Ian Hildebrandt, the hero of St. Edward’s state championship rugby victory over Cincinnati Moeller last Friday night, did not have much time to celebrate or bask in the glory. His plane for El Salvador departed from Akron-Canton Airport at seven o’clock Saturday morning.
The senior fly half from Rocky River tied the game, 7-7, with an impossible conversion kick from the left sideline in the final minute of regulation and on the last play of the first overtime his 35-yard penalty kick gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead which turned out to be the final score.
Hildebrandt’s heroics caught the eye of Ohio State rugby coach Ron Bowers, who attended the game which was played at Mifflin High School’s football field on the east side of Columbus. The personable Bowers sought out Hildebrandt after the game and made his pitch for Ohio State. At 5-9 and 145 pounds Hildebrandt is certainly undersized for top level college rugby — Ohio State’s incoming recruiting class includes a 6-2, 240-pound Australian — but it is impossible to overlook Hildebrandt’s foot. His extra point kick to tie the score was at best a 20-1 shot. It was almost a miracle.
It turns out that Hildebrandt already is headed to Ohio State and will major in engineering. He came out of St. Ed’s with a 3.9 grade point average.
“Because of his size, Ian wasn’t really thinking of playing rugby at Ohio State,” said Ian’s father, Greg, a professional photographer and professor at Cuyahoga Community College.
There was no time to think about such things in the immediate aftermath of the state championship game, however. While the rest of the team rode back to school on the chartered bus, Ian and his girlfriend and a couple other friends drove back separately to the Hildebrandt home on Wagar Road in Rocky River. Ian showered and dressed and at three o’clock in the morning his mother, Meg, drove him to school where he joined — not his rugby teammates who were asleep in their individual homes by then — but his group of 14 classmates who were headed to El Salavador for a week of missionary work. From St. Ed’s they left for Akron-Canton Airport to meet their 7 a.m. flight to the tiny Caribbean county. They’ll be there for one week. Cell phones don’t work in El Salavador, but Ian was able to call home on a land line Tuesday night.
“He said they’re working at an orphanage teaching kids English,” said Ian’s father. “They also got a chance to travel around and see some ruins.”
Summer is off to a pretty good start and it will only get better. His uncle is the vice-president and general manager of Cedar Point. How do the words, “Season Pass,” sound?
That’s all for now. In the meantime, my email is out of business and I don’t know what to do about that.