitive the European league is, there are only 20 U.S. players currently playing overseas and a smaller percentage of athletes that are solely U.S. citizens.
With the experience of play on the national level, Pinkleman has been a role model for the CSU rugby team as well as mentor for those teammates that wish to some day play on the same level that he has over the last year.
“I would say that Ben has been a pretty above par player since I first met him. And from there, you could see he was above the rest,” said CSU Rugby President Chris Hooyman. “Now seeing him in college play and on the national level, he only adds to this program with all the experience he has gotten. He will only help us grow as a team come next season.”
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Haleigh Hamblin can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @haleighhamblin.