For more than half his life, senior Tyler McManus has been playing rugby.
But earlier this year the 25-year-old found himself unable to play his beloved sport. McManus underwent hip surgery in April, but after two months recovering he realized he couldn’t remain on the sidelines. McManus decided to refocus his energy on reaching one of the highest levels in his sport.
He hopes to get scouted for the U.S. Olympic men’s rugby team by performing his best at the Las Vegas Invitational in March – and his training is fully underway.
“Nothing is set in stone,” McManus said. “I’m just chasing the dream.”
To prepare for the event, McManus said he starts his days at 6 a.m. with a cardio workout at the Equinox Sports Club on 22nd Street. After a second breakfast, class and work, he hits the gym again in the evenings for a weightlifting session. He follows this routine six days a week.
“I have personal goals on trying to get bigger and trying to cut down on body fat percentage, trying to gain lean muscle mass,” McManus said. “But more or less it’s just getting back to the sport that I grew up on and love to play.”
McManus first set his sights on the Olympic team spot after seeing his sister, Sarah, enjoy playing at a high level at the invitational, he said. She played with a premier women’s rugby team in Canada and plays in the Las Vegas Invitational every year.
“She plays for a women’s team and so I asked her, ‘Is there a men’s team that I can play on?’ and she’s like, ‘yeah we’ll get you in there,’” McManus said.
Last fall break, McManus went to visit her in Chula Vista, Calif., while she was working at the elite training center. On that trip, he met members of the Olympic team and got to see who he would be playing with and facing off against if he reached his goal, he said.
“Just getting to meet all the guys and see what level they’re at, it sets a bar for me to try and get up to,” McManus said.
McManus and his sister grew up in Littleton, Colo., a suburb south of Denver, which he calls “the rugby capital of the U.S.” He found time for the sport through middle school, high school and even during his four-year stint in the Marines. He said he had the opportunity to compete at a higher level after high school, but passed up the opportunity so he could join the military.
While in the Marines, McManus attempted to play whenever it fit his schedule, despite traveling all over the world.
“It’s worldwide and it’s a sport that anyone can play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your size or your athletic ability, it’s a sport for everyone.”
From Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to marine barracks in Washington, D.C., the psychology major said military bases were good locations for him and others to lace up their cleats.
But if McManus makes it to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, it won’t be the first time he’s played in Japan.
While deployed to Okinawa, Japan – almost 7,000 miles from his hometown – McManus found out about a rugby team on the base of his camp and decided he wanted to play with them.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “So I just went down and I had bought cleats from the store out in town and just went down there and started practicing with them.”
When he was stationed in D.C., McManus would practice with local men’s teams. He still plays for them now.
On the field, McManus switches between the fly-half or inside center positions in a 15-man-a-side version of the game, or the prop position when he plays with seven on each side. In Las Vegas, McManus will be playing sevens.
“Sevens is a lot more active, where it’s 90 percent sprinting 10 percent fast jogging, and fifteens is 80 percent jogging and 20 percent sprinting,” McManus said. “I love both of them, but if I had to pick one I’d probably pick sevens.”
During the winter, McManus said he will continue working out in the gym during the rugby offseason. In the spring, as the tournament gets closer, McManus said he hopes to practice with the GW men’s club rugby team to prepare for the Vegas showcase.
“I’m just working on getting into shape, or getting into better shape, and continuing to really live out the dream of playing rugby at a higher tier than just the collegiate level,” he said.