Carmel High School grads help Indianapolis Impalas rugby team win title


By Ken Severson

A pair of former Carmel High School athletes helped the Indianapolis Impalas rugby team achieve an unbeaten season and win the Midwest Rugby Championship.

Johnathon Abbey and Nick Irvin, both of Carmel, were part of the Impalas’ storied season. Both played for the Carmel High School rugby club (graduating in 2012) and for the Indiana University team before joining the Impalas.

CIC COM 1226 Impalas Season 2
Johnathon Abbey (Photo courtesy of Evan Roberts)

The Impalas didn’t lose during the fall season and topped it off in November by decisively winning a title, blanking the Milwaukee Barbarians 51-0 in Chicago.

Abbey and Irvin started playing rugby in high school and have since graduated to the collegiate and club level, playing for various teams.

“I fell in love with rugby by chance. I played baseball for Carmel my freshman year and always thought that was my sport, but I had a bad tryout the next year and didn’t make the team,” Abbey said. “I was quite frustrated, so a friend invited me to come out and try rugby.”

Abbey said he was 15 when he played his first rugby game.

Irvin said the sport has been a major part of his life for more than a decade. Like Abbey, Irvin started playing as a teen for the Carmel Dads’ Club.

“Rugby has not only helped me achieve a competitive spirit but also allowed me to always push my limits,” Irvin said. “The game has helped me overcome any adversity I face on the field and in life. It has taught me never to give up and to trust others around you to succeed. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without rugby.”

Another Carmel resident and key player for the Impalas, Evan Roberts, is president of the team and a volunteer coach for the Carmel Dads’ Club’s rugby program. He praised Abbey and Irvin for their play and work ethic.

Roberts said Irvin has been a tremendous addition to the team with his positive attitude.

“This past fall season, Nick started four of the last five games of the season including the championship,” Irvin said. “We look forward to seeing him continue to bring his energy.”

Irvin said Abbey has been an excellent team-first kind of player for the Impalas despite being injured for most of the season.

“Johnathon was a constant presence during our practices both while he was injured and recovering,” Evans said. “While Johnathon was only able to start one game for us this season against Akron, we are looking forward to him being back at full strength this fall and being a part of our roster.”

The Indianapolis Impalas play their home games at the Indianapolis World Sports Park in Indianapolis and want to participate in the USA Rugby National Tournament in Denver in May. Learn more about the Impalas at