The inaugural International Wheelchair Rugby World Cup takes place October 18-22, 2023 in Paris, France. The tournament hosts the top 8 ranked wheelchair rugby teams in the world, including no. 1 United States. Led by head coach Joe Delagrave and co-captains Chuck Aoki and Eric Newby, Team USA looks to make a strong impact on the world stage ahead of the Parapan American Games in Santiago, Chile November 17-26. All games are livestreamed on the World Wheelchair Rugby YouTube channel.
Match 5 Recap: USA vs Great Britain
On the final day of competition, USA faced off against Tokyo 2020 Paralympic champion Great Britain in the fifth place match. USA started off with Chuck Aoki, Sarah Adam, Mason Symons and Lee Fredette. USA won the tip and the coveted first try of the match. A hard hit on the British in the full court forced a fumble, but GB recovered and maintained possession. Both teams got into a fast offensive flow, trading scores throughout the period. Great Britain applied hard defensive pressure in the full court, but USA maintained its composure. Then, late in the first, a turnover on the inbound gave GB an easy score and a two-point advantage, 12-10. Great Britain increased its defensive pressure, smothering the inbound pass and forcing a USA timeout. The pressure continued to the end of the play where Symons caught a late pass from Aoki after crossing the goal line, eliminating the point from the scoreboard. Despite a valiant defensive effort from USA, GB ended the period with the final try and a 13-10 lead.
The second period started with Chuck Aoki, Clayton Brackett, Josh O’Neill and Lee Fredette. USA started with possession and Lee Fredette had the first score. Early in the period a USA turnover allowed GB to extend its lead to three. Then, a fumbled inbounds play stalled the Americans’ offensive flow, but they followed the error with intense defense forcing GB to take a timeout and preventing them from crossing the try line. USA kept up its stifling defense, wearing down the British and forcing a turnover. This cut the British lead to two, 19-17. USA maintained its two-point deficit, ending the period GB 22, USA 20.
Great Britain started the third period with the ball and was the first score. USA came out with Aoki, Fredette, Adam and O’Neill. GB applied full court pressure and forced two American turnovers early in the period. Both sides settled into their offense and defensive sets. GB maintained its three-point lead, but a solid defensive effort from USA forced a turnover and cut the British lead to two, 33-31, to end the third.
The fourth started with Aoki, Symons, Fredette and Newby. USA began with ball possession and was the first to score, cutting GB’s lead to one, 33-32. The momentum began to shift. USA forced a turnover in the full court, tying it up 34 all. Another inbound mistake from the British allowed USA to take the lead, 36-35. Then, Chuck Aoki deflected a pass out of bounds giving possession back to the Americans and extending their lead to 38-36. GB would not give up. They quickly forced a turnover in the full court and tied the match up 40 all. The GB pressure forced a USA fumble on the inbound and gave possession and the lead back to GB, 41-40. Mistakes compounded for the Americans with two more turnovers in the final minutes of the match, and Great Britain claimed the victory 45-43. USA finish the International Wheelchair Rugby Cup in sixth place.
High scorers for the match were Chuck Aoki with 15 and Sarah Adam with 11. Eric Newby, Mason Symons and Lee Fredette also had solid contributions with 9, 5 and 3 points each.
Coach Joe Delagrave concluded, “Obviously it was a tough loss against GB, but bigger picture we told the team for this trip, we just want to get better. We have a lot of players playing huge minutes the first time in their careers, and I thought we accomplished getting better, learning and growing tons. It’s been a great week learning about who we are, our identity and being fighters. We feel like we’ve prepared very well for Santiago Parapan American Games in November where we will compete to qualify for the Paralympics.”
You can watch a replay of the match here. https://www.youtube.com/live/CNLGGiBEmq8?si=4IwV71axpm1YlH5j
Team USA has less than a month before they head to Santiago, Chile for the Parapan American Games November 17-26. There the team will look to qualify a spot to the Paris 2024 Paralympics.
Match 4 Recap: USA vs Denmark
Day 4 of competition for the Americans was a dramatic one as they faced European stalwart Demark. USA started the match with Mason Symons, Chuck Aoki, Sarah Adam and Lee Fredette. USA won possession of the ball at the tip and was first to score. Both teams came out strong, avoiding turnovers and unnecessary timeouts and traded scores through the entire first period. Great team play from the Americans distributed points amongst the players, including four tries for mid-pointer Mason Symons. Wise clock management and a pin-point pass from Eric Newby to Aoki allowed USA to maintain a 16-15 lead to end the first.
The second period started with Clayton Brackett, Josh O’Neill, Fredette and Aoki. Things began similarly to the first as both sides traded goals while applying solid defensive pressure. An impenetrable half court defensive effort combined with the fast hands of Aoki forced a Denmark turnover with 5:40 to go in the period and gave USA a three-point advantage, 20-17. With two minutes to go in the half, Adam intercepted a pass, but USA was not able to capitalize and score. A line change brought in Newby, Symons, and Fredette to accompany Aoki. Unable to make the final score of the period, they ended the half up 30-28.
The third started with Adam, Aoki, Fredette and O’Neill. USA began with the ball and quickly scored. The U.S. showed exceptional defensive effort forcing two Denmark timeouts and multiple turnovers within minutes and extended their lead, 33-28. Hard pressure applied to Brackett and Aoki opened things up offensively for Josh O’Neill who capitalized, tallying 6 points in the third. Co-captain Eric Newby came in midway through the period and also showed solid offensive effort scoring back-to-back tries after forcing a Denmark turnover. A new line of Adam, Brackett, Butler and Aoki entered in the final two minutes. A fumble of the ball by the Americans gave Denmark a chance to cut the lead to four, 42-38, but good clock management and solid defense allowed U.S. to claim the final try of the period and a five-point lead, 44-39.
The fourth period began with the same tone as the previous three and the line of Aoki, Brackett, Fredette and O’Neill. Aoki and Brackett continued to plow through the try line. At the 4:30 mark, USA forced Denmark to use a timeout. Newby and Symons subbed in. Hard, full court pressure from Denmark forced an American turnover and cut the lead down to three, 50-47. After another turnover on the inbound, the momentum began to shift toward Denmark. Brackett and O’Neill entered to join Fredette and Aoki. USA went into the final two minutes of the match with a three point, 53-50, lead, but things began to shift. A mistake on the inbound pass gave possession and back-to-back scores to Denmark, brining it within one, 53-52. Then a poor pass in the full court by the Americans allowed Denmark to tie it up 54 all. With seven seconds to go, Denmark had possession of the ball and the final chance to win the match, but their goal line pass was too high and sent the match into overtime.
Overtime began with Adam, Aoki, Fredette and Symons. USA won the tip and scored the critical first goal. USA showed great offensive composure in the full court, maintaining control of the ball and trading scores with Denmark. With 0:42 to go, Aoki intercepted a Demark pass at the goal line and forced a Dane to the penalty box. While trying to run out the clock, Denmark knocked the ball out of bounds, but possession remained with USA and they were able to take the win, 58-57.
Chuck Aoki led the way on the scoreboard with 28 points followed by Sarah Adam and Mason Symons with 7 each and Josh O’Neill with 6.
Head Coach Joe Delagrave reflected, “I’m so proud of this team. We’re building something that I think is really beautiful. You know, being able to grow from adversity – and we’ve gotten every single form of adversity thrown at us this week – and the team has handled it. They come together, and it’s just beautiful with this culture. This is what teamwork looks like. I’m just proud of our team, our organization, and I can’t wait for tomorrow to get to play GB. We’re excited to see them at full strength and see what happens.”
You can watch a replay of the match at https://www.youtube.com/live/UanXhzLpokA?si=V1V4WljPNw6fGOKF&t=7693.
Match 3 Recap: USA vs New Zealand
In their final match of pool play, USA faced off against New Zealand. USA started with Chuck Aoki, Clayton Brackett, Eric Newby and Jeff Butler. They came out of the gate with big hits and intense defense, forcing the Wheel Blacks to take multiple early timeouts. In addition, the American defense forced multiple turnovers, giving them a two-point advantage early in the first. Zion Redington, Josh O’Neill, Sarah Adam and Lee Fredette came in midway through the period and continued the offensive momentum and defensive pressure. Solid scoring from Redington extended the lead to three, and a final line change of Mason Symons, Chuck Aoki, Eric Newby and Brad Hudspeth closed out the first period with an 11-8 advantage.
The second started with Redington, Aoki, Butler and Hudspeth. Back-to-back turnovers for the Americans allowed New Zealand to pull within two, 14-12, with 5:45 to go in the period. A line change of Newby, Adam, Brackett and O’Neill entered the game showing great teamwork, forcing two more turnovers and extending the lead back to four, 20-16. A final substitution of Aoki, Symons, O’Neill and Hudspeth ended the half for USA with a 23-18 lead.
The third period began with Adam, Fredette, Aoki and O’Neill. On the first play, Aoki intercepted the New Zealand inbound pass and converted for a quick score. Then, hard hits from Aoki and Fredette forced another turnover, and the U.S. went up by 7, 25-18, early in the third. The quick hands and aggressive chair position of Aoki and Adam forced more turnovers, and USA extended its lead to 10, 28-18, with 6:30 to go in the period. A lineup change midway through the period brought in Redington, Newby, Symons and Butler who continued the USA momentum, extending the lead to 12. Adam, Brackett, Fredette and Symons finished the period with a 36-24 advantage.
The fourth started with Fredette, Brackett, Hudspeth and Redington. They began the period with ball possession and tallied the first try, followed by stifling defense that forced the Wheel Blacks to call an early timeout. USA continued its flow, giving multiple lines solid minutes on the court. Confident passing and crossing from the team gave all the players, from high to low pointers, the opportunity to score. New Zealand never gave up though, forcing additional turnovers late in the fourth. The American lead was too great for the Wheel Blacks to overcome, and USA claimed a 48-35 victory.
Top scorers were Chuck Aoki with 13 and Clayton Brackett with 12, while Zion Redington, Sarah Adam and Eric Newby tallied 9, 5 and 4 points.
Head Coach Joe Delagrave commented after the match, “They had a great game against New Zealand. It’s really good to get some games like these where newer players can get their feet wet. It’s really cool to watch them grow.”
You can watch a replay of the game at https://www.youtube.com/live/FGnCU5AggQk?si=iVFomeu13BduMmAO&t=1364.
In a dramatic turn of events, France defeated Japan in the final pool play match by one point, which eliminated USA from the semifinals.
Match 2 Recap: USA vs Japan
In match two of the IWRC, USA took on world no. 3 Japan. The match started with Chuck Aoki, Sarah Adam, Josh O’Neill and Lee Fredette. Japan won the tip but quickly earned a penalty, which allowed USA to score first. Japan applied hard, full court pressure, but USA remained calm, made good passes and converted scores. After a poor full court pass from Japan, USA took a two-point lead, 4-2, early in the first. Clayton Brackett, Eric Newby and Jeff Butler came in midway through the period. Good offensive contributions from Brackett, Adam and Aoki kept USA up by one to end the first period, 15-14.
The second period started with Chuck Aoki, Lee Fredette, Josh O’Neill and Mason Symons. Japan started with possession of the ball and was first to score, tying the match 15 all. Offensive efforts from all four Americans kept the match close as both sides traded scores. Then, a poor pass from Team USA midway through the period gave Japan possession of the ball and back-to-back tries to take the lead, 22-21. Turnovers continued to stall USA’s momentum, but their impressive defensive efforts blocked Japan’s opportunity to extend its lead. In the final seconds of the first half, Aoki committed a smart foul that sent him to the penalty box but stopped the clock and allowed USA to set up a strong defensive stand. This prevented Japan from scoring in the final seconds and ended the first half tied 27 all.
Aoki, Symons, Fredette and O’Neill started off the third period for the U.S. With Aoki and Symons still in the penalty box from their second period fouls, Japan was able to easily score and go up by one, 28-27. Symons remained in the penalty box after the Japanese try, but a clutch last second score from Lee Fredette kept USA in the game. Unfortunately, an American turnover at the goal line allowed Japan to regain possession and go up by two, 32-30, with 5:20 to go in the third. Poor passing in the full court continued to thwart USA’s offense, and Japan extended its lead 41-37 to end the period.
The fourth opened with Aoki, Fredette, Symons and Newby. Japan started with possession and was first score. Despite smothering pressure from the Japanese, USA improved its passing and continued to advance across the try line. A 12-second violation for USA allowed Japan to extend its lead to six, 46-40, midway through the fourth. Shortly after, USA capitalized on a Japanese turnover and cut the lead down to four. Despite a hard-fought effort, Japan maintained its lead and won 55-50.
High scorers for the match were Chuck Aoki with 18 and Sarah Adam with 9. Mason Symons and Clay Brackett had strong minutes, scoring 6 and 5 points respectively.
After the match, Head Coach Joe Delagrave said, “We came up against a Japan team that we knew was going to be strong. We knew it was going to be a battle, and we played really well all things considered. There is a lot of really good stuff to learn from as a young team, and we’re looking forward to New Zealand and hopefully earning a spot in the semifinals.”
You can watch a replay of the match at https://www.youtube.com/live/GPHUVb0W_5Q?si=C0GQwI5tXYyrqmws&t=9053.
Match 1 Recap: France vs. USA
USA started its IWRC campaign against host country France. Starters for USA included Chuck Aoki, Sarah Adam, Eric Newby, and Jeff Butler. France won the tip and was first to score but USA quickly answered with a try from Adam to put the first point on the board. France applied full court pressure, but fantastic crossing and passing by the Americans allowed them to move down the court and score. The speed and height of France’s no. 33 Sebastien Verdin was difficult to contain, so the teams traded goals throughout the first period with France taking a one point advantage, 15-14, to end the first.
USA started the second period with the ball and a new lineup of Lee Fredette, Mason Symons, Chuck Aoki and Eric Newby. Despite stifling defense from the French, USA was able to tie it up 15 all. The teams continued to trade scores until midway through the second period when Symons intercepted a pass and USA took the lead 20-19. With two minutes to go in the first half, the U.S. defense forced a 12 second violation, giving them possession and a two-point advantage. USA maintained the two-point lead, ending the first half 29-27.
The second half began with the line of Josh O’Neill, Lee Fredette, Chuk Aoki, and Clayton Brackett. The squad came off the bench with a key defensive possession causing a French turnover and giving USA a 30-27 advantage. France’s defensive effort forced a turnover and caused the U.S. to use multiple timeouts in the third, but the team remained composed maintaining their 42-39 lead to end the quarter.
USA stared the fourth with Chuck Aoki, Sarah Adam, Josh O’Neill and Lee Fredette. The quick hands of Aoki forced a French turnover on the first play and allowed the U.S. to take a four-point lead, 43-39. Midway through the fourth, the match got tense as the Americans had multiple turnovers and allowed France to inch within one, 50-49, with 1:45 to go. USA kept its composure while France had an unforced turnover, allowing USA to take a two-point lead. Then, an over-and-back call on the Americans allowed France to creep back within one, 52-51. USA was able to hold off the French and claimed a 53-51 victory.
High scorers for the match were Sarah Adam with 15 and Chuck Aoki with 20.
Head Coach Joe Delagrave reflected on the match, “I am really proud of the athletes. Everyone stepped up. Athletes who haven’t been on the court for that long for us really stepped up. We shuffled some things around and we just slowly fought and fought. I am proud of everyone for this first match and excited to play Japan tomorrow.”
You can watch a replay of the match at https://www.youtube.com/live/l8DaX53ccRc?si=f7umcA-QIqiv_VWV&t=29802.
|Sarah Adam||Naperville, IL|
|Chuck Aoki (co-captain)||Minneapolis, MN|
|Clayton Brackett||Birmingham, AL|
|Jeff Butler||Ft. Wayne, IN|
|Montrerius Hucherson||Tallassee, AL|
|Brad Hudspeth||Stillwell, KS|
|Lee Fredette||East Moriches, NY|
|Eric Newby (co-captain)||Nashville, IL|
|Josh O’Neill||Denver, CO|
|Zion Redington||Birmingham, AL|
|Mason Symons||Hershey, PA|
|Talon Teague||Kansas City, KS|
|Wednesday, October 18|
|10 a.m. CT||France vs. USA|
|Thursday, October 19|
|4 a.m. CT||USA vs. Japan|
|Friday, October 20|
|2 a.m. CT||USA vs. New Zealand|
|Saturday, October 21|
|4 a.m. CT||USA vs. Denmark|
|Sunday, October 22|
|8 a.m. CT||Bronze Medal Match|
|12 p.m. CT||Gold Medal Match|