U.S. holds top ranking with 58-47 win over Canada
By Josh Eisenberg/Wheelchair Sports Federation
Team USA’s wheelchair rugby team held its top ranking, defeating second-ranked Canada, 58-47 Tuesday in the 2019 Parapan American Games finals in El Salvador, Peru.
The U.S.’ Chuck Aoki finished with a team-high 18 tries, including nine in each half, and played the entire game. He was ready to celebrate with some food afterward.
“You know I train for this, I train to play every game, all game if I need to for my team. Luckily, I haven’t had to do that, but I always tell my coach, if you need me for 32 minutes or 35, however long the game goes I’ll be ready for it,” Aoki said. “I’m hungry, I’m ready to eat right now for energy. I’m ready for a cheeseburger.”
Team USA led 14-12 after the first period and pushed its advantage to 29-22 after two periods. Josh Wheeler shook off an illegal hit and provided a boost in the third, scoring five of his 14 tries, during the period. Team captain Joe Delegrave finished with 11 tries.
“Our game plan was to be able to press them hard and then when they go over half-court to fall into the key defense, so we got that goal clock violation. That was huge,” Delegrave said. “Right away, from the beginning, our goal was to be super aggressive on defense and far more patient on offense to play our style of rugby, and I thought we did that from the tip-off.”
Canada’s Zachary David Madell finished with a game-high 27 tries. “Those numbers don’t really matter that much to me. That’s what the team is expecting me to do,” he said.
Team USA coach James Gumbert was thrilled afterward. “They played so well together and just unselfish,” he said. “It goes to the standards that we set at the beginning of the year and just so proud of their fight, their grit and their determination.”