March 13, 2012

Wheelchair rugby tournament opens March 16

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be welcoming wheelchair rugby athletes and fans from all over the Midwest as host site for the Heartland Sectionals Wheelchair Rugby Tournament March 16-18.

The St. Louis Rugby Rams (, a wheelchair rugby team, and the St. Louis Wheelchair Athletic Association are teaming up to produce the tourney at the University’s Student Recreation Center.  Participating teams include:  Jackson Jags, Lakeshore Demolition, St. Louis Rugby Rams, Chicago Bears, Grand Rapids Thunder, Michigan Storm, Milwaukee Iron, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, RHI Indy Brawlers, North Texas Cowboys and University of Arizona Wildcats. 

Two of the Rams players have SIU Carbondale ties.  Chuck Melton is a history major from Hoyleton and Daniel Mellenthin is a double alumnus of the University from Carbondale.  Mellenthin, an Alton native, completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2009 and his master’s in rehabilitation counseling at the University in May 2011.

“This is my first year playing chair rugby and I’m totally hooked,” Mellenthin said.

Melton is two semesters away from a bachelor’s degree but is taking a little time off to train full-time for the USA national team.  During December tryouts in Birmingham, Ala, he was one of 19 from across the country chosen for the USA team for the upcoming Olympic games.  The training is so intense, he’s on hiatus from school until the games are over in hopes that he can make the final cut in July and be one of 12 to participate in the Paralympics in London Aug. 29-Sept. 9.  He said wife Kelly and children Blake (12), Bailey (11) and Allison (9) are very supportive and hopeful they’ll be going to London to see him play.  Afterward, he plans to resume his college studies. 

The super-sectional tourney at SIU Carbondale will determine which teams advance to the United States Quad Rugby Association National Championships April 27-29 in Louisville, Ky.   The top two teams from each of the four sectionals across the country will compete in Division One at the nationals while the third- and fourth-place teams advance to compete in the Division Two portion.  The Rugby Rams currently hold the top rank at their super-sectional and seventh rank in the nation, the highest rank to date for the team.

Wheelchair rugby is a full-contact team sport, allowing men and women with impaired upper and lower extremities the chance to participate in a unique activity that combines elements of basketball, rugby and ice hockey.  Competitors use manual metal wheelchairs as they carry the volleyball across the opposing team’s defended goal line.  It’s a four-on-four team sport.  Wheelchair sports provide physical activity as well as a social opportunity for players and quad rugby (wheelchair rugby) is one of the world’s most popular wheelchair sports. 

“We are always looking for new players.  Events like this at SIU are great places to meet other disabled people and give people a chance to see what a competitive wheelchair sport is like,” Melton said. 

For more information about the Heartland Sectional, contact the Student Recreation Center at 618/453-1277 or visit the website at   Or, contact the St. Louis Rugby Rams at