Team Red beat Team Gray by three points after overtime to win the championship medals
By John Groth
Mason Symons (left) gets knocked over after slamming into an opponent during the Rugby championships at the NVWG. (Photo by Courtney Verrill)
Gabriel Diaz de Leon (left) catches the ball during the Rugby championships at the NVWG. (Photo by Courtney Verrill)
CINCINNATI – Mason Symons and Jesse Graham combined to make some major scoring plays and defensive stops, leading Team Gray to a 50-47 wheelchair rugby championship game win over Team Red in overtime Saturday afternoon at the 37th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Cincinnati.
The pair combined for all five of Team Gray’s five points in overtime at the Duke Energy Convention Center. An Air Force veteran, Graham scored Team Gray’s first three points of the extra period, giving the team a 48-46 lead with 1:37 left. Team Red cut the lead to one with 1:22 left, but Symons, an Army National Guard veteran, added a point with 56.1 seconds left, then made a steal seven seconds later and added another point with 24.6 seconds left in the game.
“It was great. I’m happy that we won, but I’m so proud of how much the game is progressing, how much these veterans are coming out each year getting better and better,” says Symons, a 28-year-old with a C5-C7 injury. “That’s where I win, because if I go hard and they see me giving it everything I have, then they’re going to give it everything they have cause if not their teammates are going to harp on them.”
Trailing 45-44 with 53 seconds left in regulation, Symons the game up – scoring despite being hit on the left side and having his chair knocked off-balance with 36.4 seconds left. Team Red had chances to take the lead late in regulation, but Symons and Graham tied up a Red Team opponent to force a jump ball with 6.6 seconds left and Symons smacked a ball out of bounds to negate another scoring opportunity with 3.4 seconds left.