Colorado State Rugby player selected to compete in Rio Olympic games

Colton Strickler

USA Rugby announced the names of the 12 athletes Monday that will make up the sevens team competing in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. 

Among the 12-man roster is Ben Pinkelman.


Pinkelman, who plays for the Colorado State club rugby team, is a senior at CSU majoring in criminal justice. At 22 years old, Pinkelman is the youngest Eagle (member of USA Rugby) on the Olympic roster.

Pinkelman played high school rugby for the Cherry Creek Rugby Football Club in Denver before attending CSU in the fall of 2012. From that point on, Pinkelman competed regularly as a member of the Rams’ club rugby team in addition to playing for different United States national teams varying in age as well as the Denver Barbarians, a local men’s team that competes in the Pacific Rugby Premiership. 

“I tried out for the U-20 team my freshman year but I didn’t make it,” Pinkelman said. “But I went back my sophomore year and made that team.” 

After making the United States U-20 team, Pinkelman decided to take a semester off from CSU and travel with the team. 

The decision for Pinkelman to take a semester off from CSU would not have been possible without the help of Amy Young and Dr. Tracy Brady, Pinkelman’s academic advisor and history professor, who acted as reassurance behind Pinkelman’s decision to leave school. 

“They were the most supportive staff members at CSU,” Pinkelman said. “I would have never been able to make the jump to join the team without their support and guidance.”

Pinkelman, named a Collegiate All-American by USA Rugby earlier in July, last played for the United States Sevens squad under head coach Mike Friday in April, when he appeared in the Hong Kong Sevens, largely considered the biggest tournament in the World Rugby Sevens series. 

Pinkelman will enter the Olympics with eight tries to his name and 38 matches under his belt as a member of the Eagles.

Pinkelman, who learned that he made the team Friday, is currently at the United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, where he and the rest of Team USA are enjoying the news for a few days with their families before getting back to work. 

The team will head to Florida in a few weeks to scrimmage New Zealand’s national sevens team before leaving for Rio on August 1.


August will be a busy month for Pinkelman, who will compete in the Olympics August 9-11, then head back to the United States on August 16, less than a week before his final semester at CSU begins. 

“I am going to come play for CSU in the fall,” Pinkelman said. “I am looking forward to enjoying my last semester of college.”

This will be the first time since 1924 that rugby will be featured in the Olympics. The United States won back-to-back gold medals in 1920 and 1924. 

Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Colton Strickler can be reached by email at or on Twitter @coltonstrickler