Anthony Labate was born in Middleburg Heights with his two sisters and brother, Nicholas Labate ‘13, and attended Incarnate Word Academy.
In eighth grade, Joe O’Brien ‘18 told Anthony about rugby and piqued his interest in the sport.
“I got cut got from the golf team and I decided to to play rugby in the spring, ” Anthony explained.
When Anthony told his parents he wanted to play rugby like most parents, Anthony’s were not excited.
“When I told them I had signed up for rugby, they had no idea what rugby was,” Anthony said. “Wwhen they saw me play for the first time and they saw there was no pads or protection, they were not to happy. Thankfully they’ve grown to accept that I still play.”
Something that helped Anthony fall in love with rugby was how welcoming everyone was.
“Seniors on the team would talk to me in school, and at practice, they would help me learn the game.”
In addition to that, Anthony loved traveling as a team and going around the Midwest, East Coast, and the world. In the summer heading into his freshman year, Anthony played summer 7’s, which helped him learn rugby even faster. At the end, Anthony was able to help others learn the game. Anthony was always aware of the pressure around him and it made him and it made him want to play his best out on the field.
“Sometimes you just go into autopilot mode and you have no idea how you played. Most of the time, I thought I played horribly, but the coaches would come up to me and say, ‘Good job, Anthony!’ I thought, ‘Wait, I thought it was horrible!’ Sometimes that happens when you play as hard as you can.”
Anthony was originally a center but was moved to 8 man.
“I thought I would be in the pack, but during alumni game I played prop and then next time I played I was in the backline.”
Anthony will now reflect on a great four seasons as a vital part of Wildcat Rugby.
“I received an email from Brock Yoho (former captain) about attending the rugby lifts during the summer. I remember feeling a wave of fear knowing that I would be amongst upperclassmen, who were much stronger and faster than me, and participating in a team lift was like nothing I had done before in grade school. After school, we played pick up 7’s, which allowed me learn a few things before actual practices started. With my dedication in the weightroom and attending the pickup 7s, the coaches nominated me as captain of the freshman team, which I was very proud of. Regardless of the fact that I did not do much and no one “respected” me as the captain, I felt a sense of leadership with the title of “captain.” It was more fun and games while I was captain because we were still only the freshman team and we weren’t as serious and experienced.”
“Freshman year was the most fun year for me. Obviously, I wanted to look my best so I could rise up in the ranks, but that came very natural for me. I was just picking up the game, making new friends, and did not feel the pressure of the coaches always watching me - I could only move up in the ranks after this year, not down. I did not miss any games because of injury, which was a plus. As a freshman unit, we were very good (I think we only lost 1 game).
“Funny story when I went to my first lift, I could not find the weight room, which made me late. When I arrived, I found out that my final forms account was not completed and that my physical was not turned in, so I was rejected in the weight room.
“Another story – this one more embarrassing. During a game against Brunswick, I went to tackle a kid and he rammed his shoulder right into my gut. There were only 4 minutes left, and I was feeling a little bloated. When he hit my stomach, let’s just say I needed to run to the bathroom fast after the end of that game.”
“Sophomore year was challenging. The coaches noticed my hard work and decided to make me a sub for the A-side, but I practiced with the B-side. Because of me being a sub for A-side, I very rarely played in any B-side games, and I almost never subbed in for the A-side. I was always practicing but never playing. This really brought down my morale for the sport, and made me question whether or not I would play the following year. I moved up high in the ranks, which I wanted, but I was stuck in a place where I was having very little fun, and fun is a major component to rugby. I went to France, which was a unique and revining experience. It was a major reason why i decided to come back next year - I wanted to see where future trips would take me.”
“The best thing about junior year were the relationships I created – I became close with some of the seniors. Whether it be cracking jokes during practice, or sitting in one of the dorm rooms telling stories in South Africa, these relationships are what kept me refreshed. I started for a good amount of the games on the A-side, but come finals and the championship, I was benched. I broke my pinky during this year, which took forever to recover, and during the championship, I came down with the flu. Other than that, I can't remember much excitement aside from going to South Africa happening during my junior year.”
“Like everyone else, I was really looking forward to senior year. Over the summer going into senior year, I practiced a lot with the CRA and entered in a few tournaments with a high school/college Cleveland Crusader side. During practices, I honed my skills, got better conditioned, and got much faster. A few of the guys I practiced with were alumni Andrew Baldado and Josef O’Brien. Practicing with the CRA pushed me harder than ever because I wanted to match the advanced level of rugby the guys I was practicing with had.”
“The actual Ignatius season started off with a rough loss to Gonzaga, but we rebounded with a win against Fishers, which really rose team morale. The trip to Ireland was my favorite trip of my three years traveling with the team. Not only did I appreciate it more because of me maturing, but I actually got to play against the competition there, and it was loads of fun. There must have been something in the air, because when we played, we played with a new level of intensity that we have never played with before.
“With the first week back in the states, we were set up with a match against Brunswick. Around mid-game, I stripped the ball from one of Brunswick’s players, and ran it up about 30 yards before being tackled. While I was being tackled, my foot got caught behind me, and the tackler fell on my foot. I was reluctant to come off the pitch, hoping that the pain would subside, but it didn’t, so I subbed out. It turns out I fully tore a ligament in my foot, had two minor fractures in my ankle, and partially tore a tendon in my foot. The doctor said I couldn’t start playing sports for another three months. Just like that, mid-way through the season, I am done forever with high school rugby. Later that night, I balled my eyes out, but soon accepted the fact that my foot was really screwed up. I just hope now that I recover properly. I’m glad our team went on to win another state championship.”
Anthony will be attending Ohio University in the fall and will be pursuing a major in
the business world and is open to the idea of continuing his rugby career with the Bobcats.
Anthony would like to thank the following people, “I’d like to give a huge thank you to my parents for letting me play this beautiful sport even though it makes them uneasy, and for their willingness to allow me to go overseas without their guidance. Thank you to Coach Arbeznik for all the work he puts into the season - all the coaching, planning, and support. Thanks to all my teammates for making the past four seasons worthwhile, and thanks to the managers for all their behind-the-scene work.”