The Tennihills of Grand Rapids enjoy the physical nature of sports like football, wrestling and even rugby
Grand Rapids — Jared and Grant Tennihill are throwback athletes.
The fraternal twin brothers, who are seniors at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, are throwbacks, because they both have played three sports during their years in high school.
In fact, both took that to the most physical level, as the Tennihills both played football, wrestled and played rugby for Catholic Central.
That’s a three-sport grind on your body, and three different sports that test the technicality and physicality of each of its athletes.
Both exceeded in these sports as Grant Tennihill was all state in football and runner-up in wrestling at 215 pounds this year. Jared Tennihill has played a big part in leading the Cougars to a state championship in rugby last year and the Cougars are chasing another one this year
With the success in all of these sports, the Tennihills were asked what their favorite sport is, and both were quick to reply that they love rugby.
"Rugby is my favorite sport because it’s the combination of football, wrestling and soccer combined, without any pads and only a few set of rules," Jared Tennihill said. "I think rugby is by far the toughest sport. Especially with all of the rules the NFL has now for tackling, they practically take away all the big hits."
Added Grant Tennihill: "I love the fast-paced action of Rugby, it never stops. And it’s such a physical sport."
The physicality of all the three sports caused both to make decisions on their playing load this year, as Jared Tennihill sat out football to concentrate on wrestling and rugby and Grant decided to sit this rugby season out because he will be playing football at Elmhurst (Ill.) College next fall, and has decided to get ready for his future.
But Grant plans on watching his brother help the Catholic Central rugby team go for its 10th Division 1 state title since 1998 this spring.
Mike Marshall, Catholic Central’s coach the past three seasons, likes that the competition in the sport continues to grow.
The number of teams on the west side of the state has grown to 12.
"More schools are adopting rugby as a varsity sport," Marshall said. "Teams in the west side of the state like Holland West Ottawa, Rockford and Grandville are now making it a varsity sport, and that has helped in the growth of the sport.
"Now we need to get into the youth of the sport. Grade schools in our diocese already have lacrosse, and if we can introduce rugby, I think we can overpower the other spring sports."
With participation in youth football taking a hit, is that a reasonable dream for rugby?
"People think that we play this sport with no pads, and there are more injuries," Marshall said. "But that’s not the case. I have seventh and eighth grade football coaches coming to our practices to learn how to tackle properly. In fact (Seattle Seahawks) coach Pete Carroll teaches his players to tackle without pads, saying it helps in proper form."
Jared Tennihill isn’t afraid. He knows injuries can happen, but proper technique, as in any sport, will minimize the possibility.
"What it all comes down to, rugby is a matter of fear, you either have it or you don’t," Jared Tennihill said.