Former Greenwich High standout Schmeiler reaching for new heights in rugby

Greenwich native Dennis Schmeiler works the ball past the opposition during a recent game. — Christopher Cutler/Cutler Photography

Greenwich native Dennis Schmeiler works the ball past the opposition during a recent game. — Christopher Cutler/Cutler Photography

In a sport as tough as rugby, a game that has spread like wildfire here in America, Greenwich native Dennis Schmeiler has proven himself to have the grit and determination needed to represent the United States by playing on the International team, the Tomahawks.

Schmeiler started out like any ordinary younger sibling, cheering on his older brother Kevin Schmeiler in the scrum, taking hits and doling them out.

It was experiencing those games at Greenwich High School with his older brother that helped Dennis Schmeiler decide that he wanted to take up the sport. And from that moment on, Schmeiler took over the rugby field at Cardinal Stadium as a member of the school’s rugby team.

Playing football since the age of eight, Schmeiler was no stranger to intense practices. However, his parents had to adjust a bit to the new risks that come along with the sport of rugby.

“His father and I were worried about the injuries that he could possibly receive from playing the game, due to the fact that there were no pads like football,” said Lee Ann Schmeiler, Dennis’ mother.

Dennis Schmeiler, second from left, gets ready for the game with the Team USA Tomahawks.

Dennis Schmeiler, second from left, gets ready for the game with the Team USA Tomahawks.

Schmeiler played four years for the Cardinals and even earned the prestigous Founders Cup, an award that honors the original players who started rugby at GHS, in 2009. In order to net the award the recipient must exemplify commitment, courage and character, in their effort to keep the tradition of rugby at the high school alive.

After a great career at GHS, Schmeiler continued to help keep the rugby tradition alive by coming back to the school and becoming the assistant coach for the new group of kids whose place he was once in.

“The difference between playing and coaching is that watching my players win games and win championships gives me a lot of happiness and excitement, knowing that I helped them to get there,” Schmeiler said.

A pinnacle asset in Schmeiler’s rugby career has been his uncle, Joe Vadala. Vadala has been with Schmeiler every step of the way through his rugby career and said that he has rarely missed a game.

“It has been just a pleasure to support him and watch him play,” says Vadala. “He has made me really proud.”

Vadala, from the very beginning, has supported Schmeiler, not only by attending all of his games but also making sure that he could travel to all the places that he needed to go. He also made sure that Schmeiler always had the very best gear at his disposal. However, Vadala still knows that the gear doesn’t make the athlete.

“Denny is one of the fastest guys on the field as well as one of the quickest,” stated Vadala. “His passing is spot on, which makes him a big threat, not to mention that he has ability to foresee the opposing guy’s movement and take him out.”

All of the support given to Schmeiler, along with his un-paralleled work ethic, has helped him to become a part of the USA Tomahawks. The Tomahawks are the country’s International rugby team, reserved only for the elite. It’s a title well-earned by Schmeiler.

“Playing for the Tomahawks is a really big deal because you are representing the United States of America,” Schmeiler said. “Having ‘USA’ on your jersey is a huge honor and it’s a privilege to be able to do that. As a young rugby player, I would have never thought that I would ever be on a USA National Team. But now that I’m here, I have to try and live in the moment.”

The hope now for Schmeiler, as he lives in the moment, is that, come October, he will be chosen to play for the United States World Cup team and will be able to represent his country in one of the biggest rugby tournaments.

Vadala has high hopes for Schmeiler and believes that he can achieve his goal as he has already proven himself to be one of the most elite rugby players to come out of Greenwich.

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