Can-am Tournament: Traveling Men in a Traveling Band.

When looking for an early league season warm-up, you could close your eyes, point to a map and find no finer tournament then the Saranac Lake Can-Am tournament . Held over 3 days in the beautiful countryside near Lake Placid and the Adirondack mountains, over 100 teams play the game of the gods, 15 a side rugby (sorry 7’s fans). There are various divisions ranging from Men’s Premier, Club and Social, a women’s division and a number of ‘only gets better with age’ brackets.

The Wisconsin Senior Men’s Select-side has had a bit of a checkered past of late. Despite a number of fantastic individual programs in the state, pulling together an all-star team has become a bit difficult.

That being said, when the going gets tough, call Joe Kloiber. He organized this tour with the help of his son John Paul, and an unsuspecting cousin. I can imagine the conversation started out this way “Hello Joe, you say you and a few boys need to crash at my summer cabin for a few days? No problem, mi casa su casa”.

Thankfully for his cousin, Joe runs a tight ship, and the trip was to New York and not Arizona (it certainly looks like things DO change Paul Greene).

Although it wasn’t the strongest side fielded by the Senior Men’s Select-side team, they said ‘damn the torpedos’ and entered the Premier Division. The proud warriors who proudly represented not only Wisconsin but your own Milwaukee Westside Harlequins were:

  • Joseph Kloiber
  • Garret Meyer
  • John Paul Kloiber
  • Sean Bouche
  • Ben Smith (Captain)
  • Mitch Houston
  • Vince Kelly
  • Matt Drezwicki

The team also got help from a former Harlequins great, Todd Martin.

In the most difficult of brackets, the team went 1 and 2. The scoreline was 19-5 to Brockport University Alumni, and Mystic River came out on top in a heart-breaker 7-5. No word if Sean Penn was at that match. It should be noted that Brockport and Mystic River ended up battling each other in the finals. The sole win came against the Baltimore Chesapeake Brumbies.

The Harlequins have certainly made a name for themselves (overall standings be damned) in D1 play by fielding a dominating forward pack over the last few seasons. Many of the representatives on this trip were from that same forward pack.

More notably, because the Harlequins and this traveling team are so strong in the forwards, was the impressive showing of two of our youngest backfield members, Mitch Houston and Matt Drezwicki. Both were selected to play for a tournament U-19 7’s select side for the USA vs. Canada.

Drezwicki started for the USA tournament All Stars and made himself known in scoring a try in the opening minutes. In the second half, he put on a 2 minute show, which was a display of his great speed, field vision, and a dominating defense which included a number of big tackles.

Houston also had a very good game, and showed tenacity and grit by bouncing back from an early mistake to put on a clinic for defensive skills. Both players received good feedback from the USA coaches, and reportedly impressed them with their skill levels. Maybe some advanced 7’s action on the horizon for these guys?

On a side note, Mitch’s sister also was there, earning her first of many caps for the Women’s U-23 eagles 7’s side. It was great to see three Wisconsin Products showcased in the Nation’s Largest Rugby tournament with over 100 teams.

To wrap up, this tournament was run on a shoestring and a prayer (as well as some well needed funds from the Wisconsin Rugby Union). Based on the limited team that made the trip, there was a strong sentiment from those who made the trip that a team from Wisconsin could challenge for the top next summer. Until then..,are you ready for some fall ball?

Jim Harings
Jim Harings
Articles: 18