Rugby Nationals Tampa Style

Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch Hosts 2024 USWRA Wheelchair Rugby National Championships

Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch Hosts 2024 USWRA Wheelchair Rugby National Championships


For Mike DeLancey, CEO and co-founder of Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch (WWAR), hosting the United States Wheelchair Rugby Association (USWRA) national wheelchair rugby championships in Tampa, Fla., this year was the culmination of years of hard work and growth for his organization.

“When we started the foundation in 2015, we were just focused on getting injured veterans out of the house and hospital, showing them what could still be done despite their disabilities,” says DeLancey, a U.S. Marine veteran who was paralyzed by a sniper’s bullet in Iraq in 2006. “A couple years in, we transitioned to offering adaptive sports programs.”

WWAR CEO and co-founder Mike DeLancey. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).


WWAR started its first wheelchair softball team in 2018, followed soon after by a wheelchair rugby squad. The programs expanded rapidly, and today WWAR fields two competitive rugby teams, the WWAR Generals and WWAR Warriors. Their bid to host the 2024 national tournament, which wrapped up May 5, was a significant milestone.

“Looking back and seeing how many teams we welcomed to Tampa International Airport, hosting major donors and sponsors – it was a real reflection point on how far we’ve come as an organization,” DeLancey says.

A total of 18 teams from across the country descended on the Tampa area May 2-5 and were split into three divisions for a series of round-robin games to determine seeding.

After two days of pool play, Sunday featured championship games with teams from all three divisions vying for championship status. Organizing and hosting such a major event for the first time was an immense challenge for WWAR’s staff and volunteers.

The WWAR Generals faced the Texas Stampede in the division 1 championship game. (Photo by Christopher Di Virgilio).


“There was a lot of stress early on, because we didn’t fully know what we were getting into,” DeLancey admits. “But it ended up running pretty smoothly, and it was so rewarding seeing the athletes able to just focus on competition.”

DeLancey, who is a T6 paraplegic, knows firsthand the positive impact participating in adaptive sports can have on injured veterans.

“[We] really want to encourage everyone to pursue some kind of adaptive recreational activity – the camaraderie and tight-knit family you become a part of is life-changing.”

While WWAR is still doing an informal debrief and has some “minor tweaks” in mind for next year’s nationals, DeLancey views their inaugural hosting of the national championships as a rousing success that validates the nonprofit’s evolution from its humble beginnings.

As they look ahead, he and his team are eager to continue introducing more veterans to the healing power of adaptive sports.

USWRA National Championship Games
Division 1

WWAR Generals 60, Texas Stampede 49

Division 2

NEP Wildcats 54, WASA Lightning 53 (OT)

Division 3

Portland Pounders 50, Las Vegas High Rollers 38

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